Tiny Little Thing
By Beatriz Williams
Read by Kathleen McInerney
Audio Download or CDs:
Penguin Audio | Jun 23, 2015 | 685 Minutes | ISBN 9780698402119
Hardcover & EBook
G.P. Putnam’s Sons | Jun 23, 2015 | 368 Pages
Audio Book provided by Publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own unless otherwise noted.
In the summer of 1966, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. Together she and her husband, Frank, make the ultimate power couple: intelligent, rich, and impossibly attractive. It seems nothing can stop Frank from rising to national office, and he’s got his sights set on a senate seat in November.
But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life: her volatile sister Pepper, an envelope containing incriminating photograph, and the intimidating figure of Frank’s cousin Vietnam-war hero Caspian, who knows more about Tiny’s rich inner life than anyone else. As she struggles to maintain the glossy façade on which the Hardcastle family’s ambitions are built, Tiny begins to suspect that Frank is hiding a reckless entanglement of his own…one that may unravel both her own ordered life and her husband’s promising career.
It’s possible to come of age as an adult when you finally understand that everyone is struggling with something. For Tiny, hers came about when she realizes that the family into which she married is essentially consuming her personality. She confronts the pain through alcohol, and avoidance.
If you didn’t live through them, saying the sixties were tumultuous is probably hard to understand. All I remember, since I was a child was that everything changed around the middle of the decade. Everything changed: Options for women seemed to open, social consciousness expanded somewhat, and sexual repression seemed to erode. We were in a war that few people understood but which seemed to have no positive outcome and only result in terrible pain.
We experienced some amazing public figures: JFK, RFK, LBJ, and MLK (we started to refer to these people by their initials too!).
But change equals struggle, growth, and pain on personal and social levels. The family in this story represents that pain and change against the backdrop of the battle between conservative and liberal thinking that was the 1960s.
I found the book interesting, and yet I felt every plot point and twist was telegraphed well ahead of its occurrence. The atmosphere: the feel of the clothes, the sound of the waves, the taste of the cigarettes and cocktails are palpable, like a sense memory.
Mythology can be looked at as an understanding of what actually happened in some time period or during some event, muted and mutated by time. The ancients understood their world in terms of mystical deities, but the modern world has a different way of seeing things. The primary mythology of the sixties: Camelot, was over when this novel’s timeline begins, but that doesn’t stop the Hardcastles from trying to recapture and capitalize on its mystique, and even its ideals, as the Kennedy-esque family vying for political success with little regard for the personal casualties.
Several other modern mythologies (an understanding of what actually happened muted and mutated by time which is a lot of what myth is) of the 1960s: returning soldiers being treated poorly (not a myth), women giving up careers they loved to become stifled housewives or political wives, wild shifts in morality, all play into the tale. It is melodramatic; reminiscent of a 196os drama. It’s a mix of the family dynamics, passion and secrets in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, with the elegance of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, the social awakening of DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE and a little STEPFORD WIVES slips in (although it was not published until the 1970s). It also has a little MAD MEN feel but with more of a Boston flavor than Manahattan.
One of the revealed truths is a little ahead of becoming socially acceptable, but the sixties is where the groundwork was set for it becoming so. And, it is evocative of someting that actually happened in Massachusetts politics.
Mixing all the flavors of these cultural icons into one book made for some compelling listening. We see Tiny’s dizzying descent into understanding how, just how the heck, her life turned out as it has. And I was surprised by from which corners her rescue actually arrives, and how the story resolved. There is one more surprising event that happens mid-story, or one for which I did not see the foreshadowing.
I thought the narrator’s portrayal of the various characters was spot on although I felt the slipping back and forth between 1964 and 1966 was a little confusing in the audio format. Throughout I felt thought the sense of two years being a really long time in the lives of the characters was strange, but I guess when you are in a less than passionate marriage, or in a war zone, it could seem like forever.
I recommend this book as a slightly exaggerated look at the myth of the 1960s. It is both heart-wrenching and heart warming.
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