Time’s a Thief
By: B.G. Firmani
Narrator: Emily Rankin
PRHA: Imprint: Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Literary
Release Date: May 02, 2017
13 Hours and 33 Minutes
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Eighties New York springs to gritty, vibrant life in this piercingly romantic and compulsively readable coming-of-age novel. A beautiful, sad, funny, altogether bewitching debut
Francesca “Chess” Varani is an ultra-bright, sassy, but vulnerable Barnard freshwoman from a blue-collar background in the vibrantly gritty New York City of the mid-eighties. She strikes up a volatile and somewhat toxic friendship with drama-queen classmate Kendra Marr-Löwenstein, and falls into the bewitching orbit of her Salingeresque, high-toned family. Upon graduation, she moves into the Marr-Löwenstein house in the West Village as a secretary/girl-of-all-work to the soignèe literary intellectual Clarice Marr (think Susan Sontag but blondly coiffed and dressed in Chanel) and receives the sentimental education and emotional roughing up New York bestows on all of its new arrivals—including a love affair with Clarice’s glamorously damaged son, Jerry.The story is related by Chess in sadder but wiser fashion from the distance of a financially beset 2008 and the depths of a crap job taken of necessity, tinged with the poignancy of time and choices made and not made. http://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/546530/times-a-thief/
The blurb talks about how vulnerable Chess is; but the way she grew up, I couldn’t believe her naiveté. I can see someone falling for the idea of wealth, of the kind of class the 1980s showed us on TV. I finished college in the eighties and understand the particularly dismal economy of the period. The second era in the story occurs in the dismal period of one of the technical collapses of the new millennium, when the degrees we of the eighties we were assured would lead us to a comfortable upper middle-class existence failed to do so for so many.
The Marr-Löwenstein family is filled with brilliance, pathological liars, addiction and severe forma of mental illness. Chess’s own family is awful. Chess herself seems smart and level-headed, but she should also “seek counseling.”
There’s a deeper sort of lapsed Catholic, and/or Italian American versus a Jewish-WASP mix family, truth versus pretense theme here. The bias exists; I have lived it although it is a little hard for me to get the words right to explain it. But, being so complacent in one’s job and so careless with one’s destiny was just too hard to believe with Chess’s levels of intelligence and education. It’s a good vision of why money doesn’t necessarily make for a happy life, and why education doesn’t always make one successful.
There’s also an “All About Eve” thing happening, where Chess ends up stepping into another character’s shoes, literally and figuratively. But she learns the hard way that those shoes come with a price. One message of the book is that she would probably be more comfortable back with her own people? Of course not, she struggled to get away from them. She lives in the no-mans-land between her own ethnic-roots and this Jewish-WASPy family trying, always, to be as WASPy as possible. That struggle is one reason I can’t believe the characters naiveté. Chess’s only hope is to escape that trap of mitigating ones ethnicity with marrying a WASP to gain pedigree. It’s a bit like the daughters of the new industrialists who went to England to marry someone with a title. Their roots were never forgotten and the marriages were often unhappy.
Honestly, the story just didn’t work for me; even though it struck fairly close to home. It was boring and pretty predictable, or maybe I just didn’t enjoy it because I don’t like the characters.
I feel the entire point of the book was this character with a fine education being unable to move on in her life and career because of this one family ruining her life. I dislike characters who blame others for their life issues.
Oh, this review is as muddled as the book. Is the theme “don’t marry outside your class or is it “transcend your class with education,” or perhaps, it is to “despite the hand you are dealt just get on with your life.”
The narration is great with a great many female and male characters’ voices being subtly, but distinctly voiced.