Attachment

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"Jean Hubbard is a syndicated health columnist, her British husband, Mark, a successful advertising executive, and after more than twenty years together they revel in a sabbatical on a remote tropical island. But when Jean discovers a salacious love letter addressed to Mark, she realizes that she has misdiagnosed some acute pathologies in her own life. The long idyll of their mutual ease is over - but a more vivid and compelling quest has just begun. Looking for answers, Jean goes undercover with a surreptitious e-mail correspondence that propels ...
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Overview

"Jean Hubbard is a syndicated health columnist, her British husband, Mark, a successful advertising executive, and after more than twenty years together they revel in a sabbatical on a remote tropical island. But when Jean discovers a salacious love letter addressed to Mark, she realizes that she has misdiagnosed some acute pathologies in her own life. The long idyll of their mutual ease is over - but a more vivid and compelling quest has just begun. Looking for answers, Jean goes undercover with a surreptitious e-mail correspondence that propels her on to alarming, and illuminating, adventures of her own in her adopted home of London and her native New York." Attachment is unflinching in its depiction of desire, of the responsibility that comes with age and family, and of the impulses that color and disrupt our lives even as they reveal, ever more clearly, the nature of love.
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Editorial Reviews

Helen Schulman
Attachment is a confident, smart first novel about cultivated people with cool jobs and multiple homes, with a story that seems personal and deeply felt…Fonseca tells her story with such specificity and acuteness, and in such nicely rendered climes, that Jean's stumbles seem like news bulletins…Fonseca's cast is a bumbling crew of affectionate and selfish pleasure seekers, full of battered egos and insatiable needs—we may not always admire them, but they sure are interesting to watch.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

In a compelling fiction debut, Fonseca takes syndicated health columnist Jean Hubbard, an Oxford-trained lawyer, through a dramatic demonstration of the limits of attachment. Jean is filing her columns from the remote Indian Ocean island of St. Jacques, where her advertising-genius husband, Mark, has moved them. Their time there is disrupted when Jean intercepts a salacious letter from Mark's London office, which leads her in turn to an e-mail signed by a lubricious "Giovana" (Jean immediately notices the odd single n ). The e-mail features explicit attachments, and without reflecting on the consequences, Jean, writing as Mark, begins an e-mail correspondence with Giovana. Ensuing events occur in a beautifully orchestrated dramatic arc, drawing in Mark's unscrupulous business partner; Jean's stricken father in New York; Mark's first love's daughter; Jean's former beau; and the secret that pushes the 23-year marriage further toward the precipice. Fonseca's nonfiction Bury Me Standing drew a vivid portrait of the international Gypsy community, and she shifts locales and emotional registers with evocative ease here, delving deeply into her ensemble's motivations. She's as unsparing of their flaws as she is frank about their desires. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

The nature of attachment-or, more accurately, detachment from self, spouse, career, and family-forms the skeleton of this meditative first novel from Fonseca (Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey). Meandering and thoughtful, the book is divided into three sections and moves among a lush tropical island, London, and a bustling Manhattan gripped by post-9/11 edginess. The tale revolves around Jean and Mark Hubbard, a long-married couple on sabbatical in picturesque St. Jacques. When Jean inadvertently intercepts an email meant for her husband, the contents send her reeling. Is he having an affair? How long has it been going on? And why? As Jean begins sleuthing, she undertakes numerous deceptions that force her to access how she feels about commitment, monogamy, and revenge. Along the way, issues of female aging come to the fore, even as the need to care for elderly parents smacks head-on into letting go of a college-aged child bursting for independence. Intense and realistic, full of sexual imagery and churning emotion, this work is highly recommended for all fiction collections.
—Eleanor J. Bader

