Cover Image: A Long Island Story

A Long Island Story

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Member Reviews

A Long Island Story by Rick Gekoski is a novel set in the fifties in America about a family and a marriage falling apart.

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This is one of those books that sounds like it is going to be far more interesting that it actually is. McCarthy era america, family saga, Then i read that the books is about the author's family and he is one of the children in the book. This made it all the more interesting.

Sadly, I found the book a hard slog. It seemed to one of those 'great american novels' that retread old ideas and try to be big in scope whilst also being very personal. The true story aspects behind it kept me on board until the end and found sections of the book - particularly with Addie and her mother engaging. But overall the book left me a little cold.

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I liked the oppressive atmosphere, this book really made me feel I was stuck in an oppressive heat wave in 1950s America, in area with no air conditioning.
I didn't feel any sympathy for any of the characters - they all behaved poorly but it was interesting to see how they interacted and how the Red Scare and McCarthyism reached through and caused problems for so many people. The grandparents story was more interesting and I think I'd like to have read more about them.

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Years ago I read and enjoyed "Staying Up" and "Darke" was a total triumph, sad and hilarious and beautifully written.

This too demonstrates that it has been written by a craftsman with a fine command of language but the plot linked to the McCarthy era did not totally grab me and well thought through though it was it will not live too long in the memory - but anything by this author is worth reading given his talent and ability.

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Anyone who’s read Rick Gekoski’s previous novel Darke will remember a savagely biting tale of a man one loves to hate. Can this possibly be the same Rick Gekoski who has written this inconsequential novel of a marriage falling apart? A novel that promised a story of its time (the McCarthy era – hardly touched upon), a story of its place (no sense of the setting whatsoever), a story of a Jewish family in crisis (emotional depth – nada).

The writing here is virtually all ‘tell’ and no ‘show’. The dialogue is unconvincing (despite being generously sprinkled with authentic Yiddish), the under-developed characters are all pretty dislikeable and the plot goes nowhere. The author’s end-note tells us that this is semi-autobiographical so to cut Mr Gekoski some slack, perhaps he was just too close to the material. But after this lightweight piece, I do hope he returns to the Darke.

My thanks to Canongate for the review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

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Ok, I'm abandoning this one: the first chapter feels like a jumble of cut-and-pasted chunks randomly pushed together, and while the second chapter does smooth out, the whole thing feels so dull and bland and nothing-y. Even the McCarthy witch-hunts can barely be called background other than as a plot device to force the family to move from Washington.

Characters come and go, none of them has any depth or personality, and POV jumps between characters in haphazard ways.

I'm normally fascinated by 'marriage-in-crisis' narratives but even that barely makes a ripple in this book: people snap a bit and sulk and whinge but none of it ever becomes either coherent or even interesting.

Abandoned at about 30% and even a skim-read through to the end didn't make me feel like I'd missed anything. Sorry!

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Despite the title, the setting of Long Island doesn’t really shine in this book - it’s more the story of a marriage and a failing one at that. A family who live on Long Island try to live the American dream and live in the Long Island post-war housing that is so popular in this uncertain political era. ben would like to be a writer but he settles for opening a law practice on the island. This is not the dream for Addie, his wife, however. She sees Long island as a suburban desert, lacking the excitement of the big city. This is a family in flux in every meaning of the word.

The political background is there in the distance - the uncertainty and the fear of the outside world. The hopes and dreams of that man in the White House who should be able to save them from the worst.

The story reads well - this is apparently a heavily fictionalised account of the own author’s upbringing. Not sure to what extent but that’s probably best left undiscovered. It’s a family in crisis, a family on the rocks and the ups and downs of the American dream. Not the story about Long Island I’d hoped for, but an insightful look into where it all goes wrong.

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