Harry and Madeleine Winslow have it all: a happy marriage of 20 years, a comfortable, old-line family home in the Hamptons, a stylish apartment in Manhattan, a beautiful young son, and the recent modest fame that comes with Harry’s latest award-winning novel. They want for nothing more.
Their summer weekends are filled with visiting friends, picnics on the beach, and the occasional drop-in guest. Claire, a beautiful young student, accompanies a playboy neighbor to a weekend party at the Winslows and is immediately star-struck by Harry’s modest fame and charming good looks. She befriends Maddy and works her way into a friendship with their long-time neighbor and confidante, Walt, in order to be invited back.
This could be a stock novel of romance-gone-wrong, lust, betrayal, regret and tragedy, perhaps even an imitation of THE GREAT GATSBY. But it is more than that. INDISCRETION, in the hands of Charles Dubow, reads like a suspense/thriller. New on the novelist’s scene, Dubow creates four richly drawn characters as fully formed, flesh-and-blood men and women. Harry, Maddy and Walt are warm and likable, unpretentious and palpably believable.
"Dubow creates lush scenarios of each of these settings with the authority and skill of a seasoned writer. Many new authors overwrite and fill pages with meaningless or overwrought descriptions that tend to lead the reader to skim to the action scenes. Not so with Dubow; such is his narrative ability that his creation of a sense of place enhances rather than detracts from the plot."
The narrator, Walt, has been secretly in love with Maddy since they grew up next door to each other as children, yet he has never stepped over the line. Instead, he watches the unraveling of the lives of the three people he loves most: Maddy, Harry, and their son Johnny, his godson. The storyline takes us from the Hamptons to Manhattan, and then to Rome and Paris, when Harry accepts a writing grant to work on his next book.
Dubow creates lush scenarios of each of these settings with the authority and skill of a seasoned writer. Many new authors overwrite and fill pages with meaningless or overwrought descriptions that tend to lead the reader to skim to the action scenes. Not so with Dubow; such is his narrative ability that his creation of a sense of place enhances rather than detracts from the plot. It rightfully may be said that many current popular authors with a list of bestsellers next to their names would be better served by Dubow’s economic use of adjectives.
INDISCRETION and THE GREAT GATSBY may be compared because the settings are similar --- lavish Long Island homes, the longing outsider who wants to fit in with the first-person narrator who tells the story. But there the comparison ends. INDISCRETION is a better read. Yes, it is more interesting than the book written by the icon of American literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the 20th century’s most venerated literary figures. Dubow focuses on five living, breathing characters and a story that is uncluttered by extraneous subplots and minor characters. These individuals, including the young boy and the seductress, are palpably more thought-provoking and sympathetic than the shallow figures depicted in what is now revered as a great American novel.
Fitzgerald is noted for his body of work, estimable indeed, and GATSBY is the popular subject of movies, plays, and American high school and college lit courses. So is it brassy to compare the two in any but the most superficial ways? Perhaps, but GATSBY was not Fitzgerald’s first literary effort, having already been recognized as a chronicler of the Roaring Twenties in his own right.
To be mentioned in the same sentence with F. Scott Fitzgerald is daunting indeed. Charles Dubow has a long way to go to amass a catalogue of literature as vast as Fitzgerald’s. He could perhaps only dream of becoming as prolific and successful, but the talent is there. His first work is a bright beacon that we can only hope will lead him to even greater literary accomplishments.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 1, 2013