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Gossip    by Beth Gutcheon order for
by Beth Gutcheon
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2012 (2012)
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* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Early in Beth Gutcheon's new novel, Gossip, she tells us 'that the origin of the word gossip in English is 'god-sibling.' It's the talk between people who are godparents to the same child, people who have a legitimate loving interest in the person they talk about. It's talk that weaves a net of support and connection beneath the people you want to protect.' This information is important to the novel, since narrator Loviah 'Lovie' French is telling the story of her own godson.

Lovie is sent as a scholarship student at age fifteen to Miss Pratt's, an exclusive women's boarding school in New England. Lovie is embarrassed about her family's lack of money and would just as soon have stayed at a public high school. Among the friends she makes at Miss Pratt's, the two most important to this story are Dinah Kittredge (another scholarship student who, unlike Lovie, broadcasts that fact to one and all) and Avis Binney, a child of wealth whose 'social credentials were impeccable.' But while Dinah is outgoing and unafraid, Avis is tall, awkward, and diffident, a quiet girl who is frequently thought to be stuck up, when really she is just shy.

Years later, when the three of them all live in New York City, Lovie becomes close to both women. The other two have gone to college, while Lovie, who wasn't able to afford it, becomes a clothing designer, learning on the job and eventually owning her own small dress shop. The wealthy women she met at Miss Pratt's help make her business successful with their purchases and referrals to friends.

The author weaves many, many characters into this complex novel. Lovie never marries, but has a much loved man in her life. Dinah and Avis both marry and have children. As time passes, Lovie's male friend, as she refers to him at first, provides her with a more satisfying relationship than the marriages of Dinah and Avis prove to be. Lovie becomes godmother to Dinah's second son Nicky, and is almost as close to Avis's only child, her daughter Grace, as the two children grow up. When Grace and Nicky fall in love, Lovie is delighted and tries to bring Dinah and Avis closer together, but Dinah continues to make fun of Avis, calling her Mrs. Gotrocks behind her back. Dinah learns to love Grace once she starts to date Nicky, but she takes an almost evil joy in the fact that Grace seems to like her more than her own mother.

I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot in this book. Lovie lives up to her name, and is much loved in return. With her narration, Gutcheon weaves all the necessary information into the story to keep the reader wanting to know what happens next. There are so many thought-provoking themes in this book: love, marriage, children, friendship, and the absolute inability of anyone to predict where their lives are headed. The gossip isn't all loving, however, as Lovie finds out to her dismay.

2nd Review by Kelly Thunstrom:

I must admit, when I first picked up Gossip, I had a hard time understanding where Beth Gutcheon was going with it. She seemed to be all over the map, introducing characters left and right, none of whom were, at the start, very well developed. I kept putting it down and picking it up again. Then, early one Sunday afternoon, I started reading again, kept reading, and finished Sunday night before bed. The plot and characters finally came together in a very shocking and devastating ending.

Gossip is narrated by Lovie French, a high-end clothing-store owner in Manhattan. We learn Lovie's back story, including her time in high school with her friends, Dinah and Avis. Avis is a buttoned-up, reserved art dealer, while Dinah is a free-for-all newspaper columnist. The story weaves around these three characters as they grow up, marry, and have children. Once all of the characters are introduced, Gossip really picks up, and they seamlessly interact with each other. Avis, Dinah, and Lovie are not spring chickens. The fact that Gutcheon chose to revolve her story around them proves that this age group can be more interesting than the twentysomethings the chick lit genre addresses.

While talking behind another's back does happen a lot in Gossip, I was surprised that Gutcheon chose this as her title. It seemed that there were no repercussions when Lovie heard things about her friends through the grapevine. Don't think that Lovie is innocent in all this either, as she's holding a big secret too. Even through the gossip, there is an underlying sense of calm. But once things start happening, the novel comes to its dramatic ending in a big way.

Don't let the slow start of Gossip keep you from plowing through this multi-generational novel. The ending is your reward.

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