Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek

Cape May…

About the Book:

SEPTEMBER 1957

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…


My Thoughts:

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.


Cape May
Published by Hachette Australia (W&N)
Released on 23rd April 2019

19 thoughts on “Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek

  1. This is (was!) on my wish list on account of the Gatsby comparisons and all of the glorious covers (there are a few floating around, all my kind of thing). But it seems to be one dividing readers… and I guess a story about a honeymoon creates the opportunity for gratuitous sex scenes…

    Liked by 1 person

    • So wooden and dry! All the potential there but it just didn’t pan out, for me anyway. Far too many details about bodily functions, almost text book in manner, and I am still wondering what the entire point was considering the main character seemed to learn nothing from his mistakes. It’s billed as historical fiction but could just as easily be filed under ‘boring erotica’. Don’t buy it! I’ll post you my copy if you really want to judge for yourself. It’s pretty thin and light weight.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone picking this up! I’m pretty sure this is only the second book I’ve ever one starred. Girl on the Train was the other. I’d have to check Goodreads for sure, but that’s all that comes to mind.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think honesty is what our readers value. Everyone knows it’s just one reader’s opinion so it’s not going to make or break anything, but I think it’s wishy-washy to read a book, conclude that it’s terrible and then decide not to review it. Which is what so many reviewers do, and it’s no help to a reader who’s going to shell out $30+ for the book.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I review everything I read. I’m pretty choosy on what I read which is why it’s infrequent for me to rate low, but I figure if I’ve gone to the trouble of reading it, then I’m going to write about it.

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    • You definitely dodged a bullet! It made me angry because it was so incredibly male, not only in perspective but in the way the husband viewed and judged his wife as well as each of the other women in the novel. It’s as though setting it in the 1950s gave the author a license to be chauvinistic.

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  2. Someone asked me about this recently and I went and looked it up (hadn’t heard of it) and it really didn’t seem like something I’d be into. I’m not a big Gatsby fan either and having read this I’m kind of happy to give it a miss!

    Liked by 1 person

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