>> Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille
Series: #1 in the John Sutter series
Publication Date: 1990
Source: Purchased Used
The Short Version:
Dark and sardonic look at a marriage and society that are falling apart in tandem that was both darkly humorous and sadly pathetic all at the same time.
Why I Read It:
I read this book for the first time many years ago and enjoyed it. When a sequel was published in 2008, I decided that I wanted to re-read this one before reading the sequel.
The Gold Coast of Long Island has been a haven for the wealthy and influential. Huge mansions, old money, old society, traditions and societal rituals are important. That world is changing, many of the old families have moved away, the old mansions are being sold or left vacant because there are no buyers. Still others have been purchased by corporations, or are even worse being subdivided.
John Sutter’s family has been a part of this lifestyle and his Wall Street Law firm has been around nearly as long. He and his wife live in the guest house of her family’s estate while the main house sits vacant. Her parents live in Hilton Head now and wait for a buyer who can pay off the taxes and purchase the estate. John and Susan’s marriage has deteriorated into such dull routine that even their imaginative sex games have become routine.
Things change when the estate adjoining Stanhope Hall is purchased by a well known Mafia Don, Frank Bellarossa. Frank decides that John is the neighbor who will help him become a part of Gold Coast Society, and oh, by the way, also represent him when he’s arrested for murder.
Sutter, who is having enough trouble battling his own mid life crisis finds himself wrapped up in an ever tightening net of suspicion, betrayal and lies.
This was one of those re-reads that didn’t quite hold up to the first reading. Maybe it’s because I knew the outcome, maybe because I’m in a different time and place in my life than I was when I read it the first time. This time around I enjoyed the beginning for the darkly sarcastic view of the wealthy, but fading Gold Coast society and the people who cling to it even as it’s dying. I also enjoyed the ending when the storylines all came together in a way that was unexpected the first time I read it and more clearly foreshadowed the second time.
What I didn’t enjoy as much was a big chunk of the middle. John Sutter struggles with clinging to, but at the same time wanting to escape his life and lifestyle. He’s critical of his peers, but grows rather pathetic as he deals (or rather fails to deal with) the things he dislikes about his life.
I did however, like the relationship between Frank and John. John was both fascinated and repulsed by Frank and his way of life. As much as he didn’t want Frank to be a part of his life, he willingly went along with Frank’s overt manipulation that drew him in. The courtroom drama near the end revived my interest, but the long drawn out middle section had me skimming this time around.
I have a copy of the sequel on my bookshelf and will probably read it, but it’s not high on my list right now.