Scandalously underrated by British publishing over the years, Elinor Lipman has produced some of the wittiest, most erudite and well-plotted novels to come out of the US in the last couple of decades. She supplies easy-going prose with an observationally wicked undercurrent, underwritten by both the academic and provincial experience, but is the comedic detail amid myriad snags that makes for such irresistible reading.
On Turpentine Lane
by Elinor Lipman
Never mind that her fiancé is currently ‘finding himself’ while walking across America and too busy to return her texts, that her witless boss has accused her of fraud, or that her father is going through a mid-life crisis that involves painting fake old masters and hooking up with a much younger woman – Faith is looking forward to a peaceful life in her new home.
But when a policeman knocks on her door asking to look in the basement, she discovers that the history of 10 Turpentine Lane is anything but peaceful.
These include a high-school yearbook inherited from her school teacher mother, June, to whom the class of ’68 dedicated the volume. June in turn attended every class reunion, scribbling notes and observations – not always charitably – after each one.
When neighbour Geneva Wisenkorn finds the discarded book and wants to use it for her own ends, Daphne realises she wants to keep it after all. Fighting to reclaim it, she uncovers some alarming Maritch family secrets and sets in motion a series of events that prove to be both poignant and absurd.
Good Riddance is a vastly entertaining screwball comedy from the Jane Austen of modern New York.