Gossip by Beth Gutcheon
Published by William Morrow
Publication date: March 20th 2012
Genres: Fiction, Literary
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I’m fairly certain that Tolstoy spent less time on War & Peace then I have spent trying to review Gossip. My problem is this: on the surface you have a cool-toned, witty look at three women living in the upper echelon of New York society. They are each interesting, diverse women, wearing fabulous clothes, and if that’s all you need from a book, then stop right here and go buy it. However, if you’re the type of reader who not only enjoys edgy wordplay and martini-smooth plotlines but likes a bit of substance as well then this is also the book for you but how to describe it is difficult as the facets are as plentiful as those on the jewelry worn by its characters.
Dinah and Avis are society matrons with posh lives while their friend Lovie is the owner of a chic clothing store and the nexus of their friendship. Much like Nick Carroway in The Great Gatsby—Lovie is the observer and outsider who ultimately knows more than anyone else but has the discretion, and the kindness, to stay silent. Her store caters to the wealthy so she often hears more than she wants and yet, she does not divulge. Much of what she learns about her friends is hurtful or damaging but rather than contributing, even by fighting back, she chooses to stay silent and not feed the flames. She has a serenity that belies the fact that she carries her own secret and will ultimately be deeply hurt by it.
With a deft touch Gutcheon spans the years in the daily lives of these women while, at the same time, revealing much that is sordid and unpalatable, often through gossip. Despite a glittering, coveted surface much is not what it seems, including the characters. The icy Avis is really “a woman who notices the quiet soul in the corner” while the fun loving Dinah often makes it clear to her old friend Lovie that she “had never stopped being the public school urchin”. Under the guise of everyday life we see characters covertly behave in distinctly unkind ways, even to supposed friends.
Gossip is a multi-layered delight handled with such a light touch that the reader will be left both amused and thoughtful. Gutcheon plays with appearances and truth both with her characters and their actions. Without sermonizing or undermining the flow of the novel she subtly demonstrates, through the quiet persona of Lovie and her observations, how gossip, even when seeming harmless, can have long-term, unexpected consequences. I loved this book and look forward to reading more from the author.