Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Review: The Master Bedroom

Summary: After more than twenty years in London, Kate Flynn has abandoned her career as an academic, rented her apartment in the city, and moved back to live with her mother in the grand old house beside a lake where she grew up. Bored and lonely, Kate meets a childhood friend, David Roberts, at the opera. David is married, but Kate finds herself falling for him against her better judgment.

At the same time, David's seventeen-year-old son is visiting Kate's house in secret, attracted by her eccentricity, her wit, and her shelves full of old books and music. Though she knows the risks, Kate cannot quite resist either man. As both father and son set about their parallel courtships, Tessa Hadley's intricate, graceful novel discovers the anxieties of adulthood, and the hazards of refusing to grow up. -- Picador Books

When I received THE MASTER BEDROOM by Tessa Hadley in the mail last month, I wasn't sure if I would really enjoy the book. The premise of the book didn't really appeal to me -- a middle-aged woman being drawn to both a father and his son. I decided to give it a try anyway because THE MASTER BEDROOM was longlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction.

After finishing the book, I'm still not sure what to think. I definitely didn't love the book, but I didn't hate it either. What I can say is that I appreciated Ms. Hadley's writing style. The book was very well written, and the prose was beautiful. I could actually visualize the old house with the vivid descriptions. I thought she did a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life.

I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but at times I had a problem following the dialogue in this book. The author didn't use quotation marks to offset the conversations. Rather, she just used dashes. Many times I couldn't figure out who was saying what without re-reading it a few times.

I was also a little uncomfortable with the subject matter -- a 40-something woman becoming interested in a 17 year old boy. I didn't realize that I was such a prude, but I was a little disgusted by some of her behavior with the young man. Ultimately I got over it, and I thought the ending of the book was very good.

I have a feeling that I'm not taking away from this novel as much as I should be. Frankly, I think this novel was just a little deeper than I'm capable of going. However, I did get the message that people can't always control their feelings even though they intellectually know they should. I also saw that individuals (no matter the age) are constantly working to find their true selves.

I do think that THE MASTER BEDROOM would make for an interesting book club discussion. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find any discussion questions. Even without a guide, I definitely think this book has enough controversial issues to incite some very exciting dialogue.

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