1) The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. 3/5 stars. I really enjoyed Simonson's first book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, but I didn't like this one nearly as much. One of the jacket quotes recommends the book to "fans of leisurely British fiction." And leisurely it certainly is! The plot, following Beatrice Nash, a female (gasp!) Latin teacher who moves to a small village in southern England at the start of WWI, meanders along at an impossibly slow pace. The characters weren't especially memorable and overall it lacked the charm and wit that drew me to Major Pettigrew.
2) The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. 2/5 stars. I did not like this book at all. It's set in New York in the 1950s, when Truman Capote became friends with the very highest society ladies on the heels of his Breakfast at Tiffany's success. The characters are all so unlikeable. I didn't connect to any of them. And I didn't like the whole style of the book... A very outsider viewpoint bouncing around from one character to the next, rather than actually getting to know any one person in depth.
3) Newport by Jill Morrow. 2/5 stars. This one was another disappointment. Set in the 1920s in Newport, Rhode Island, I was hoping for a Edith Wharton style novel with plenty of social intrigue and lavish detail of the glitz and glamour at the summer "cottages" of the Gilded Age elite. Not so. It could have been set in any random town in the modern day. In fact the characters, who are overall flat and unrealistic, seemed more like modern day characters in speech and sensibility. There is also a supernatural element that I wasn't into at all.
4) Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. 3/5 stars. This is a modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I was really looking forward to reading it, being a fan both of P&P and Sittenfeld's earlier books. Unfortunately... It didn't really work for me. While I appreciate the difficulty of the task, I don't think the modernizations stayed true to the original character of the P&P. I found the characters mostly annoying and unlikeable. And I didn't understand why she chose to stray from the P&P plot in some instances but not others. I would love to chat about this book in more detail with anyone who has read it - Please comment below!
As you can see, apart from Eligible which doesn't really count, I'm going through a historical fiction phase... Specifically early 20th century England, although two of these books are set in New York/New England, so I suppose that works too. Does anyone have any recommendations in that genre?