Review: The Inn at Lake Devine

The Inn at Lake Devine Book CoverThe Inn at Lake Devine
By Elinor Lipman
Knopf Doubleday
April 1999
272pp

The Short of It:

The Inn at Lake Devine is the perfect summer read. The setting and the characters do not disappoint and it’s surprisingly meaty given its summery feel.

The Rest of It:

It was not complicated, and, as my mother pointed out, not even personal. They had a hotel; they didn’t want Jews; we were Jews.

So begins the story of young Natalie Marx and her infatuation with the Inn at Lake Devine. Natalie’s mother sends an inquiry to the Vermont hotel inquiring about summer accommodations for her and her family, and receives a polite, but firm note back indicating that the hotel does not do business with Jews.  Shocked, but intrigued, Natalie wonders about the person who wrote the note and in her own way, stages a rebellion from afar.

However, when Natalie discovers that a friend visits the Inn each summer, she realizes that it’s a chance of a lifetime and manages to get the family to invite her to join them for the summer. Her parents, knowing how this establishment operates, doesn’t want her to go, but her host family insists, so her adventure during that 1960’s summer begins.

I can’t really call this a “coming of age” novel because Natalie has a very strong sense of self, even as a young girl, but as she matures, her sense of self deepens and she seems to understand, or perhaps appreciate her Jewish roots more. Natalie is a pleasure to know. She flounders a bit with her personal life, but she never seems the worse for it and her pragmatic way of dealing with life made for pleasurable reading.

I’ve heard of Elinor Lipman before but have never read any of her books. The Inn at Lake Devine is my first experience with her writing. Her writing is very authentic with a touch of sarcasm thrown in. The writing is humorous, but not overly so. I especially enjoyed her depictions of “family” and the interactions between parent and child.

I was also charmed by the setting. A lakeside hotel in Vermont? I’m so there. I could see the porch, the out-buildings and the shimmering lake. It all felt so genuine to me.

As far as pace, I breezed through the book and read it in one sitting. There was one spot where it dragged a tad, and got a bit silly, but not enough to make me want to put it down. The first person narrative threw me off a couple of times. I don’t read too many novels written in this narrative but it seemed to fit.

An interesting tidbit…apparently such a letter existed. Lipman’s mother remembered the wording of the letter she received one summer, and it became the inspiration for this story.

I was quite happy with The Inn at Lake Devine and can’t wait to read another Lipman. For those that have read her before, which book should I read next?

Source: Borrowed from the library.

Recommended by: Thomas at My Porch.

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24 thoughts on “Review: The Inn at Lake Devine”

  1. You know, I think I’ve had this on my shelf for about 10 years. I may have given it away. Need to check. It’s one of those that I “had to have” and then there it sat. I’m such an impulsive book shopper. That’s kind of a bad thing.

  2. Whenever I think of a summer place in New England now I think of Dirty Dancing and then that makes me want to see the movie again. Or perhaps read this book AND see the movie again!

    1. OMG!! If you like those types of things, check out Smuggler’s Notch! We thought about vacationing there after my friend did. She said it was just like the place in Dirty Dancing. They sent us a cool DVD and everything. It was a bit pricey for us with airfare so we passed but someday… http://www.smuggs.com/ Then you can take a tour of Ben & Jerry’s. LOL.

  3. It’s funny how you mentioned the setting really drew you….I’m always drawn to particular settings like this, too. I’ve never read this author, though, so I can’t help with the recommendation, but I’m going to have to take a gander at this one.

  4. Out of the four or so Lipman’s I have read I think the one to read after The Inn at Lake Devine is My Latest Grievance. The Ladies Man less so, and The Dearly Departed I found a tad boring and dated.

  5. I have My Latest Grievance and have been meaning to read it (I haven’t read anything by her yet) — your review has inspired me to pick it up soon. How interesting that such a letter really existed.

    Thanks for the feedback on my blog, by the way!

  6. So glad you liked it! It’s a great summer read! I’ve read about 4 or 5 of her books. One of my favorites besides this one was Isabel’s Bed.

  7. I liked The Family Man. It’s the only book of hers I’ve read, so I don’t know any of the others. I quite liked it — I listened to it and I thought the voice actor was pretty good.

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