Sloane Crosley has published two collections of essays including one with the wonderfully peevish title I Was Told There’d be Cake, or at least it sounds peevish to me which may tell you something about how I feel about cake and broken promises. The Clasp is her first novel, a classic comedy of manners in which a group of old friends from college are reunited – some eager to catch up, some not so much – all finding that life is turning out not quite as they expected. It’s also a witty homage to ‘The Necklace’, Guy de Maupassant’s short story about a woman who, feeling cheated of the luxurious life she feels is her due, borrows a necklace but loses it spending the rest of her life paying for a replacement only to find the original was a fake.
Victor finds himself sitting at a table the other side of the room from his college friends at Caroline’s wedding. He knows she dislikes him but ostracism seems a step too far. Across the room he can see his friends Kezia and Nathaniel happily chatting. Victor’s been nursing a decade-long crush on Kezia who in turn longs for Nathaniel. Nathaniel, it seems, lusts after anything in a pretty package but is currently obsessed with the extraordinarily beautiful but absent Bean. When Victor is sent off on a quest for a bottle of whiskey, he falls asleep in one of the bedrooms and is embarrassed to wake up alongside the groom’s mother who shows him a drawing of an ornate necklace and tells him its story. This is the catalyst that will change Victor’s life. Taking her readers from a Florida society wedding to Paris and Normandy by way of Hollywood and New York, Crosley weaves an enjoyable tale around these three who by the end of it may actually be ready to enter the adult world.
A decade after leaving college Victor’s been sacked from his job as a data scientist, Kezia’s brave leap from the corporate jewellery world has backfired and Nathaniel’s apparent success is not at all what he allows his friends to think. Crosley has a fine line in sharp observations on that stage of life when realisation is beginning to dawn: ‘There’s something morbid about weddings. Like high school yearbook photos. Like we’re all being prepped for the slide show of our funerals’ says Victor morosely. Her portrayal of Americans ex-pats and their view of the French is particularly acerbic – ‘No wonder Grey was so unhappy. Parisians were glamorously tattered and superior down to their tile grout’ – not to mention the vapidity that pervades Hollywood and its obsession with ever wackier fads. You have to suspend your disbelief at times – it’s all somewhat improbable – but if you can do that it’s a thoroughly entertaining, smartly funny read. A tad too long, though, but that seems to be a frequent lament for me.