On April 22, Ladies Who Brunch discussed Sarah Schulman’s The Cosmopolitans, a retelling of the classic Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac, a French author. Between the two books, there are main comparisons: good vs. evil, truth vs. lies, and views on society then vs. now.
To put into perspective, the book takes place between the 1950s and 1960s when life changed from the post-war prosperity following WWII to the angst of the Vietnam Era. Groups of different races did not mix, women were treated very differently even to the point that people would not talked to a divorced woman, and children would play in the streets without much concern.
The book has several unique characters, some successful and some seeking revenge. Finding refuge in New York after being disowned from their families, Earl, a black gay actor, and Bette, a white secretary, develop a friendship and live next door to each other in a Greenwich Village apartment for nearly 30 years. All seems routine until Hortense, a wealthy young actress from Ohio, comes to the city to “make it.” Life as the characters know it will never be the same.
The complexity of the book’s characters and themes had Esther Keivda saying, “I never would have really understood The Cosmopolitans without all of the amazing insight offered by the group.”
Laurel Stokes also commented, “I really enjoyed reading The Cosmopolitans! And discussing the theater, film, and literary references was really interesting.”
The next book Ladies Who Brunch will read will be Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book, about understanding the American experience, is the current – and first! – pick for the One Book, One New York initiative to drive everyone in all five boroughs to read the same book. The meeting will be on June 10th, so mark your calendars! If you don’t think you’ll have time to read the book, the link above has information about getting a free audiobook version.
By Rachel Slaiman