Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Posted April 6, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Chick Lit / 12 Comments

Seating Arrangements by Maggie ShipsteadTitle: Seating Arrangements (Goodreads)
Author: Maggie Shipstead
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2012
Pages: 302
Genres: Chick Lit
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Winn Van Meter and his family head for a retreat on the New England island of Waskeke. While this is normally a haven of relaxation for Winn, now it’s overshadowed by the preparation of his daughter’s wedding. A weekend with his family and his daughter’s bridesmaids only days before the big event is never a recipe for the calmness or solitude he is accustomed to in this house.

Part social satire, part chick lit, this is surprisingly intelligent and humorous in between the relationship drama of the family and the women staying with them. I know many people will argue with me about this been classed as a chick lit novel (I know my wife did) but for me it very much is one. This genre normally explores the issues with modern womanhood in a light-hearted and humorous way, exploring the relationships, whether being romantic, family or friends. Seating Arrangements ticks all these books but as my wife tells me the protagonist has to be a woman; in this book, it is narrated by a man but the whole focus of the book is the relationships of his wife and his two daughters so in my opinion I think this book can still be classed as chick lit.

This book is very much character driven; from the family rivalry, past relationships and plenty of gin soaked shenanigans. I would have liked to learn more about Winn’s life; I feel like it is often glossed over and focusing too much on the women in the house. Winn’s wife Biddy is spending all her time organising the perfect wedding, his daughter Daphne pregnant and the bride-to-be is enjoying being treated like a princess leading up to her special day. Then there is Winn’s younger daughter Livia suffering from a heartbreak and also the target for the seduction from the best man, bridesmaid Agatha and reckless flirt who Winn lusts after, plus many other secondary characters that sometimes just feel like filler subplots.

Seating Arrangements borders on the cliché too many times throughout this book; it’s only the social satire elements that seem to help recover the story. I think without these elements this would just turn into a very generic chick lit novel, so I’m pleased to have read something witty and intelligent as well. I will admit there are some elements that could have been explored a little more, but most of them seem to be done perfectly. The heartbreak of Livia wasn’t explored enough for my liking and while I get that she discovered that she no longer loves Teddy, it never felt like a real resolution for that subplot. The relationship between Winn and Agatha is one of the best in the book, it hints at lust and scandal exploring the concept of fidelity, desire and even rejection. It offered a little relief from the overly cuteness of most of the relationships.

Maggie Shipstead manages to explore all different relationship types as well as New England society. Parts of this book really didn’t work for me and I was in constant fear of falling too much into the realm of the cliché but I’m surprised with the way this book turned out. Personally I would like a bit more scandal but in the end this was a light read with some very intelligent aspects that are worth exploring. For lovers of light reading, the satirical elements can be easily overlooked or missed but for people looking for them, you will be delighted with what you find within this book.

12 responses to “Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

  1. AnnabelSmith

    Chick lit? No way! I am completely with your wife on this one. I think it was really all about Winn! I loved it though.

  2. […] calls the genre dick lit but I don’t know why there is a gender bias in a genre. I thought Seating Arrangements would be considered chick lit but because it had a male protagonist people dismiss it as something […]

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