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The Clasp


The Clasp

I’ve been a big fan of Sloane Crosley’s writing for a while now, from her humorous and insightful personal essay collections I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE and HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER, to her criticism and essays in the New York Times and other publications. So I was intrigued to see what would happen when she published her first novel. Would it be full of humorous insights into young people’s personal and professional foibles, much like her essays? Or would it be something completely different?

Well, yes and no. Certainly Crosley’s debut novel, THE CLASP, is populated with young people on the verge of turning 30, seemingly stuck between increasingly hazy memories of their college years and an even hazier future. But it also draws deeply from literary history, finding inspiration in a classic short story (Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace”) that most of us probably haven’t thought about since our own hazy college days, if at all.

"Like Guy de Maupassant’s original short story, there are a couple of neat little narrative tricks and coincidences as well, making THE CLASP an effective homage not only in subject but also in style."

The book’s first third takes place at an opulent Miami-area wedding, which is dampened (literally) by bad weather and brings together a group of college friends, somewhat reluctantly, to watch Caroline (whom none of them ever really liked) get hitched. Their awkward togetherness sparks old attractions, ignites past resentments, and, most importantly, propels at least one character out of his emotional torpor and into something resembling a purpose.

Victor, recently laid off from a second-rate search engine company and still nursing his longtime crush for Kezia (who also happens to be at the wedding along with their mutual frenemy, Nathaniel), stumbles into the master bedroom when asked by the groom to procure some more liquor. There he encounters the groom’s mother, who shares with him a provocative family history centered on a legendary necklace that’s now missing. Victor, both his imagination and his tendencies toward petty thievery captured by her story, takes her at her word, especially when she shows him a detailed drawing of the necklace, nestled among thousands of dollars’ worth of other jewelry.

At the same time, Kezia, who’s working for an egomaniacal jewelry designer, has been given the unenviable task of figuring out what’s gone awry with the defective clasps for the label’s signature necklace. And Nathaniel, who moved to Los Angeles to pursue television writing but whose Hollywood career seems to have come to a screeching halt, is looking for excuses to escape from the vapidity of southern California. Their respective quests, in the weeks after the wedding that reunited them ever so briefly, brings them together once again, this time in France, where they have to decide whether or not to finally be honest with themselves and with each other.

The energy and narrative sophistication that propel the novel’s first third --- in which scenes from Caroline’s wedding are rapidly interspersed with anecdotes of the characters’ college experiences --- grow a bit sluggish in the middle as the narrative takes on a more conventional structure and chronology, told in alternating chapters from the points of view of its three main characters. But things pick up again once the action moves to France, where the characters must come to terms not only with their current motivations but also with their past selves.

Like Guy de Maupassant’s original short story, there are a couple of neat little narrative tricks and coincidences as well, making THE CLASP an effective homage not only in subject but also in style.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 15, 2015

The Clasp
by Sloane Crosley

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 1250097215
  • ISBN-13: 9781250097217