About the Book:
Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and the town is deserted. As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realize that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.
Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly sweep them up into their drama – Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister.
The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives…
Well this was a massive let down. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it seems you should extend this to the praise by others printed upon said cover as well. This just didn’t work for me. Effie and Henry are on their honeymoon, and they are so young, fresh out of high school and already married. They barely know how to be adults themselves, much less adults together. There was definitely an atmospheric 1950s feel to this novel, for sure, but I think the dead weight of it came from being narrated entirely from Henry’s perspective. Everything we learn about Effie is through the haze of Henry’s gaze, and I’ll be frank here, Henry was boring. And very much a stereotypical 1950s young man. This story would have greatly benefited from the addition of Effie’s perspective along with ditching that final chapter that told the reader every miserable thing that happened to them for the rest of their married lives, post honeymoon.
The content of this novel became a little too much after a while. It’s entirely about sex and people behaving badly. In the beginning, sex between Henry and Effie, and even though they are on their honeymoon, it became repetitive. Particularly as the writing style was very mechanical. We read about everything without distinction: Effie sweeping the floor, Henry’s bowel movements (or lack thereof), what they order at the diner, what sexual position they utilise next – and then it starts all over again in the same dry, mechanical manner. In the middle, Henry is having sex with both his wife and another woman – on his honeymoon! – and the story just goes from bad to worse from here on in. He is such a despicable liar and then he has the audacity to get angry at Effie when the pair of them get caught up in a swinging situation (not sure how else to describe this) as he watches Effie’s reactions while she is having sex with another man and doesn’t like what he sees. I must point out that while he is watching this, he is of course having sex with a third woman.
‘His little Effie, his wife: he didn’t know her anymore. What she’d done, what she’d let him do to her. It was one thing for Henry, but for her, his wife, his girl. A lady. He should have stopped it before it started, he should never have let it go so far. But he didn’t know himself either. A degenerate with no fixed centre. Less than a man.’
Honestly, this is just trash dressed up as literature because someone along the production line decided to compare it to The Great Gatsby (which many may argue is really not that great). The characters are all below par when it comes to morality. They drink all day long, don’t even really like each other, break into other people’s empty beach houses and make messes they don’t clean up, and then they just wake up the next day and do it all over again. In the end, Henry gets away with every single atrocious thing he does whilst on honeymoon, retains his good looks into old age and goes on to have multiple affairs throughout his marriage. Of course he does. While Effie, as described by Henry, gets fat and mean. Yes, you read that right. I’ve rarely had occasion for a novel to make me so angry. This one tops the lot, that’s for sure. Needless to say, I don’t recommend this novel at all.
Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing me with a copy of Cape May for review.
About the Author:
CHIP CHEEK’s stories have appeared in the Southern Review, Harvard Review and Washington Square, among others. He’s been awarded scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, and the Vermont Studio Centre. CAPE MAY is his debut novel.
Published by Hachette Australia (W&N)
Released on 23rd April 2019