Fifteen years after graduating from Harvard, five close friends on the cusp of middle age are still pursuing an elusive happiness and wondering if they’ve wasted their youthful opportunities. Jules, already a famous actor when she arrived on campus, is changing in mysterious ways but won’t share what is haunting her. Mariam and Rowan, who married young, are struggling with the demands of family life and starting to regret prioritising meaning over wealth in their careers. Eloise, now a professor who studies the psychology of happiness, is troubled by her younger wife’s radical politics. And Jomo, founder of a luxury jewellery company, has been carrying an engagement ring around for months, unsure whether his girlfriend is the one.
The soul searching begins in earnest at their much-anticipated college reunion weekend on the Harvard campus, when the most infamous member of their class, Frederick – senior advisor and son of the recently elected and loathed US president – turns up dead.
Old friends often think they know everything about one another, but time has a way of making us strangers to those we love – and to ourselves . . .
Australian, although born in South Africa and partly raised there as well. Completed her undergraduate degree at Harvard. Now lives in Sydney. J.M. Coetzee described her first novel, Blood Kin (2007), as ‘a fable of the arrogance of power beneath whose dreamlike surface swirl currents of complex sensuality,' which boils down to I didn't get it. Someone other than Coetzee must have, because it won the US National Book Foundation’s prestigious ‘5 Under 35’ award. Off to a pretty good start then. Only The Animals (2014) was a book of ten stories told by the souls of animals killed in human conflict since the late 19th century. (I know, right?). In The Garden of Fugitives (2018) was about an old guy catching up with a female protégée after many years. Elegant prose but too clever for me by half. This one was published as an audiobook on Audible a year or more before it appeared in print.
A group of Harvard graduates revisit their old stamping ground for a 15-year reunion weekend. One is a famous actress who was famous even before she went to Harvard (shades of Natalie Portman anyone?), another a super-rich African American jewellery designer, a third is a Harvard lecturer (female) in happiness studies (yes, happiness). The others are a couple (he's a schoolteacher, she's a housewife) who got married as students and are still together despite kids and no money and everything. The most famous, read notorious, member of their year is the son of, and aide to, a version of POTUS the liberal intelligentsia of the blue state crimson don't much care for, i.e. a populist Republican. No names, no pack drill, but you get the idea. There's existential angst and reflection aplenty even before POTUS's kid gets dead under suspicious circumstances.
Alternating first person from POVs of the jeweller, and the married couple individually.
Pretty good overall, I think, if by good you mean annoyingly whiny. I didn't go to Harvard so what would I know?
Much of the story telling done through dialogue, probably because Audible paid Ms D big bucks to crank out something audio format friendly.
In contrast to Ms Dovey's previous work, this one is straight story telling, which I liked, but as murder mysteries go, it wasn't.