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Friends and Strangers: A novel – tekijä:…

Friends and Strangers: A novel (alkuperäinen julkaisuvuosi 2020; vuoden 2020 painos)

– tekijä: J. Courtney Sullivan (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
2782174,374 (3.86)10
Teoksen nimi:Friends and Strangers: A novel
Kirjailijat:J. Courtney Sullivan (Tekijä)
Info:Knopf (2020), 416 pages
Kokoelmat:Oma kirjasto
Arvio (tähdet):

Teoksen tarkat tiedot

Friends and Strangers (tekijä: J. Courtney Sullivan) (2020)

Viimeisimmät tallentajatJRMANDRAGON, staatsl, Ajj1, yksityinen kirjasto, julierenee13, suedutton, AbbeyThomas, WestNidaros

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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 21) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
I have rarely been as involved in a book as I was in Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan. This book immersed me in the lives of Elisabeth, a late-thirties new mother, married and now living in a small town, and Sam, a college senior who becomes Elisabeth’s babysitter. The book is told in alternating sections from Elisabeth’s point of view and then from Sam’s point of view.

Sullivan weaves a mesmerizing tale of the lives of these two women and how they become intertwined in a complex relationship where Elisabeth is employer, mentor and friend, and Sam is employee, friend and confidant. The boundaries of the relationship are blurred from both sides and become more complex as the story moves forward. Sullivan presents us with such detail of Elisabeth’s and Sam’s lives and thoughts that we feel we know them as well as we know ourselves---perhaps even better.

The time frame of their relationship is constrained by the fact that Sam will soon graduate and move on to a new, exciting and unknown future, while Elisabeth is established in her marriage and as a parent. Because of this, we know that the relationship will end soon, but at first we are convinced this will be a happy story of two women who are our friends.

Elisabeth is a lovable, but complex and infuriating woman. Sam sees her as having everything Sam dreams of. As their relationship deepens into one of friendship and shared confidence however, the secrets they share become burdens for Sam. Sam’s uncertainties about her future with her sort-of fiancee, Clive, and worries about her career after she graduates with a fine arts degree, put her on edge and open her to Elisabeth’s manipulations.

Elisabeth can’t face the reality of her own desires and ambitions and as a result cannot be honest with her husband, Andrew. Her guilt about her lies leads her to confide in Sam and then, in an attempt to control something in her life, a compulsion to try to save Sam from her youthful immaturity, but this leads her to more deception.

Sam’s life is expansive, the world is opening to her. She has her remote relationships, with the older Clive, with her roommate, Izzie, with her Latino friends she works with in the college dormitory kitchen, and a budding friendship with Elisabeth’s father-in-law that results in political activism. Elisabeth, by contrast has only her close focus on her family. Sam is Elisabeth’s only distraction, and is one she cannot let go. All this builds through the novel, with Elisabeth’s lies and deceits becoming more fraught and Sam becoming more uncertain about all aspects of her life.

We love them both and worry about them. How could this end well? How can we not anticipate a devastating and emotionally difficult ending?

But then the book just stops and we are left with a few pages of description of Sam and Elisabeth ten years in the future. We have no idea how Elisabeth’s lies and deceptions were resolved with her husband, or if they even were. For Sam, we know more about how she ended up where she did and why. But the book was all about the relationship of Elisabeth and Sam, and the ending ignores that and gives us little resolution, particularly for Elisabeth.

This was a great novel, but it is diminished by the ending. ( )
  tbrown3131949 | Aug 20, 2021 |
This is a perfectly decent, well written novel about a woman and her sitter.

The problem is that it feels like I've read it before. The most obvious recent example is Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age, though that treads on different territory (Sullivan sticks more to class than to race). There's nothing obviously wrong with the book. The characters are good, the plotting is fine. I feel churlish rating it down, since on its own terms it's fine. 3.5/5. ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
After becoming mother for the first time, journalist and author Elizabeth agrees with her husband’s wish to leave busy New York for a quieter place closer to his parents. Yet, the new life does not really seem to fit to Elizabeth. She feels exhausted from the baby and finds it difficult to make friends in her new community, the other women seem to be happy with dull pseudo-occupations and spend their days gossiping. When she decides to hire a babysitter to gain some tome to work on her next novel, things change finally since she immediately bonds with Sam, an art student in her final year at the local college. Sam herself comes from a decent background and is fascinated by the woman who seems to get everything done easily, who has style and taste and has made an astonishing career. Despite the age gap they become friends, but there are things they just ignore which, however, become more and more apparent the better they get to know each other and when they need each other most, a gap opens which is unsurmountable.

