Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman: Feel-good fiction

Cover image I was delighted when I spotted Good Riddance in my Twitter timeline. I have such fond memories of reading Elinor Lipman’s novels. She writes the kind of sharply observed, absorbing and entertaining fiction that‘s just the ticket when you’re after an intelligent bit of escapism. With its story of a young woman, her widowed father and the high school yearbook left to her by her mother, Lipman’s new novel proved to be exactly that.

Daphne decides to declutter her tiny New York apartment, the only one she can afford after her less-than-one-year marriage turned out to be one of convenience for her philandering husband, enabling him to get his hands on his inheritance. After the shortest of dithers she dumps the heavily annotated yearbook dedicated to her mother by the class of ’68. Clearly their favourite teacher, her mother had attended every reunion dressed to the nines and kept a coded record of the changes she’d observed, not always complimentary. Off it goes to recycling where Geneva, a fellow tenant, picks it up and decides it’s the perfect subject for a documentary. Daphne’s second thoughts count for nothing with Geneva who insists that the two of them attend the next reunion together. Meanwhile, Daphne’s father has moved to New York a mere ten minutes away from his daughter who’s more than happy to have him there and she’s made the acquaintance of her across-the-corridor neighbour, Jeremy, an attractive bit player in a teenage soap opera. The final ingredient for an enjoyable caper is the bombshell dropped at the class reunion which turns Daphne’s world upside down.

Good Riddance is the literary equivalent of a smartly turned out rom-com, following a close-to-thirty woman, flailing around for something to do with her life after her unfortunate marriage, who has the carpet pulled out from under her feet a second time. Lipman narrates her story in Daphne’s sometimes waspish voice, serving it up lightly laced with a few farcical moments and a good deal of sly wit. It’s a pleasingly perceptive comedy of manners whose slightly old-fashioned style would suit Frasier fans well. Lightning Books are publishing a second Lipman novel – On Turpentine Lane – at the same time as Good Riddance. Another treat in store.

Lightning Books: Rickmansworth 2020 9781785631689 304 pages Paperback

23 thoughts on “Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman: Feel-good fiction”

  1. I tried Turpentine but the old-fashionedness you mention crossed with the thirtysomething protagonist didn’t work — it just felt anachronistic. This one sounds more successful.

  2. I’m an Elinor Lipman fan and last year I listened to On Turpentine Lane and enjoyed it very much. She does intelligent comfort read very well, so will definitely try to get hold of this!

  3. I’ve only read one of her books but I liked it well enough. Have always meant to return and now it seems like the perfect time for a Lipman binge. (When the libraries reopen, I’ll have a look!)

    1. It’s certainly time for a bit of intelligent escapism! I’m hoping that this grim period we’re living through will finally knock the dystopian fiction genre on the head.

  4. HA, But it could go quite the other way. All us pesky writers who write to “make sense of things” might have no choice but to blither on about the insanity of it all. (Myself, I’ve restarted my journal so that I don’t inflict any of that on anyone else.)

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