Friday, September 25, 2009

Review: The Scenic Route by Binnie Kirshenbaum

A divorced, unemployed American woman has taken her severance and escaped to Europe, where she's always wanted to visit. While there she meets Henry, a charmer married to an absentee heiress. Sylvia and Henry drift into an affair and travel all around Europe with each other. While they travel, Sylvia narrates portions of her life for Henry, introducing him and the reader to her family and friends. As they wander arbitrarily around Europe, enjoying the monied, self-indulgent life that Henry so values, Sylvia's narrative heads off into digressions and roundabouts and back roads, telling of not only her life but that of her extended family as well.

As they travel, more and more of her life is revealed but the kicker was that I just didn't care all that much. I think Henry was meant to be portrayed as devil may care but in his twelve or so lines in the novel (only a slight exaggeration as he's not terribly present in this novel at all) he came off to me more as a selfish, unobservant, and remote git but he is definitely the perfect creation as a listener of Sylvia's tales. And Sylvia's rambling, meandering stories didn't really hold my interest as I kept putting the book down and walking away. I'm not certain it needed to be set in Europe as there was not much of a sense of place to it at all, as even Sylvia herself mentions. Embedding Sylvia's telling Henry about her family within a bigger, but not fully realized, frame of telling the whole story to her former(?) friend Ruby was distracting and seemed like the narrative equivalent of stream of consciousness' unlovely stepchild. I have other Kirshenbaum books in my tbr piles and I hope I enjoy them more than I did this one. This could always be the anomaly, correct? I guess I'm more of a direct highway route kind of person rather than a scenic route rambler.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.


  1. I was wondering about this one, but then I pass; glad I did. Thanks for your honest review!

  2. Oh, I've looked at this one. Sounds like I'm lucky that that is all I did.

  3. Don't let me scare you off. Most (all?) of the other reviews I've seen around have been incredibly positive. I tend to be a bit of an oddity in my book tastes. ;-)


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts