Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My take on: Stiltsville

Stiltsville: A Novel (P.S.)When you look at the covers and inside pages of some books they are full of praise. All these well-known authors and critics gush about the book, but when I read it I wonder did we read the same book? That's how I felt about Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel. It's not great, but it's not 100 percent bad either. It was very middle of the road for me, and it pains me to say I don't like something.

Frances Ellerby meets her future husband, Dennis, after a chance encounter on a trip to Miami in 1969. Frances befriends Marse, who invites her to spend time with her brother Kyle, and Dennis at Stiltsville. I had never heard of Stiltsville, which is a group of homes in the middle of Biscayne Bay. This is what intrigued me about the book. How can a community like that survive? What happens in bad weather? Is it a place you can live at year-round? I thought the book would focus more on that aspect, but it's more of a backdrop as Dennis and Frances build their future.

Frances seemed to lack ambition. She's waiting for something to happen to her. Before coming to Miami, Frances lived and worked in Atlanta. But as soon as she meets Dennis, there is her reason to neglect her job, which she eventually gets fired from. Is a relationship really worth losing your job? If he's rich, I'm all for it!!! But that's not the case here. His parents had money, but Dennis was still trying to figure out whether or not to become a lawyer. Frances just needed a reason to abandon her life in Atlanta. She immerses herself in Dennis' life and his family. Frances and Dennis eventually live together, despite living in an era when people didn't do that until marriage. I assume it was frowned upon because I didn't enter this world until the 80s. She manages to crack the shell of his sister Bette, who I found much more interesting than Frances.

Bette bounces from relationship to relationship, including leaving her fiance at the alter, but she has a sense of adventure. Bette loves the water, and spent a lot of her time early on deep sea scavenging. Imagine the things you could see underwater!!

Soon after marrying, Frances gives birth to daughter Margo. Several miscarriages following Margo's birth help the couple realize that one child is all they need. But Frances still wonders if this is all there is to life?

"We were still at the start of a long road together, Dennis and me. The future was still so murky. For a long moment it seemed almost inevitable that our happiness would not last, could not last, and that at some point, after Margo left home or before, I would find myself in a similar situation, and this time I would want it badly enough to let it happen. And -- this thought was incredibly sad to me -- I might not feel terribly ashamed."

Again she's waiting for something to happen. In this case she's waiting for the failure of her marriage. Why not be happy with what you have? Perhaps I look at this book differently because I'm not married, nor do I have children. I've seen reviews that say what a great portrayal of marriage this is, and how it captures the ups and downs of life. To me Frances' life sounds like A LOT of people !! I read books because they are special and different from everyday life. I kept waiting for something out of the ordinary to make this story stand out, but I just didn't see it. It's just too normal for my taste, if that makes sense?!?!

Rating: Meh (It's been a long, long, long time since I've used this rating, but I have to. I wanted to like it, but I didn't.)

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a tour with TLC Book Tours. For more on author Susanna Daniel, visit


  1. Darn, it's a shame this one didn't turn out to be a good read for you. Still I appreciate your review for the tour!

  2. I go into every book assuming I will like it, and I feel bad when I don't. It just wasn't my cup of tea.