Kirkus Reviews
A busy first novel from Fonseca (Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey, 1995) depicts a wife grappling with infidelity (her husband's and her own), mortality and responsibility. Although it moves from St. Jacques (a tiny island in the Indian Ocean) to London, then to New York and back to St. Jacques, the book essentially charts domestic territory as it follows American-born Jean Hubbard's quest for wisdom in her marriage and life choices. Despite a dazzling law degree, Jean set her career aside to marry young. Her British husband Mark now runs a flourishing ad agency, daughter Victoria is at university and Jean writes about health for women's magazines. But during a sabbatical on the island of St. Jacques, Jean's sense of certainty begins to waver after she discovers e-mails (and photo attachments) from Giovana, apparently Mark's lewd young lover, and also confronts the possibility of breast cancer. Keeping both developments a secret, Jean returns to London and-even more inexplicably-spends a night of amazing sex with Mark's office deputy. Then it's on to Manhattan where her father's recuperation from heart surgery has turned critical. Fonseca relies on Jean's internal musings as her narrative vehicle, but this method doesn't successfully unite the heroine's intellect with her actions. Oddly, Jean's passivity pays off when a tumbling sequence of revelations brings on a redefinition of both past and future. A witty, intelligent but uneven debut, weakened by its occasionally exasperating heroine and a conclusion that boils down to less than expected. Agent: Andrew Wylie/The Wylie Agency
From the Publisher
“A gracefully written novel about aging, parents and children, and the mystery that even married partners can be to each other.” —The New York Times“Fonseca possesses a wonderful eye and vocabulary for the observable world [and] a natural gift for portraiture… She also regularly notices things men might wish women didn't notice, though in other quarters might wish they did. All, though, is perfectly suited to her complex subject - one worth taking seriously: the difficulty of loving someone you already love, and its corollary, the stony impenetrability of others.” —Richard Ford“Fonseca's vivisection of matrimony and desire is cruelly exacting.” —The New Yorker“Fearless. . . . Fonseca shows off a vicious humor and an unsparing prose style in this ink-dark foray into marriage's murkier precincts.” —Vogue"[Attachment is a] savvy, sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender voyage into one woman's midlife crisis [with] a surprisingly refreshing denouement...It's a great read."—Sally Valongo, The Toledo Blade"Just thinking of this novel, I smile. Attachment was so gratifyingly readable. It is plot-rich, which most literary novels are not: an airport novel with an agreeably sophisticated air. This is Isabel Fonseca’s first novel, and she seems born to the fictional trade...When it comes to deciphering our new world and its emotional intricacies, Fonseca is spot on." —Fay Weldon, Financial Times"Fonseca charts Jean's emotional temperature and her thought processes with brisk lucidity. And she excels at the art of description—of car rides through the streets of London and around a poor but lushly flowering island; of shaving a bed-ridden parent; of examining one's husband with a loving but honest eye." —Misha Berson, The Seattle Times“An astute observer of human behavior, both real and imagined, [and] a literary heavyweight…Fonseca ultimately transforms the familiar into the foreign, forcing both her characters and her readers to examine their unquestioned perceptions about who they and their loved ones really are.” —Chelsea Bauch, Time Out New York"Not only smart but smart in a pleasing and all-too-uncommon way: It's insightful about grown-ups in the throes of grown-up emotions...Fonseca is commendably clearheaded and unsentimental about the nature of attachment, particularly in long-standing relationships." —Adelle Waldman, New York Sun“A confident, smart first novel [with] a story that seems personal and deeply felt...Fonseca is especially adept at making middle age look shockingly similar to adolescence [in] all its corporeal and sexual insecurities.” —Helen Schulman, The New York Times Book Review“Fonseca's exploration of middle-aged displacement, both mental and physical, is intelligent, nuanced and immensely satisfying...as fruity and delicious as the cocktails served on the fictional tropical island where it's primarily set.” —Alexandra Jacobs, New York Observer“An acerbic, funny, and maddening coming-of-wisdom novel…Fonseca’s frank takes on sexuality, sexism, age, and how fear undermines love are canny and tonic.” —Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred review“Meandering and thoughtful…Intense and realistic, full of sexual imagery and churning emotion.” —Library Journal“A compelling fiction debut…Fonseca’s nonfiction Bury Me Standing drew a vivid portrait of the international Gypsy community, and she shifts locales and emotional registers with evocative ease here, delving deeply into her ensemble’s motivations. She’s as unsparing of their flaws as she is frank about their desires…A dramatic demonstration of the limits of attachment.” —Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780099513384
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/2009

Meet the Author

In addition to her best-selling Bury Me Standing, Isabel Fonseca has written for a wide range of publications, including The Independent, Vogue, The Nation, and TheWall Street Journal. Born in New York, she was educated at Columbia and Oxford and lives in London with her husband, Martin Amis, and their two daughters.
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Reading Group Guide

1. What do you think ultimately compels Jean to correspond with Giovana, pretending to be her husband? A sense of propriety? A perverse curiosity? How would you describe her complex motivations? What would you do if you were in her position?

2. In what ways is this a novel about the differences between men and women? How does the author challenge (and/or maintain) standard notions of such a divide? Would you describe this as feminist literature?

3. What kind of role do you think Jean's family played in her falling in love with Mark? How did her brother's death, her mother's critical eye, and her father's stoic detachment lead her to Mark? How does the author probe this question?

