Unhappily Ever After: A Novel
Rachel Rothschild was a very feisty child, with unlimited curiosity and a hefty dose of chutzpah. Surrounded by family and friends, her childhood was eventful, but ultimately both emotionally and physically safe. Sure, there were some mishaps, but which youngster has never done something stupid and paid for it in some way? As a young adult, Rachel meets JJ, a very charming man, whom she will eventually marry. As it turns out, JJ is not only charming and successful, but also very rich. If all of this sounds like a fairy tale, do not fret. It is not.
Rachel’s quest to create an existence for herself as an individual and a gifted investigative journalist encounters several huge obstacles and comes to a grinding halt after a bout of post-partum depression and another traumatic event in her life, which I am not going to divulge here so as not to spoil the story for the prospective reader. Suffice to say that those two events, as well as the subtle, but always present overly-controlling influence of her husband, change Rachel greatly and severely threaten her existence, her sanity and her family life. Luckily for her, her family or more precisely one of her cousins, and one of her childhood friends, come to her rescue and help her reassemble the shattered pieces. When the reader thinks that the story will have the proverbial happy ending, some shattering revelations change the course of it and provide for a rather unexpected ending.
Norman I. Gelman’s writing is decidedly polished and enjoyable, if a bit long-winded at times. As much as I’ve enjoyed the minutiae of the life in the Rothschild, the Wiener and the other families in the story, I found the story rather drawn out and tedious at times. The first three parts took a total of 490 pages to unravel, and the crucial fourth part felt rather squeezed in the actual 15 pages it consisted of. I understand the need for culmination of the events and a startling conclusion, but overall I think I would have liked the story much better if it were a couple of hundred pages shorter. I did enjoy the finely drawn characters in the story and a great sense of time and place Mr. Gelman managed to convey with his writing, as well as several interesting historical and political asides which were seamlessly woven into the story. Overall I found “Unhappily Ever After” to be a well written and insightful book, which should be greatly enjoyed by a wide variety of readers, particularly those who have appreciation for well-drawn female characters.