My Book Lover’s Page-a-Day calendar featured The Hills at Home, by Nancy Clark, earlier this month. I hadn’t heard of it before. Here’s the description:
The comedy of manners is alive and well. Throw three generations of WASPs (the Hills) together in a fading Victorian house, along with a graduate student writing a thesis on WASPs. Whip it all up with gentle sarcasm and long, meandering sentences with explosive comic payloads, and you have The Hills at Home, an impressive debut novel.
Intrigued? Here are some excerpts from a Powell’s review:
Finally, the Books section has a scoop: Jane Austen is alive. What’s more shocking, the grandmother of social satire has moved in with Jonathan Franzen, and the two of them have produced a love child called The Hills at Home.
How else to explain this allegedly debut novel from an unknown New Hampshire writer? Nancy Clark — if she really exists — has just published what is surely the wittiest family portrait in years.
There is an immense audience waiting for a book like this. It includes all those people made to feel prudish by their reluctance to endure the vulgarities of Hollywood, the inanity of sitcoms, or the gritty assault of modern literature; people of real taste who are nonetheless gently steered toward sweet, sanitized romances, as though they’re elderly customers arriving with Green Stamps to purchase products no longer made. In other words, all those people still clinging, despite the persistent lack of satisfaction, to their literary pride and prejudice.
There is no plot, per se, in these 500 pages, but rather a series of relentlessly witty observations about an extended family wholly devoted to one another, despite their annoying quirks and passive aggression. The details and background of this blithely self-centered family, their private hurts and silly dreams, and even their filial connections come out very slowly, like Aunt Lily’s precious heating oil. Indeed, the only real action comes so late that readers deaf to this novel’s considerable charm will have wandered away long before those scenes arrive.
In 2003, BookPage.com said, "If Clark does not gain recognition as one of the best new writers of the year, it may be because her book does not take itself as seriously as some literary novels. Still, her portrait of the day-to-day strains in family life is sharply drawn, and, what’s more, offers a harvest ground of subtle, smile-out-loud hilarity."
The New York Times calls The Hills at Home a "graceful, intelligent and very funny chronicle of a large extended family beneath one capacious roof."
Has anyone out there read this book? I’d like to.