I bought Modern Lovers by Emma Straub because I’d read and thoroughly enjoyed The Vacationers by the same author. Moden Lovers is set in Brooklyn, NY and tells the story of two families. Elizabeth is a local realtor, married to a boy she met at college, Andrew. They now have a 17-year-old son, kind and clever, Harry. Their neighbour and another college friend, Zoe, is married to Jane, a talented chef. They run a successful neighbourhood restaurant and are mothers to a beautiful, but mischievous, teenage daughter, Ruby.
The lives of the college friends are changing, not only because the children are growing up and leaving home, but because a film about their experimental college band is in the making. A song Elizabeth wrote became a huge hit, made famous by another friend Lydia, who died tragically young, at the height of her career. Both Zoe and Elizabeth are keen to sign over the rights to the song, but for some reason, Andrew, who’s private income means that he’s never had to earn a living, or settle on a profession, is adamant he doesn’t want a film to be made about the band, or Lydia.
While Ruby and Harry try to make sense of their newly found adulthoods, old secrets kept since their parents’ college years bubble up to the surface, threatening both marriages and friendships.
Although I loved reading about modern American middle classes, I struggled little with the pace of the book. Just as in a Woody Allen film, which this novel very much reminded me of, there is a lot of introspection, which stops the plot from moving forward. There are emotional discoveries, but very little actually happens in the book.
I would still recommend Modern Lovers as a good read, especially if, like me, you have a fondness for both American fiction and New York.
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