A Fortunate Age by Joanna Rakoff
Publisher: Bloomsbury; Price: Rs 599; Pages: 512
Those of us obsessed with American pop culture love New York City. Perhaps because we grew up watching Friends and Sex and the City. Or it has something to do with Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail) or Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan). Or JD Salinger.
Last year, my love for Salinger led me to read My Salinger Year, Rakoff’s fantastic memoir about her job at the literary agency that represented Salinger, in the late Nineties in New York.
And so I was excited about Rakoff’s debut novel about a group of six friends – twentysomething writers, editors, academics, musicians and actors – in New York. A terrible way to be introduced to A Fortunate Age because I kept looking for echoes of the New York Rakoff had written about earlier. And was not prepared for the cliché it turned out to be.
This isn’t to say it’s a bad book – what is trite can also be comforting. It opens with a wedding, the first in the group of six friends – It was impossible to imagine any of them married. They knew no married people of their own age. As the group traverses life – jobs, marriage, friendship, family and the mundane – from 1998 to 2004, you feel like you’ve known some of these people, are like them, lived these instances or even read about them before. It’s because Rakoff’s novel is a homage to Martha McCarthy’s bestselling 1963 novel, The Group about eight female graduates in 1930s America.
But as you move in and out of Brooklyn, Queens, the Lower East Side, you’ll like it anyway – just not as much as you’d like to.
From HT Brunch, September 13
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