The Editor by Steven Rowley
Penguin Random House: 4/2/19
eBook review copy; 320 pages
The Editor by Steven Rowley is a highly recommended novel about a debut author with a famous editor.
Set in 1990's NYC, James Smale is a struggling writer who has an
editor at a major
publishing house actually wants to publish his first book. When he
discovers the editor is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mrs. Onassis, he
is incredulous, tongue-tied, and awkward during their first meeting.
Mrs. Onassis loves his autobiographical novel about a dysfunctional
family, but feels that he needs to resolve his troubled relationship
with his mother to find the truth behind their relationship and, in
turn, her motivations in order to help him fix the ending of his novel.
James' mother, however, is not thrilled with a novel about her and
doesn't want to talk about it.
The premise of the novel focuses more on James and his relationship
with his parents. His partner Daniel is loving and long-suffering as
James works through the editing process (with Jackie!) and is rather
self-involved. The truth behind his relationship with his mother leads
to a shocking family secret being revealed. Although Jackie is a part of
the novel, the main focus is on James. Jackie's role as an editor is
more that of a guiding force to lead him to the greater truths behind
his family's dynamics.
The writing is very good in The Editor. The plot is a little
slow-going and introspective as James reflects on his life with both of
his parents. It is definitely a novel about James and not Jackie,
although dealing with her fame is part of the novel as is a sort of
friendship with James. The main focus of the novel is the roots of a
dysfunctional family, a long-held secret, and, ultimately, forgiveness.
This is a popular premise for a novel, although in this case The Editor is dependent upon Mrs. Onassis as the editor to set it apart. This wasn't completely successful.
James is a well-developed character, although not always that
likeable. With all the contemplation of his past interactions with his
father and his mother, the plot is definitely dependent upon the reader
keeping their interest in James and the outcome of his confronting his
mother and finishing the ending of his book. He is an interesting
character, but also perpetually awkward and nervous. His mother doesn't
come across well at all. She's distant and passive-aggressive.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.