Review

Dune Road

by Jane Green

Back when Jane Green first burst onto the scene with books like
JEMIMA J, she became known as one of a number of authors
specializing in breezy, urban, London-based women’s novels,
often with a humorous or thought-provoking twist. More recently,
after Green herself moved to the United States, so have her novels.
Her latest, DUNE ROAD, seems a real departure from her earlier
works while still preserving her keen insight into people’s
behavior and relationships.

Kit Hargrove feels like she’s finally putting her life
back together. After years of being the perfect corporate wife and
mother in public but privately feeling lonely and resentful of her
distant, workaholic husband, Kit and Adam got a divorce. They both
still live in the same picture-perfect suburban Connecticut town,
but Kit has bought a cottage that’s small by Highfield
standards but just the right size for her. She has taken up yoga
and started shopping at L.L. Bean instead of Louis Vuitton. She and
Adam have achieved a cordial co-parenting arrangement, and even
though their daughter has become a typical mouthy teenager, their
two children seem happy. Kit has started dating a nice guy and also
found the ideal job, as the personal assistant to Highfield’s
very own celebrity author, Robert McClore.

The private but philanthropic McClore is the topic of plenty of
town gossip, mostly about the scandal surrounding the mysterious
death of his ex-wife. McClore is certainly handsome for an older
man, however, and when Kit’s new friend and yoga teacher
Tracy seems attracted to the author, she’s not surprised. But
why is Tracy keeping her relationship with McClore a secret? Does
Tracy also have stories in her past that she’d like to
hide?

Kit’s long-time best friend Charlie also has a secret, but
hers is very much part of the present. Highfield’s wealthy
captains of finance have been hit hard by the financial crisis, and
Charlie’s husband Keith finally has to admit that the
family’s dwindling savings and Keith’s increasingly
unstable job can no longer support the family’s extravagant
lifestyle. Kit supports Charlie during her friend’s crisis,
of course, but is also happy that her own new, simpler lifestyle
offers less in the way of drama. That is, until a stranger with a
connection to Kit shows up on her doorstep, bringing with her
plenty of drama --- and maybe a few more secrets of her own.

Jane Green’s latest novel is not so much a single
character study as it is a portrait of life in an insular suburban
community. Highfield has played a role in several of Green’s
previous books (and longtime fans will be tickled to see some old
friends make an appearance), and DUNE ROAD is, in many ways, an
exploration of the conflicts that can arise when an external
perception fails to match an internal reality. Green covers a lot
of ground here --- in addition to focal point Kit, she also delves
into the lives of both Tracy and Charlie as well as another
half-dozen supporting characters --- and does so in a way that
results in an impressionistic portrait of the hidden dramas that
lurk behind those freshly painted front doors and perfectly
manicured lawns.

DUNE ROAD also has, from time to time, a rather somber outlook,
one that seems entirely appropriate to the novel’s setting
during the recent financial crisis and given the characters’
numerous personal crises, but that may seem surprising to some fans
of Green’s earliest works. It’s a bit as if a young,
fun single gal from the office suddenly traded in her blind dates
and fruity martinis for a quieter, but no less angst-ridden,
suburban existence. DUNE ROAD is certainly a more sobering novel,
but it’s also a more mature one, giving us a glimpse of an
author less concerned with one person’s happy ending and more
interested in broader explorations of our towns and our times.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 21, 2011

Dune Road
by Jane Green

  • Publication Date: June 16, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0670020869
  • ISBN-13: 9780670020867