Elinor Lipman: The Continuing Saga

I have read all but one of the available Elinor Lipman books following my great success with The Family Man. And I am now pleased to report that Elinor Lipman has gone on my Favored Authors list. She is the kind of author you want to have on your shelves for when you wake up at night with terrible nightmares (or even just fretful stress dreams), or when you need an undemanding book to read ten pages of while you’re brushing your teeth at night.

Not all of these books share the feature of The Family Man that the good characters have nice things happen to them, and the bad characters get their comeuppance. However, they do all share the feature that the thrust of the plot is away from isolation and sadness, and towards contentment and love. That is an awesome feature for a book to have, and I am saying that as a girl who loves the sort of ending like The Secret History has, where it’s utterly grim and also a little ambiguous and strange. I love that sort of ending! But there are times in my life when I like to feel that the world trades in happy endings as well as sad ones.

Another good quality of Elinor Lipman is her gift with titles. She is not Tennessee Williams, but the woman has some solid titles. The Dearly Departed is a good title in general and a perfect title for the book, in that it captures both the sadness and the wry bewilderment the two main characters feel about their dead parents. The Pursuit of Alice Thrift is good because that name is perfect for that character, and because it’s a fussily articulated title to go with its fussily articulate protagonist. And! My favorite of the titles! My Latest Grievance. That is an awesome title. I was telling my mother I would make that the title of my memoir if I wrote a memoir. Since I am not going to write a memoir, I’m going to start a series of blog posts called My Latest Grievance, in which I complain about petty things that bother me, like the preponderance of mopey ballads in this year’s Eurovision line-up, and people who just stand there on the subway escalator so that you’re trapped behind them watching your train leave without you because these damn people wouldn’t follow the damn rules and just walk down the damn escalator.

Litlove (Litlove, if I haven’t said it lately, I think you’re great) very rightly says that Elinor Lipman belongs in the intelligent comfort read category, the same category in which I would place someone like Marisa de los Santos. If I tried to describe the plots of any of her books, they would sound predictable, and well, they are in a way, I guess (you know the anti-Semitic lady in The Inn at Lake Devine is going to get called on her bullshit), but they are such a joy to read that it doesn’t matter.

That’s my pitch in brief, I guess: Elinor Lipman is a joy. When I have books of hers in my library bag, I have to exercise great restraint in not pouncing upon them and gobbling them all up. I delay gratification, an activity I enjoy, and it feels like such a treat to finally get to read the books. Her backlist couldn’t be big enough to please me, but I’m delighted that she is still young, shares Oscar Wilde’s birthday, and puts out a new book every couple of years. Elinor Lipman! Make your life happier by reading her books!

16 thoughts on “Elinor Lipman: The Continuing Saga

  1. A new comfort author is definitely something I need right now, and if she’s of the intelligent kind all the better. I’ll definitely see if I can find any of her books.

  2. I’ve only read The Family Man but I really enjoyed it. But Elinor Lipman sounds perfect for my book group — thanks for reminding me, I’ll have to check the library catalog and see if we have enough copies of any of her titles. Do you have a favorite so far?

  3. I wasn’t that keen on My Latest Grievance (although the title is indeed excellent), and Then She Found Me got lost in the mail! Is the universe conspiring against me? Does it like you better than me? Loved The Family Man, though.

  4. Awww, bless you! I was having such a stressy day (relationship issues are hard enough when they’re your own, but it turns out that when they’re your son’s you reach a whole new level) and this has really cheered me up. Thank you! And yay! for Elinor Lipman. I loved My Latest Grievance, which is indeed a genius title.

    Have you read Barbara Trapido, incidentally? I think of her in the same category – something like Brother of the More Famous Jack, or Noah’s Ark or The Travelling Hornplayer are great (some of the others are darker, and not quite so comforting).

    • Oh, I hope Lil Litlove is doing okay!

      I have never heard of Barbara Trapido whatsoever! If I am able to get to the library later this week, I will look into her.

  5. Okay, I’m convinced. She’s going on my list. And I still think you would like Elizabeth Goudge. Start either with The Bird in the Tree or with one of her kids’ books.

    • I just, I don’t know! I read a couple of her children’s books, I know, and I didn’t love them. I read Linnets and Valerian and the other one, The Little White Horse. I want to love Elizabeth Goudge but so far I do not!

      • Oh no. I was sure you would love her kids’ books. They seemed right exactly up your alley. Okay, I am stopping recommending them! But oh dear, I did think I had that right.

  6. I need an author that will make me feel all warm and comfy when life is dark and strange, so I think I will take you up on your offer, and give Lippman a try for myself. You are really good at making me want to go out and buy the books you love because you make them sound so enticing and intelligent. Great post today!

  7. I am so excited that you love her other stuff! As soon as I read this post I ran (well, walked) to our shelves to see if we had anything else by her. And we do! I checked out My Latest Grievance, and now am forcing myself to finish the book I’m in the middle of before reading it. (Normally I don’t have any problem reading more than one book at a time, but I want to give Elinor my undivided attention.) Yay! I’m so glad I decided to be a rebellious little employee and read a few blog posts while at work (it’s relevant, right? reading book blogs when you work at a library?) because otherwise I would have had to wait until Monday, and I just don’t think I could have done that.

  8. I’ve been reading Lipman for years. My favs are “Inn at Lake Divine”, “The Dearly Departed”, and “Grievance”. They’re all actually good. Another “comfort” author is the late, great Laurie Colwin. Her “Happy All the Time” is my favorite book. She died way too young.

  9. Pingback: May Reads « The Alcove

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