Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)
Disclaimer: A complimentary digital copy of 'Woman No. 17' was provided by TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest unbiased review and to take part in this blog tour.
A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.
High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.
But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.
Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.
Set high in the Hollywood Hills, LA, Woman No. 17 is a contemporary 'dramedy' with a razor sharp, edgy dialogue and a dark creepy undertone, an undertone in my opinion that didn't really surface. There are some real comedic moments where I laughed out loud, one of my favourite involving the shit-faced nanny and the pooch. Shamelessly, I loved it.
Pearl 'Lady' Daniels, the mother of two boys, one a lively toddler, Devin, and his half brother, 18 year old Seth, has been commissioned to write a book. A book about motherhood and caring for children with special needs. A book which she has no true impetus to write. She hires a nanny to enable her to concentrate on writing without the distraction of family interruptions or routines. This solution in itself brings its own distractions. Lady is a complex woman with a simmering mass of emotion and hidden depths to her personality that will gradually bubble over during the course of the story.
Esther Shapiro has a very strong dual personality, hers and that of her alter persona of 'S' Fowler which lends an underlying creepiness into the mix. Esther a 21 year old college graduate is committed to her latest piece of conceptual art, 'The Katherine May Project' where she will devote every waking moment to impersonating her mother as a young girl. There's nothing she won't do to succeed in the project. Esther, transformed into the unshaven, plain faced, drably dressed, renamed 'S' Fowler is taken on as the Daniels' live-in nanny.
Seth's character is somewhat unique and impressive. As a mute, self imposed or not really doesn't necessitate too much contemplation, Edan has given depth and perception to a character that could so easily have fallen into the background, or have been one-dimensional at best. He uses his iPad, Twitter feed and sign language, including secret signings for Lady, to communicate and interact in a believable fashion.
Early on its pretty obvious that a relationship is inevitable between the nanny and Seth. It is a relationship that will have a troubling, powerful impact on all three of them.
During the course of alternating perspectives and back stories, a fuller understanding of how the complexities of the family dynamic, significantly that of the mother-daughter relationships, have shaped the women into who they have ultimately become. Sometimes full of selfish tendencies as with Lady not wanting to share Seth with anyone for fear of losing him, and dismissing Devlin's needs in order to fulfill her own; and Esther with her utter disregard for those caught up in her performance art, as she causes upset and mayhem, crossing boundaries, and taking advantage of everyone to the point of exploitation, all for the cause of her art.
I really enjoyed Edan Lepucki's second novel and think it perfect for fans of art literature or anyone wanting to read something 'off-centre' about art and dysfunctional relationships.
Edan Lepucki’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for WOMAN No. 17:
Monday, May 8th: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, May 9th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, May 10th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, May 11th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Tuesday, May 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, May 17th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 18th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Monday, May 22nd: Art Books Coffee
Tuesday, May 23rd: Palmer’s Page Turners
Wednesday, May 24th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, May 25th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, May 30th: SJ2B House of Books
Wednesday, May 31st: Fuelled by Fiction