My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

ARC Review: We Shall Not All Sleep by Estep Nagy

Please Note:  I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
1964. The Hillsingers and the Quicks have shared the small Maine island of Seven for generations. Though technically family—Jim Hillsinger and Billy Quick married Park Avenue sisters Lila and Hannah Blackwell—they do not mix. Now, on the anniversary of Hannah’s death, Lila feels grief pulling her toward Billy. Jim, a spy recently ousted from the CIA, decides to carry out the threat Lila explicitly forbid: to banish their youngest son, twelve-year-old Catta, to the neighboring island of Baffin for twenty-four hours in an attempt to make a man out of him.

Set during three summer days, Estep Nagy’s debut novel moves among the communities of Seven as longstanding tensions become tactical face-offs where anything is fair game for ammunition. Vividly capturing the rift between the cold warriors of Jim’s generation and the rebellious seekers of Catta’s, We Shall Not All Sleep is a richly told story of American class, family, and manipulation—a compelling portrait of a unique and privileged WASP stronghold on the brink of dissolution.

Set in 1964, We All Shall Not Sleep, by Estep Nagy, brings forth both nostalgia and a sober reminder that our childhoods weren't as idyllic as we might remember.  The setting for this novel is a private island in Maine where two families spend their summers.  For the adults, it is an escape from the reality, but also a fertile playground to play complex mind games with each other.   The adults see themselves as creating a paradise where their children can frolic among nature.  But the children have their own secret games to play.  

Although disjointed at times, I enjoyed this book.  The story lured me in as I tried to understand entanglements that the adults created.  This children, many on the brink of adulthood, also were fascinating.  One can get glimpses of the grown-ups they will become.  

What I Liked:
I loved the dual nature of the island, a playground for some, and a hunting ground for others.    

It's 1964, who wouldn't want to go to an island for their summer vacation?  The two families, the Quicks and the Hillsingers, jointly own the island and bring their extended relations and friends to enjoy the fresh air, lovely accommodations, and be waited on hand and foot by a small army of servants.  It really does seem perfect.  

The children are mostly separated from their parents and are housed in a different home known as The Cottage.  While the adults see this arrangement as a way to give their kids some independence (and a way to let the parents have some space), a 'Lord Of The Flies' type of existence develops.  So what seems so lovely to the grown-ups is actually rather scary for all but the oldest, and strongest of the kids.  Do the adults vaguely know this and feel it's a way to toughen up their progeny? 

Both Jim and Lila Hillsinger seem to feel trapped as events lead to accusations of communist sympathies. This is the height of the Cold War, where even a hint of Soviet collaboration could get one fired from a job, or thrown in jail.  Even with his expertise on the KGB, Jim (who works at the CIA) falls into a trap and may face charges for treason.  Lila, still reeling from her sister's death, has an affair.  Both of these events involve Lila's brother-in-law, Billy Quick.

I liked how both of these characters were so layered.  They are at a point in their marriage where they look at each other and think "How did we wind up here?" Yet they know that they are better together than apart.  But that doesn't stop them from making power plays to control their kids and each other.

I think the many layers of the story show how each member of the family is going through their own evolution.  I loved following twelve year-old Catta's journey from being a coddled tween to having a budding awareness of the adult world.  Jim (Catta's father) is prodded by his own father to drop Catta on another (uninhabited) island for twenty-four hours so he can toughen up.  While he thinks he has all the answers for surviving in the wild, Catta comes to understand how woefully unprepared he is.  

And is Jim being manipulated by his own father into doing this?  While he has some notion that this will benefit Catta, Jim knows that Lila will be furious at his decision.  Will Jim stop letting others dictate his actions and fight back?

What I Was Mixed About:
Story Structure:
Some of the storytelling was confusing, especially at the beginning of the book.  The book travels back and forth between story lines, sometimes in the same paragraph.  I honestly don't know if this was due to this being an uncorrected reader's copy, or if the author meant to do this.  But the manuscript that I had jumped around so much I had a hard time keeping track of the action.

I also thought that many of the situations were a little too convenient to be believed.  How amazing that sons from the island's two families marry sisters?  I supposed one could account for this by remembering that these characters live in rarefied social circles, so it may be conceivable that this happened.  But I think all the incidental situations leading to charges of treason were a little over the top to be believed.

Aside from this, We All Shall Not Sleep would be a fantastic book to read if you are on vacation.  With it's complex characters and dreamlike setting, this book will keep you entertained and feeling lucky you are not part of these clans!






Release Date:  July 3rd, 2017

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  A great summer reading experience.

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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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