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Morningside Heightsby Cheryl Mendelson
Synopses & Reviews
Following the tremendous success of her first book, a nonfiction work on housekeeping that became a surprise bestseller, Cheryl Mendelson brings to her debut novel the same intensely readable style that made Home Comforts so popular. In the spirit of Anthony Trollope, she roots her story very much in a specific time and place—1999, in an old-fashioned New York City neighborhood that’s becoming rapidly gentrified—and the enormously engaging result resembles a twentieth-century version of The Way We Live Now.
Anne and Charles Braithwaite have spent their entire married life in a sedate old apartment building in Morningside Heights, a northern Manhattan neighborhood filled with intellectual, artistic souls like themselves, who thrive on the area’s abundant parks, cultural offferings, and reasonably priced real estate. The Braithwaites, musicians with several young children, are at the core of a circle of friends who make their living as writers, psychiatrists, and professors. But as the novel opens, their comfortable life is being threatened as a buoyant economy sends newly rich Wall Street types scurrying northward in search of good investments and more space. At the same time, the Braithwaites weather the difficult love lives of their friends, and all of the characters confront their fears that the institutions and social values that have until now provided them with meaning and stability—science, religion, the arts—are in increasing decline. Though the group clings to the rituals and promises of such institutions, the Braithwaites’ imminent departure sends shock waves through their community. As the family contemplates the impossible—a move to the suburbs—their predicament represents the end of a cultured kind of city life that middle-class families can no longer afford.
This intelligent and captivating social chronicle is the first of a trilogy of novels about Morningside Heights; readers sure to be drawn in by Mendelson’s habit-forming prose have much more to look forward to.
"Thoroughly likable debut fiction (the first of a trilogy), narrated in an old-fashioned leisurely style with enough subplots, mysteries, and denouements to keep any reader engaged for the duration." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] talky, occasionally stilted debut novel....The incorporation of neighborhood history and description is sometimes a bit stiff, and Mendelson's tone can be stuffy — as befits her subjects — but the accumulation of day-to-day detail, social commentary and emotional insight eventually yields a consistent picture of a rarefied milieu." Publishers Weekly
"Readers will grow quite fond of Mendelson's fully fleshed characters, so human in their frailties and foibles; and even those unfamiliar with New York will prize the unique neighborhood that is Morningside Heights. Highly recommended." Library Journal
This fiction debut by the bestselling author of Home Comforts is a Manhattan saga focusing on a vivid cast of musicians and intellectuals whose lives are suddenly changing.
About the Author
Cheryl Mendelson received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has practiced law in New York City and taught philosophy at Purdue and Columbia universities. She is the author of Home Comforts. She lives in New York City, and this is her first novel.
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