Book Review

Laura and Emma


In LAURA AND EMMA, author Kate Greathead does something different. But while another of my recently reviewed books, GRADLE BIRD, is unique as a novel, this book is just … odd.

What I liked? It is clever to the extreme. It is chuckle-out-loud witty. It is smart.  It pokes fun at an upper-class existence that is laughable (or sad, even pathetic) at times.

After the novelty of those traits wears off, though, the oddness sets in. LAURA AND EMMA is billed as a novel, and it does follow the life of a wealthy, lonely, vaguely dim-witted New Yorker and her daughter for 20 years. But there isn’t an emotional arc to speak of.  Nor is there a plot, per se. The book reads more like a collection of vignettes, individual essays written for the likes of The New Yorker or Vanity Fair, in both of which the author has previously published.

I’m not saying LAURA AND EMMA isn’t enjoyable. Parts of it truly are, hence my four-star rating.  The author sees her milieu with a keen eye and is a skilled writer.  But does this book rate as a novel?  Was this pure satire?  I’m not sure.  Time and again, I wondered where the author was heading and what her end game was.  Character growth?  Zero.  Likeable characters?  Once in a while.  Happenings (I can’t quite call them plot twists)?  Often embarrassing.  And the ending? Just plain weird.

If you like cleverness in essays and op-ed pieces, try LAURA AND EMMA.  I listened to the Audiobook, and the narrator’s delivery suggested raw irony, which may explain my takeaway from this book but which, all said, added flavor to the listening.  That said, if you prefer a cohesive novel with movement and feeling and growth, you may be frustrated.


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