Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

From book flap:

One sunny morning in 1969, near the end of her first trip to Miami, twenty-six-year-old Frances Ellerby finds herself in a place called Stiltsville, a community of houses built on pilings in the middle of Biscayne Bay. 

It's the first time the Atlanta native has been out on the open water, and she's captivated.  On the dock of  a stilt house, with the dazzling skyline in the distance and the unknowable ocean beneath her, she meets the house's owner, Dennis DuVal - and a new future reveals itself. 

Turning away from her quiet, predictable life back home, Frances moves to Miami to be with Dennis.  Over time, she earns the confidence of his wild-at-heart sister and wins the approval of his oldest friend.  Frances and Dennis marry and have a child - but rather than growing complacent about their good fortune, they continue to face the challenges of intimacy and the complicated city they call home.

Stiltsville is the family's island oasis - until suddenly it's gone, and Frances is forced to figure out how to make her family work on dry land.  Against a backdrop of lush tropical beauty, Frances and Dennis struggle with the mutability of love and Florida's weather, as well as temptation, chaos, and disappointment.  But just when Frances thinks she's reached some semblance of higher ground, she must confront an obstacle so great that even the lessons she's learned about navigating the uncharted waters of family life can't keep them afloat. 

My thoughts:

I've lived in South Florida and was looking forward to reading a book set in an area that I would be familiar with.  I was excited to find out how much of the 'real' city would actually be in the book and truthfully, I was not disappointed.  Daniel does an excellent job of bringing Miami to life with her vivid descriptions and ability to incorporate it into the book as another character instead of a mere backdrop.  She is able to recreate a time and place with such ease and clarity that you can't help but imagine Frances and Dennis wandering about Coral Gables with the sun shinning down on them.  However, that is all I truly enjoyed about the novel.  For some reason I just did not find the characters to be engaging.  Truthfully, I'm not even sure how Dennis and Frances coupled up - they are both such disconnected characters that any semblance of happiness would have escaped their notice.  And I think it has to do with the fact that the book's tone is rather sad in nature.  For some reason I felt a sense of loss and loneliness throughout the novel, even during times of happiness - it was as if a dark and heavy cloud hung over the story and well it left me feeling rather empty.  Yet, I don't want to dismiss this book as a don't read, because I really did enjoy reading about Miami and Stiltsville.  I just wish I could have enjoyed the actual story about Dennis and Frances.  And maybe its just me that felt that way about this book - after all it has been heaped with loads of praise, so perhaps there is just something I missed.  Of course, I'll just chalk it up to "different strokes for different folks". 

Happy Reading!!

And thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of Susanna Daniel's, debut novel, Stiltsville


Lisa said...

Yours is pretty much the same opinion as others I have read. The setting of the book has really intrigued me, though.

Ti said...

I haven't read this one yet but the only thing that appeals to me about it is the setting. I can't see myself picking it up just for that. Too bad you didn't like it better. For me, the act of reading is a time investment and you just want it to be spent on something you love, not just "like."

LisaMM said...

Aw, I'm sorry you didn't connect with it more, although I'm glad you enjoyed being immersed in the setting. Thanks so much for your thoughts and for being on the tour.

Nadia said...

Lisa, the setting is great! She does such a wonderful job with South Florda that I was disappointed I couldn't get as engrossed with the characters as I did about descriptions of Miami.

Ti, I know what you mean about a time investment and this was a bad investment.

LisaMM, thanks for letting me join in on the tour. It was fun reading about Miami. Cheers!

bermudaonion said...

I've heard other people say the same thing as you, but I loved this book. I think it struck a chord with me because my father is bedridden now and my mother struggles to care for him.

Nadia said...

bermudaonion, I'm so glad you loved this book. From what you've shared, I can understand how you were able to connect with the book on a personal level and that is great. I always think that in order for a reader to appreciate a book and truly enjoy it, there must be a connection or else it just doesn't work. And it seems as if Stiltsville worked for you. Cheers!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've heard mixed reviews on this one -- I think I'll still be picking it up, but I am nervous to hear when I hear such mixed perspectives on it!

Nadia said...

Coffee and a Book Chick, I hadn't really heard any negative things about this book, so I was disappointed with what I read. Of course, you might wind up loving the book - after all there have been some really great posts about this book (you might fall intot that camp). Well, I hope you enjoy it and I'm looking forward to reading your perspective on it. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Thanks! for sharing

Tom C said...

Its such a nice cover isn't it. The very idea of a houses on stilts is fascinating - isn't that how some communities live in the Philippines? Shame you weren't quite so happy with the characterisation but it still sounds quite good

Tamara said...

Like Tom C I'm attracted by the setting - loving the idea of this community. I think I would be fascitanted enough to read it just for that (although I think I would prefer the town had a more town like name). It's a shame though that you didn't find it engaging.