My book club (“The No More Lawyers Book Club”**) is currently reading The Debutante. I finished it last night, and while it was a easy summertime read, it isn’t the kind of book I’d usually pick up.
It’s a story about Cate, a painter struggling with the direction her life is taking, who assists her aunt’s antique/heirloom dealing business by helping perform an inventory of an estate going up for auction. She discovers a box with mysterious contents, and learns of a famous debutante, Diana “Baby” Blythe, who mysteriously went missing in 1941. Cate struggles to find a sense of self in her own confused world, while also searching for clues about Baby Blythe’s disappearance.
The story simultaneously tracks Cate’s life as well as her investigation into Baby Blythe. I really had trouble getting invested in Cate or any of the other characters in the larger story. They seemed to be defined by longing, regret, and little else. I don’t identify strongly with those feelings, so I didn’t identify strongly with those characters.
The book alternates chapters about Cate with letters from Baby Blythe. This was a very effective format, and kept me engaged in the mystery. I felt that the clues about the Baby Blythe mystery come too slowly, and too far between. Most of the mystery reveals itself all at once in the last 40 or so pages, and it took a long while to get there. A few times I considered quitting the book altogether because it was feeling boring, but I kept up with it mostly because I didn’t have anything else nearby to read. I did like the mystery angle, but I wanted there to be more of it, and for it to be darker. If the whole book had the pace and the intrigue of those last 40 pages, it would have been a better fit for me. All in all it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a book I’d pick on my own, but it also wasn’t a bad way to spend a few evenings.
**(Said club is made up of 8 lawyers and a pediatrician)