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The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman May 2, 2006

Posted by pvccbookclub in Current Discussion.
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May’s book club selection is The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman.

Natalie Marx’s family is planning a vacation in Vermont and, because the setting is the 1960’s before email and the Internet, her mother writes letters to several innkeepers in the area inquiring about availability and rates. Most respond cordially, but one proprieter, the cold and precise Ingrid Berry, writes, “The Inn at Lake Devine is a family-owned resort, which has been in continuous operation since 1922. Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles.” This unexpected snub shocks young Natalie, whose namesake is an aunt who died in the Holocaust. Natalie’s obsession with infiltrating the Inn at Lake Devine has surprising and often hilarious consequences.

Lipman’s social commentary mixed with humorous insight is reminiscent of Jane Austen, but with a modern twist.

Questions to consider for discussion:

1) Certainly, Ingrid Berry, with her overt anti-Semitism, is easy to dislike. But how to you feel about the other members of the Berry family who turn a blind eye to the Inn’s racist policy?

2) How do you feel about Natalie’s “friendship” with Robin Fife?

3) What role does food play in this novel? What does the desire to be a chef reveal about Natalie’s character?

4) One reviewer of this novel wrote, “Prejudice, in all its many disguises, is an unusually worthy but often ponderous subject; its very weightiness . . . often threatens to sink otherwise well-written and well-meaning tales.” What aspects of Lipman’s style allow her to avoid this pitfall?