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Review: The Inn at Lake Devine

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

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.