Berne, Suzanne A Perfect Arrangement

ISBN 13: 9780141003672

A Perfect Arrangement

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9780141003672: A Perfect Arrangement

Mirella and Howard appear to have it all: two careers, two kids, a beautiful house in the Boston suburbs. And like most couples living the American dream, their lives are hectic, the house is a mess. Worse, both children seem troubled. Enter Randi, the ideal nanny, who cooks, cleans, does craft projects, and takes the children to heart. Harmony and grace are established, such as most working parents can only wish for. But as Mirella and Howard settle gingerly into this perfect arrangement, disturbing cracks appear in their home life. Are the children becoming too attached to Randi? What don't Mirella and Howard know about her? And what don't they know about each other?

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Review:

The set up for Suzanne Berne's second novel sounds positively Gothic: Mirella and Howard--she a lawyer, he an architect--desperately need a nanny to care for their two small children. Without carefully checking her references, they welcome the cozy-seeming Randi into their creaky Colonial saltbox. At first the arrangement does seem perfect: Randi cooks, cleans and works wonders with the heretofore recalcitrant children. But it becomes slowly clear that her sunny, reliable temperament might be cloaking a darker past. In elegant, sometimes quite funny prose, Berne cleverly readies the reader for domestic atrocities in the gruesome tradition of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Then she subverts our expectations by showing that Mirella and Howard have their secrets, too--quiet compromises they've made to achieve their ideal home. The reader keeps waiting for the Nanny Horror Show to begin, and meanwhile Berne shows a family falling apart under the pressure of trying to appear perfect. "Disaster could be small and dull and corrosive," she writes. "It might already have come."

To up the ante, Berne has installed her domestic melange in a charming New England town, where Main Street is populated by quaint shops and unsightly necessities (such as, say, the grocery store) are relegated to the hinterlands. Inhabiting the equivalent of a Norman Rockwell painting, each character is further pressed to idealise the notion of family; each has a distinctive mental of what a home should look like. Anger and frustration and failure are suppressed until they surface in horrible, comic eruptions. Thus do Berne's characters ultimately learn to appreciate the "terrible, desirable, exhausting plenitude" of life. Admirers of Joanna Trollope's domestic dramas--by turns witty and harrowing--should find much to love in A Perfect Arrangement. --Claire Dederer, Amazon.com

From the Publisher:

Praise for 'A Prefect Arrangement' by Suzanne Berne: ‘Compelling’ - Cosmopolitan. ‘Berne's spare, concise prose reflects the growing detachment of the couple. The story is one many will recognise all too well’ - Womans Journal. ‘Acute observations of family life … a hugely readable and unsettling novel, destined to garner her yet more fans’ - Red. ‘ A compelling and original novel. Her observation is precise and perfect’ - The Times ‘An intriguing read’ - Family Circle. ‘Berne induces in the reader the same heavy sense of foreboding that made her first novel such a success’ - The New Statesman. ‘Berne deftly questions the myth of a smooth as clockwork domestic life’ - She.

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