Thursday, September 18, 2008

Now I'm Doing It, Too


I've seen Maureen Johnson's name bandied about on the Internet a number of times, sometimes in a gushy, adoring way that, if you are a somewhat bitchy person, like myself, can become really grating. However, all that aside, Johnson's most recent book, Suite Scarlett, really is very good.

Scarlett Martin is one of four children whose family has run a New York City hotel for generations. The Hopewell, however, has fallen on hard times. It has so few guests that Scarlett's parents have had to let all the help go. How can the Martin children help with the family business and still live their own lives? This question is of primary significance to Scarlett's older brother, who hopes for a career as an actor.

Then the hotel gets a new, long-term guest with lots of money, lots of theater connections, and lots of demands. And she really clicks with Scarlett. Though the clicking might be said to be primarily on her part.

Suite Scarlett could probably be described as a combination of mainstream fiction and screwball comedy. It's not laugh-out-loud, roll-on-the-floor funny, but it's light while at the same time having an honest-to-God story and well-defined characters.

I was reading--and enjoying--Suite Scarlett, when a love interest appeared for our heroine. Too bad, I thought. Boyfriends usually ruin a good story. But this potential boyfriend has a specific part in the plot. It's a small part, to be sure, but without him things couldn't happen as they do. He definitely isn't just there to throw in some love interest.

Scarlett has a younger sister who is a cancer survivor and a serious pain in the butt. Great character, I thought. But...why? Well, Marlene has a small but pivotal role to play in making this story work, too.

This book works like a very well made machine. It's an enjoyable read that is more than a guilty pleasure.

Johnson is also the author of Devilish, which I described as providing a sense of place. I'll have more to say about sense of place in another post.

2 comments:

Reading Fool said...

I'm glad you liked it too. My biggest quibble was with Marlene's character. You know the scene where Marlene finally loses it on her? I cheered, and I got annoyed that Scarlett felt guilty for it. Hey, it's been three years. You don't get to play that card forever.

gail said...

While I liked Marlene as a character, I agree that she was the one I would quibble about, too. She seemed a little out of place in the book. Her backstory was heavy compared to the backstories of the other characters.

But the author needed Marlene to be productively manipulative for that one moment in the plot when Marlene was required to get her parents out of the house. So she needed to still be able to play that card.