7 April 2017

Elin Hilderbrand: The Love Season

When we started this blog I would have sworn I preferred non-
fiction but it's becoming more apparent to me with each post how much I truly love fiction. As far as fiction goes, Hilderbrand novels are like crack. Eventually I will have to do an author spotlight on her but for now- The Love Season. This is one of my favourite Hilderbrand books so far and I read it in a single day on the beach over Christmas break. It's a complicated story of a few dark, relatable, and captivating relationships. Part of me wants to re-read it right now but I must get through our book club selection.

Hilderbrand sets all her books on Nantucket Island where she either lives or vacations regularly (I don't know her personal life). I personally love when an author keeps a consistent setting, and from book to book all the restaurants, place names, and shopkeepers are familiar to you. Sarah Dessen was somewhat like this if you've ever read any of her books... I have a very romantic notion of Nantucket Island now and feel like it's a place I'd weirdly recognize if I ever went because I've read so many Hilderbrand novels. It also makes her books perfect for the beach or vacation because the characters are pretty much always vacationing during the stories. 

How beautiful is Nantucket Island??? In the book Marguerite and Porter spend their summers in a rose-covered cottage on Polpis Road. I imagine it looks like this one.

The plot begins with college-aged Renata visiting her future in-laws on Nantucket Island and calling her estranged Godmother, Marguerite, to meet for dinner. She wants to learn what happened all those years ago that her family kept them apart. The plot flips between present time preparing for this dinner and Marguerite taking a ride down memory lane. I think the best way for me to talk about this book is to break it down by characters so here we go:

1. Marguerite (a.k.a. Daisy)

This is the 'main' character of the story. Marguerite is a chef who meets a man named Porter in France on vacation and he convinces her to come to Nantucket and open a restaurant. She moves there, opens a wildly successful restaurant called Les Parapluies and lives on the island year-round even when Porter and every other islander goes back to the mainland for the off-seasons. In the summers her and Porter pick-up on their love affair and Marguerite always hopes for more (marriage, kids, him to ask her to come back to NYC with him for the winter, etc.) but he always treats her as a summer fling. I find this plot line extremely relatable because she continues to convince herself that a summer relationship is all she wants and needs... even though it's very obviously not. One year she even goes to New York during the fall to visit him and its very awkward, he has plans, etc. and she is devastated but can't bring herself to end things permanently because her life revolves around the summers when he comes back. She's also best friends with his sister Candace and the godmother of Candace's daughter Renata. It's very obvious in the present day plot that something tragic has happened to Marguerite. You learn she's been a recluse for 15 years and cut out her own tongue, and eventually as she continues to tell the story from the past you begin to understand what's happened. I really loved Marguerite's character, she's extremely easy to empathize with and I'm no stranger to being overly forgiving to men. 

2. Porter

Porter is Marguerite's summer lover and the man that convinced her to open the restaurant in Nantucket in the first place. When he first meets Marguerite in Paris he is this wild, free spirit that she's instantly taken with, and I think readers are as well. He seems like a go-getter and is helping Marguerite follow her dreams. However, as the summers go by he starts to seem like more and more of an asshole. When Marguerite surprises him in the fall in New York, he is uncomfortable and indifferent towards her, every year he promises to take her back to Paris and never does. He textbook leads her on for years and the final straw comes when he proposes to another, younger woman after almost twenty summers together. She is obviously crushed. I hate Porter and I think men like him are one of the main reasons the world sucks. 

It was like learning of her own death; she'd always known it was coming, but so soon? In this ridiculous way? She was shocked, incredulous; her ego was like an egg found cracked in the carton; she was angry, insulted- and worried for Porter's sake. He'd been tricked by beauty and youth, by sex. He didn't know what he was doing. The end of a seventeen-year relationship seemed too fantastical to Marguerite to be taken seriously. Porter said it was over, he said he was getting married to this young girl from Florida, and he promised he would never bring the girl to Nantucket, meaning he would never return himself. So Marguerite would never see him again. It couldn't just end, she reasoned; their relationship couldn't go from a rich and layered creating to nothing. Her way of life, her identity, her whole world, was threatening to shift, to tilt, to dump her into cold, unfamiliar water. She and Porter were no longer together? It was impossible. So yes, devastated was a fair choice of words. But the hurt was located in distant parts of her- her brain, her reason, her nerves. Her hands shook for hours; she remembered that."

3. Candace

Candace is Porter's sister and she is constantly described as being the most beautiful girl anyone's ever seen. Everyone seems to love her, including Marguerite and the two immediately become close friends. Candace knows her brother is a piece of shit and is constantly trying to convince Marguerite to leave Nantucket. They go as far as taking a girls trip to Morocco to see about opening a restaurant there, but as soon as Marguerite gets the confidence she needs to leave Nantucket they find out Candace is pregnant. Candace marries the man who runs the private club on the island and has his daughter (Renata). This is when Marguerite I really began to feel bad for Marguerite, not only is her relationship very clearly a sham at this point but her best friend is starting a family. If I was in a crappy relationship and Meg got pregnant and married and answered less of my phone calls, I would go insane too.

4. Renata

Eventually, you find out Candace has died when Renata is young, and due to certain circumstances her dad kept her away from Marguerite her whole life. While I didn't relate to Renata's character at all, she is interesting because she's going through a bit of an existential crisis, unsure if she wants to get married so young, to the wrong guy, etc. She looks up Marguerite on the island because she wants to know more about her mother, but she's also looking for motherly advice about her own life. 

It was like we had known all along that the sky was going to fall and then it fell and we pretended to be surprised.” 

I wouldn't say this book has a happy ending by any means but it wraps up in a way that you're satisfied as a reader and you understand what has happened. Marguerite finally seems at ease at the end to be able to sit and tell Renata a story she's been holding in for such a long time, and whether she's happy or not isn't quite relevant by the end. It kind of presents you with the question of whether you'd rather have the most full life for a short period of time, or a decent life forever. In any case it's an incredibly interesting story right until the very end.

Hilderbrand signing books on Nantucket Island
I personally loved this book and I know my mom/sister/friends would like it to although this is certainly not Meg's cup of tea. Besides Meg, I would recommend it to basically any female who likes lighter fiction. I say lighter because it is SO easy to read, not because its fluffy. Hilderbrand is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and I would certainly describe her as a quality author, but she keeps the subject matter easy. I love to share Hilderbrand novels with people so if you're close to me and want to borrow this one, or any other, I am happy to oblige. It's also extremely easy to find her books in used bookstores because she has such a large repertoire. She also has a new book coming out in June that I'm really excited about.

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