4. How do you think Jean's “Americanism” informs her outlook? In what ways does the novel explore the differences between American and British women (and men)?

5. Does Mark remain a mystery at the end of the novel? A mystery both to Jean and to the reader? What do you think the author's intentions were in this respect?

6. How does the author use humor in Attachment? Discuss specific examples.

7. Where does Jean seem happiest—in St. Jacques, London, or New York? Or does she only seem happy in her memories of these places? Discuss the role of memory in defining happiness.

8. Why do you think the author chose to invent an island (St. Jacques) when the other settings are recognizable—e.g., New York and London?

9. “Paradise Lost” is a theme in the book. Is St. Jacques a kind of Eden, and, if so, what role does it play? What other forms of lost Eden may be detected in the novel and what is the author getting at with this investigation?

10. Is “Eden” always a place, or can it be a time of one's life—the past, for example—or childhood? How does Jean's accession to knowledge alter her sense of herself and her world?

11. Where does Jean belong? And what is her sense of belonging? Is the idea of “home” important in the novel? How does that idea change over time?

12. Jean seems restless. How does nostalgia affect Jean, and each of us, as we age?

13. Attachment has an adultery plot. But is the book primarily about betrayal? To what extent does the protagonist's shifting feeling about aging influence her sense of her own life story?

14. Why does Jean wait so long to confront Mark? Is it because of fear? Because of love? Do her decisions in this respect make her old-fashioned? If so, how is she also a modern woman?

15. On page 128, the author uses the seasons as a metaphor for one's life, suggesting that there is a natural progression to it. Do you agree? How does Attachment challenge this notion? How does it support it?

16. Two themes in Attachment are competition and talent. How do the different characters manage these behaviors? Which of them are more or less adept at it? How do these themes effect the action of the novel? And Jean's character as a lawyer turned writer?

17. How does the author use irony to create suspense in Attachment? Discuss, for example, Dan and Sophie's roles in the novel.

18. Attachment is a novel about husbands and wives—but it is also a story about families. Discuss the ways in which the author depicts the modern family. Do some relationships feel more realistic than others? Which ones do you wish the author had explored further?

19. To some extent—the author seems to suggest—we live our lives in our heads. Discuss the way Jean's imagination, her sense of ideals, her morality, and her fear are manifested in her mistakes. Is Jean's rich inner life ultimately a burden? In what ways it is also an asset in this story?

20. Toward the end of the novel, Jean pleads that she doesn't know who her friends are yet. What role does friendship play in Attachment—and, more generally, in our adult lives?

21. Regret is a powerful and often shifting force in Attachment. How does regret affect the actions of the characters in this novel? For example, what does Jean and Larry's relationship tell us about the sacrifices we make in life, and how we manage regretting them?

22. Is Mark a sympathetic character? In what ways would this novel be different if the narration were shared between Jean and Mark? That is, if we had access to Mark's voice, without Jean's filter? Would Mark have been a more sympathetic character?

23. If you could add an epilogue to Attachment, what do you think it would be about? Where do you think Jean's world—her marriage, her family, her career—is headed? Do you think the novel ends satisfactorily?

24. The author seems to relish her ability to shock readers. What would you say was the most shocking revelation in Attachment? Discuss how it changed your relationship with the characters and with the book.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 1.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2009

    Boring.

    All I can say is this book was so boring that halfway through I stopped reading it. It just goes on and on about nothing important.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2009

    So disappointed

    I was so disappointed in this book! At about 1/2 into the book, I realized I just couldn't keep reading waiting for something to happen. There is no depth to the main character and nothing to relate to, no plot, no nothing! Save yourself the time and frustration and do not read this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2009

    Maybe it's just me.....

    I REALLY tried hard to get into this book, I really did. But the plot is so slow and boring and the incessant descriptive prose almost put me to sleep. How the main character manages to go months without confronting her husband about his infidelity is beyond me. By page 150, I just didn't care anymore and stopped reading. Save yourself some time and read something, ANYTHING else.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2008

    A reviewer

    Over halfway through this atrocity, I couldn't take it anymore and did something I have never done before: I returned a book. The plot, if there is one, moves extremely slowly, yet the style of writing is almost manic in how it jumps from location to location and time period to time period. The result is a read that was oddly neither compelling nor relaxing. If you'd like to torture yourself, try it in February or March when you have nothing else to do with your time. For summer reading with some depth, try 'The Condition,' with it's fine character development and writing, or 'Those Who Save Us,' also a well-written, page-turner.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2011

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