Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Set in California, France, and the Swiss Alps, The Arrangement is a sparkling, sensual novel that explores the complexities of a marriage and the many different ways in which we love. Writing at the top of her game, Ashley Warlick gives us a completely mesmerizing story about a woman well ahead of her time, who would go on to become the legendary food writer M. F. K. Fisher. -- Viking
I probably shouldn't admit this, but prior to picking up THE ARRANGEMENT by Ashley Warlick, I had absolutely no idea who M.F.K. Fisher was. (Just in case you are in the same boat, she was a famous food writer.) This novel explores not only her life, but also her marriage and her affair with a man named Tim. THE ARRANGEMENT is a beautifully written novel that manages to capture Mary Frances' passions, and it also just happens to be very sensual.
Mary Frances and her husband Al are returning to the states after living in France. She is a bit restless and her marriage seems to be floundering. Her husband, also a writer, is having a hard time with his career; and he's not exactly supporting of Mary Frances' writing. It isn't long until Mary Frances finds herself looking to her husband's close friend Tim. Tim, who is also married, and Mary Frances have a one-night stand; and while they decide to put a hold on their feelings, he is extremely supportive of her writing.
When Tim's wife leaves him for another man, his life is turned upside down. After a trip to the east, he and Mary Frances eventually find comfort in each other and start an all out affair. As strange as it sounds, the threesome end up living together in Switzerland; and Mary Frances finds success as a food writer. Tim and Mary Frances try to conceal their feelings for each other out of respect for Al. They both love him dearly, especially since he's so vulnerable and sensitive.
THE ARRANGEMENT is one of those books that I definitely appreciated, but I'm not sure I loved it. I think had I known who M.F.K. Fisher was or even anything about her writings that it would have helped me to be more interested in her life; however, I did enjoy how well the author told her story. I got the sense that Fisher was a writer who explored the senses especially as they pertained to food, and I feel like this novel also played to the reader's senses.
There were a few stellar things about THE ARRANGEMENT. First and foremost, I enjoyed how well the author brought these three characters to life. They were all extremely complex characters/artists, and it was interesting to see how their lives mixed with their stories. It was apparent to me that the author researched the life of M.F.K. Fisher and was able to incorporate the real life events with her story. I found it extremely interesting to see how Fisher's life in both France, California, and even Switzerland contributed to her writings and eventual success.
But what I enjoyed the most about this novel was how it portrayed this complex love triangle. It was obvious that Mary Frances and Tim has a passionate love affair; however, it was equally obvious how much Mary Frances loved her husband Al... albeit in an entirely different way. I would also argue that Tim very much loved Al as a friend. It was definitely interesting to see the different ways that love was explored in this novel.
THE ARRANGEMENT would make an interesting book club pick especially for those clubs who appreciate literary and/or historical fiction. There is a reading guide available with ten thought-provoking questions that might help to direct conversation. Some of the themes you might want to explore include passion, appetites, food, sex, marriage, trust, loss, grief, friendship, infidelity, secrets, and of course love.
I can't go so far as to say I loved THE ARRANGEMENT but I did appreciate it a great deal. Recommended to fans of literary fiction as well as readers familiar with M.F.K. Fisher's writing.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.