I totally liked J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel from the start. Sympathising with Elizabeth was easy since I can imagine a lot but not leaving a big town to become a full-time mother and spend my day with gossiping neighbours. Sam, too, was easy to like, still young and unsecure but with a good heart and totally in love with her British not-so-boyish-anymore boyfriend. From the start, it is a challenge between two characters who actually like each other but where there is an imbalance in power in several areas which puts at time Elizabeth, at times Sam in a better situation.

The author explores a lot of aspects in her novel which give you food for thought. First of all, Elizabeth’s move to a small town which does not offer much. Also her struggle with being a mother is something a lot of women surely can emphasize with. Quite interesting also the dynamics between her and her husband who cannot really cope with a more successful wife on the one hand, on the other he is relying on her financial situation to realize his own dream. Elizabeth looks down on him since he has never really accomplished anything in professional ways – not a good basis for a new start in a new place.

Sam lives the typical student life, yet, her fellow students all come from rich families and can afford things she can only dream of. She manages to live in both worlds, but feels often closer to the women in the cafeteria kitchen she works with than with the girls she shares the dorm. Her relationship with Clive is mysterious form the start, yet, totally in love, she forgets to question his behaviour and falls prey to him. She is still young and simply makes mistakes young people make.

Both characters as well as the plot have a lot to offer, yet, at times I found the backstories a bit too long, a bit too detailed since they always slowed down the main action. Nevertheless, a wonderful read I thoroughly enjoyed. ( )
  miss.mesmerized | Apr 26, 2021 |
Many reviewers commented that Friends and Strangers is a slow-moving novel. I would agree with that; however, I think that the emphasis on dialog, settings, and backstories is deliberately slow and successful. There are important themes and questions for “self-talk” that Courtney Sullivan conveys through the main characters, Elisabeth, a 30-something married mother of an infant, and Sam, a female college student whom Elisabeth hires to babysit and eventually treats as her confidant.
Relationships in the story will remind the astute reader of the chasm between rich and poor as well as the conflicts in everyday life between the working-class and upper-class as well as the genuinely privileged vs. “others.” Examples include:
Elisabeth, who comes from wealth, and her husband, Andrew, who doesn’t
Elisabeth, who doesn’t understand her privilege, and Sam, the babysitter who comes from a struggling working-class family
Sam, who is working to afford her college education, and her roommate Isabella, who is very wealthy
Sam, whose family struggles to make ends meet, and the Hispanic workers in the school cafeteria.
In addition to the class and monetary differences, personal values were explored through the characters’ actions, conversations, and thoughts. For example, the concepts of honesty and deception play out using some hefty life decisions. While you’re reading, think about:
Elisabeth and Andrew
Elisabeth and Sam
Sam and Clive
Elisabeth and her parents/sister; Elisabeth and Andrew’s parents

As I read, I just kept asking myself questions such as:
Can a person of wealth marry a working-class person and be happy?
Is one still privileged if she purposely separates from her family?
Are we destined to repeat our parents’ mistakes? Inherit their personalities? Share their worst traits?
What is the line between supporting/networking and interfering with another’s life?
How profound is the blindness we have to our internal conflicts?
Why do we not have greater insight into the way we treat others?
Why is the manipulation of low-level workers so prevalent in our culture—even at the places where “they preach against it?”
At what stage of life should we take advice from someone who has been through it already--or do we always have to learn for ourselves?
( )
  LindaLoretz | Mar 15, 2021 |
This is the 2nd ( or 3rd book I've lost count) book that I've read similar to this. I feel like calling year is the year of the Karen in publishing. Meddling women trying to fix others when they are flailing around themselves. Despite the Deja Vu, I loved J. Courtney Sullivan's take and really enjoyed this. I did not want to put it down. The more I read, the more I disliked Elisabeth, and the more I liked Sam and George. I think George was my favorite although I was initially worried he was one those "ok Boomer's" but he's not and I understood him probably more than any other character in the book. This is a great summer read. It has a slow build-up and for a while, it feels like nothing is happening as you get to know ( and hate or love) the characters. I loved the buildup and thought it was perfect although I remember thinking- is something going to happen? If you like fast-paced novels, you might want to skip this one, but you'll be missing out on a good story. ( )
  sunshine608 | Feb 2, 2021 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 21) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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It was her way of drawing a line between between them and herself, playing the observer so she didn't ave to care whether or not she fit in. She'd been doing it all her life. Andrew said she was like this because she was a writer, but he had that backwards; she  was a writer because she was like this.
On the surface, this country looks more or less like it always did. But there's nothing inside holding it up. Doesn't matter if the leaves are green and the trunk is tall. A hollow tree can't stand for long.
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"Having a baby is the greatest excuse in the world for bowing out of things you don't want to do."
The bond between parent and child was all-consuming, and yet it's power was not cumulative. It had to be remade again and again throughout the course of a lifetime. A mother could do everything right early on, and still, if she failed to renegotiate the terms, all would be lost.
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