Thursday, November 13, 2014
Review: Even in Paradise
Author: Chelsey Philpot
Published: October 14th, 2014
Hardcover, 368 pages
4 Gold Stars
(summary from Goodreads)
When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne's at the beginning of the junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator's daughter. Most people do... or think they do.
Charlotte certainly never expects she'll be Julia's friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than life new girl's world - a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia's handsome older brother, Sebastian.
But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden... until now.
Everything about this book screamed The Great Gatsby in the most subtle way possible and it was wonderful. There's no real mention of it being any sort of retelling. The only real connection is the name Buchanan and I loved that about this book. The subtlety was in the writing, in the nostalgic feeling throughout the whole novel, through the actions of the characters and the chain reaction of events that slowly get uncovered throughout it. Charlotte is a mix between Nick Caraway and Daisy Buchanan, just like Julia is a mix between Gatsby and Daisy. I love that there was no distinct characterization, it left everything blurry and unreal, which drove me further into the story and kept me in until the last page.
It's told in past tense. the same sort of tense as Gatsby, with Charlotte looking back on a time in her life that was crazy and unpredictable, but that she wouldn't change for the world. This in no way drains any of the tension, as there is a bit of a mystery as to what happened to Julia's sister that we slowly become more aware of throughout the book. There's something wonderful and thrilling about watching the past play out and knowing there is nothing you can do to change it. Charlotte is quickly seduced by Julia and falls into her world effortlessly. She begins summering with the Buchanan family, staying at an old house with many secrets, and falls for Julia's older brother, Sebastian. The more she gets involved with the family, the closer she gets to the truth. I was excited to see how it would all relate to Gatsby, and I was pleasantly rewarded with the answer. Just like Fitzgerald's classic novel, there is a tragedy that cannot be stopped and the rich get away with it. I love that Charlotte narrated, just like Nick did, as it's almost a third party watching from afar. Charlotte gets very much more involved than Nick did, getting so deep into the Buchanan family that it's hard to leave. She knew her days were numbered and that she never really belonged in the Buchanan's world, and we as reader knew from the start that it doesn't work out, but like Charlotte, we fell in love anyway. Who wouldn't want to spend summers at a big house and go to lavish parties, even if it meant keeping something terrible a secret?
There isn't nothing really happy about this book. There are moments here and there were Julia and Charlotte share a wonderful moment, words that make you think they will be friends forever, but in the back of your mind the entire time, you know it doesn't work out. It's brutal and honest and nostalgic. The closer I got to the end, the more involved I was with the family and like Charlotte, needed to know all the answers. Fans of Gatsby will be pleased, those who didn't like that book may not enjoy the way this one is written, but I for one loved it. I think the subtleness worked in this book's favour, as I enjoyed it more than Great, which was almost a direct re-telling. This book is crazy, intoxicating and will take you down the rabbit hole into a world that really does exist but feels dreamlike, a world where the rich get away with murder and pay off those who find out about it.
"It's only in hindsight that we can point, as easily as finding a town on a map, to the moments that shaped us - the moments when choices between yeses and nos determined the people we became. I have no illusions. Even knowing everything, I would have chosen the same."
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