I may be judging this more harshly because I tend to have high expectations when it comes to Alison Lurie.And she didn't entirely disappoint me; her characters are multifaceted creatures and she can write a fabulous sentence.This wasn't one of her better books, though.
"The Nowhere City" is about a 1960s academic couple who moves to LA from New England so he can take a job as a historian for a government company (incidentally, while the book was highly dated it was interesting to see how people thought and talked back then).Paul, the husband, immediately falls in love with LA and begins an affair with a beatnik waitress; his wife Katherine finds herself both physically and emotionally allergic to the place.Things develop in an interesting way, though, and the ending is not what the reader might have predicted at first.
After a somewhat slow start I found the story well-written and decently paced, but the characters, though well-drawn, were highly unsympathetic.Like many of Lurie's male characters, Paul is basically a self-centered jerk.Katherine, on the other hand, was extremely whiny and annoying (I couldn't stand all her talk about her sinusitis and the need to drain her nasal passages) — an instance of effective characterization, I suppose, but not someone I wanted to read about.
Part of me admired Lurie's ability to make the story three-dimensional by showing how Paul might understandably be thoroughly sick of Katherine, and also by paving the way for Katherine's eventual growth and development.I still thought Paul was a jerk, though, for wanting to simply engage in affairs according to his whim while staying married to Katherine with no apparent guilt or self-criticism, and given that Katherine's later redemption comes about through an extramarital affair of her own, I couldn't sympathize much with her either.
So ultimately, a decently written but not very enjoyable story for me.It didn't hold a candle to Alison Lurie's better books, like Imaginary Friends or The War Between the Tates.
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