Summary and book reviews of The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith

The Maze at Windermere

by Gregory Blake Smith

The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith X
The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith
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  • Published:
    Jan 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

A richly layered novel of love, ambition, and duplicity, set against the storied seascape of Newport, Rhode Island.

A reckless wager between a tennis pro with a fading career and a drunken party guest - the stakes are an antique motorcycle and an heiress's diamond necklace - launches a narrative odyssey that braids together three centuries of aspiration and adversity. A witty and urbane bachelor of the Gilded Age embarks on a high-risk scheme to marry into a fortune; a young writer soon to make his mark turns himself to his craft with harrowing social consequences; an aristocratic British officer during the American Revolution carries on a courtship that leads to murder; and, in Newport's earliest days, a tragically orphaned Quaker girl imagines a way forward for herself and the slave girl she has inherited.

In The Maze at Windermere Gregory Blake Smith weaves these intersecting worlds into a brilliant tapestry, charting a voyage across the ages into the maze of the human heart.

Summer 2011

He was trying to explain to her how he'd gotten to be where he was. The condition he was in. His state of mind, the state of his bank account. His heart, his soul, whatever. They were in the Orangery at Windermere, Aisha newly naked beside him, the salt air coming in through the window, and this was the sort of moment when he somehow felt compelled to tell all.

What had gotten under his skin, he found himself saying, was the way the guy kept bringing up the Tennis Life article. "Lacks the killer instinct to break into the top fifty," he kept saying, drunk, obnoxious, smiling that smile that men smile to show they're just kidding even when they're not just kidding. Who was this bozo anyway?

At which Aisha leaned over and kissed him like "poor you," her dreadlocks spilling across her lovely shoulders.

This had been last August, he told her, a real low point in his life. His knee was shot and he'd just retired ... or was on the verge of retiring ... or wasn't sure whether he ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

By situating each set of characters squarely in history, Windermere succeeds in delivering a full-bodied portrait of the evolution of our very definition of status and what it really means to make it in the New World.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (756 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Compelling…. The changing language, landscape, and mores of three centuries of American history are depicted with verisimilitude, highlighting what doesn't change at all: the aspirations and crimes of the human heart.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A moving meditation on love, race, class, and self-fulfillment in America across the centuries.

Booklist

Starred Review. Each character's story offers distorted but revealing reflections of the others', allowing readers to witness the peeling back of layers of history as well as the ways character is shaped by the intersection of place and time.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Award-winning novelist Smith (The Divine Comedy of John Venner) moves nimbly among his tales' various settings and diverse characters within the confines of Newport. Historical fiction buffs as well as those with romantic leanings should enjoy this intricate tale.

Author Blurb Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Empire Falls and Everybody's Fool
Gregory Blake Smith's The Maze at Windermere is a dazzling high-wire act. I turned every page with a sense of wonder and excitement.

Author Blurb Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World and The Excellent Lombards
The Maze at Windermere is thrilling. This novel restored my faith and made me laugh out loud. It's rare that a novel comes along that is broad ranging, so very funny, profound, provocative, literary, and page-turning, and also word perfect. I went right back to the beginning when I'd finished, marveling again at the radiant mind of Gregory Blake Smith.

Author Blurb Julia Glass, author of Three Junes
Not since Beautiful Ruins have I read a novel with such breadth of imagination or depth of heart, nor a cast of characters so real, so varied, so compelling. In five exquisitely braided tales spanning nearly four centuries, Gregory Blake Smith illuminates the everlasting power of our passions and the hazard of our follies - in essence, the many ways we mortals strive and yearn toward the center of the maze we each call life. This book is a tour de force: gorgeous, suspenseful, cunning, and wise.

Author Blurb Leah Hager Cohen, author of The Grief of Others
The Maze at Windermere is an astonishing book - prismatic, continually surprising, daring not only in structure but in its investigation of the human heart. Somehow it manages to be both ruthless and tender. On top of all that, it's wildly, hurtlingly entertaining.

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Beyond the Book

Chateau-sur-Mer

Chateau-sur-MerThe Windermere estate where the contemporary arm of The Maze at Windermere is set, is modeled after one of the historic Newport mansions, Chateau-sur-Mer. Until the Vanderbilts' Breakers mansion came on the scene in the late nineteenth century, the Chateau was the most palatial estate in Newport known for its Victorian architecture and wallpapers and stenciling.

Chateau-sur-MerThe Chateau hosted many large-scale events including an annual country picnic known as the Fete Champetre, a fictionalized version of which is detailed in the novel. It is believed that these lavish parties cemented the advent of the Gilded Age in Newport. The Italianate-style villa was first built for a China trade merchant, William Shepard Wetmore. His son, George ...

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