Friday, May 27, 2011

Cleaning Nabokov's House - Leslie Daniels

Barb Barrett lost everything after she walked out of her marriage - job, self-esteem, home, but worst of all, the one thing she didn't expect to lose - custody of her children. In an attempt to be close to them, she has relocated to the small New York town of Onkwedo. She moves into a home once lived in by the author Vladimir Nabokov. It is while cleaning out the house, she discovers a series of index cards behind a drawer. It seems to be a story about Babe Ruth - and is it possible it was written by Nabokov?

Leslie Daniels paints an excellent portrait of a mother dealing with loss. The impetus used to ignite her (the maybe Nabokov story) is unusual and quirky. The path taken by Barb to reclaim her life is perhaps best described by Barb herself...

"I knew I could stay in this town when I found the blue enamel post floating in the lake. The post led me to the house, the house led me to the book, the book to the lawyer, the lawyer to the whorehouse, the whorehouse to science and from science I joined the world."
I enjoyed Barb's quite funny view of life and her very sardonic sense of humour. I applauded her attempts to reclaim her life and children. But....she lost me at the whorehouse. If this was a chick lit book, I could have bought it - maybe. But if this is a woman seriously looking to reclaim her children, does she honestly think opening a male staffed whorehouse for the lonely women of Onkwedo is a good move? 

Cleaning Nabokov's House is written in first person narrator style - one I find a bit tedious after a while. It leads to a one sided story and I would have liked to hear from other characters. I found the ex-husband to be more of a caricature than a person. Her children were cute, the daughter a little too much.

I enjoy books about women 'finding' themselves and regaining control of their lives.  I enjoyed Daniels' freshman effort - I think she has a bright future as an author. But, for me this was just an okay read. The detour into the cathouse bumped this down to a three star read.

Read an excerpt of Cleaning Nabokov's House.


Dorte H said...

I think the part about the whorehouse, and the first-person narration would bother me also. Occasionally I can forget peeves such as stories in the present tense, but it takes a first-rate story to help me through something like that.

Amy said...

I've been curious about this book and it sounds interesting. It's too bad the author chose to provide only the narrator's point of view. But I'm intrigued by the storyline and like that there is humor in the story which is somewhat unexpected given the troubling situation of Barb Barrett's life.


Susan said...

LOL - This one sounds ... interesting.