The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover, 277 pages, 2008

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: I was drawn to the cover – the taped-up rose combined with the title made me think this was the sort of love/hate story I was in the mood to read.

Synopsis: A group of college friends meet up again six years later for the marriage of Lila and Tom, Laura’s former boyfriend. Some of them are married, some on the verge of divorce, and all of them seem to be in an emotional whirlwind: is anything what it appears in this group? Are any of them friends? Are any of them happy? Is this upcoming marriage something that Laura can stand to see happen, especially when she’s starting to think she considers the WASPy Lila a friend merely out of habit? Secrets are going to unfold on Lila’s family estate, and nothing behind the scenes of this wedding is going to be pretty…

Why you should read this book: The characters in The Romantics certainly live up to the title – everyone is idealized, until everything comes crashing down into reality. It’s fun to watch the layers peel off of all of the characters, revealing their true thoughts and enough juicy secrets to make you take another look at your own ‘closest’ friends. An intriguing look at human nature, with flaws and desperation resulting in increasingly poor decisions amongst the group of friends, as everyone tries to discover what they might be missing in life, certain that everyone else has something better. Thrown into all of this is a mystery – a drunken group-swim results in a missing groom, leaving the already-unhinging ‘best friends’ falling to pieces even faster. All of this makes The Romantics a great read on many levels, but will especially appeal to anyone looking for a book that revolves around the characters more than a fast-paced plot.

Why you should avoid this book: The Romantics gets off to a slow start, with introductions to all of the characters taking precedence over any real action. Fortunately, when things pick up, they really keep you drawn into the story, so push through if you’re not immediately intrigued.

Opening paragraph:

Laura sat in her car at the foot of a dirt road, clutching her cell phone and map. The map was just an accessory. She knew exactly where she was. The name of the house was etched on a wooden plank tacked to one of the elms that flanked the drive. A wreath of peonies hung just below, woven with white ribbons. Using her thumb as a ruler, she measured the distance between Dark Harbor and New York, as though time had stopped as a favor to her, to allow her to catch her breath.

Fabulous quotes:

In Tom’s presence, Laura felt incomparably calm, the way you feel on a rainy day when your only reasonable option is to consign yourself to sitting still, the way she had felt the moment time was called on the last exam of her senior year, that a vast amount of work had been completed and the future held only excitement. They could be sitting in traffic or talking on the phone or waiting in line for a movie, and their time felt precious, important, worthwhile.

‘You’re all full of it,’ Oscar declared. He had been conspicuously quiet up to this point. ‘Has anyone considered something really bad?’
‘Like what,’ said Annie.
‘I don’t know.’ Oscar shrugged. ‘That he drowned or something worse.’ He paused, reluctant to voice the next thought.
‘What would be worse?’
‘I don’t know. Drowning. On purpose.’

Also recommended: A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve; The Romantic by Barbara Gowdy; Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy.

Also by this author: A Taxonomy of Barnacles.

Fun tidbit: Niederhoffer has producer credits on movies like ‘Prozac Nation’ and ‘Grace is Gone.’

Would I read more by this author? Maybe future books…A Taxonomy of Barnacles simply doesn’t appeal to me as a title.

&#169 Lisa Yanaky 2003-2008

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