The Love Season: A Novel

The Love Season: A Novel

by Elin Hilderbrand

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Overview

Welcome to The Love Season—a riveting story that takes place in one day and spans decades; a story that embraces the charming, pristine island of Nantucket, as well as Manhattan, Paris and Morocco. Elin Hilderbrand's most ambitious novel to date chronicles the famous couplings of real lives: love and friendship, food and wine, deception and betrayal—and forgiveness and healing.

Marguerite Beale, former chef of culinary hot spot Les Parapluies, has been out of the public eye for over a decade. This all changes with a phone call from Marguerite's goddaughter, Renata Knox. Marguerite has not seen Renata since the death of Renata's mother, Candace Harris Knox, fourteen years earlier. And now that Renata is on Nantucket visiting the family of her new fiancé, she takes the opportunity, against her father's wishes, to contact Marguerite in hopes of learning the story of her mother's life—and death. But the events of the day spiral hopelessly out of control for both women, and nothing ends up as planned.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312993771
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 05/19/2015
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 47,422
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Elin Hilderbrand grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a teaching/writing fellow. Her short fiction has appeared in Seventeen, The Massachusetts Review, and The Colorado Review. She lives with her husband and their three children in Nantucket, Massachusetts. The Love Season is her fifth novel.

Reading Group Guide

Food for Thought

The Dinner Party

She pulled out her blender and added the ingredients for the pots de crème: eggs, sugar, half a cup of her morning coffee, heavy cream, and eight ounces of melted Scharffen Berger chocolate. What could be easier?

- Marguerite Beale, self-exiled chef in The Love Season

Nantucket author Elin Hilderbrand is making dinner. This is not the Black Angus steak cheeseburgers and Bartlett corn she would normally serve her husband and three children on a steamy summer day. This is a very special dinner—the same dinner her protagonist, Marguerite Beale, makes in Hilderbrand's fifth novel, The Love Season.

A fictitious chef who has given up cooking to punish herself after her best friend's death, Beale crafts the dinner only because her godchild is coming for the first time—to learn more about her dead mother.

Hilderbrand is making the dinner for twelve people who helped inspire the novel, which she originally titled ''The Dinner Party.'' The group is gathering at 5 Quince St., in the circa 1730s home where the novel is set.

At 11:30 a.m., Hilderbrand darts into the fish market to pick up smoked mussels, which she will serve with a homemade aioli. ''In the book, Marguerite smokes the oysters herself, but that's beyond me,'' Hilderbrand says, driving toward Bartlett's Farm to pick up fresh dill, basil, and thyme, along with island-grown tomatoes and zucchini. In the novel, Hilderbrand specifically notes that Marguerite does not go to Bartlett's Farm, but says the farm she does visit is modeled on the local landmark.

Making a novel dinner

Then, it's back to the house Hilderbrand and her family are renting while their own home-just down the street—is being remodeled. Although some of her equipment—like her tart pan—has disappeared into a box marked ''assorted kitchen stuff,'' Hilderbrand is unfazed.

The biggest challenge to making dinner for twelve, she says, is the refrigerator-finding ingredients in it and then finding space for things like the chocolate pots de crème, which need refrigerating until the 7 p.m. dinner. She plops down in front of the open refrigerator, to start rearranging from the bottom shelf up. Reading The Love Season and then watching Hilderbrand make this meal is a little odd—like playing with a set of nesting dolls or strolling through a house of mirrors.

One can see Hilderbrand in Marguerite, in the list each makes to plan the dinner; in the way the author expertly cracks eggs into the blender for pots de crème and uses her own morning coffee; and the fact that she actually says, ''What could be easier?''—unaware she is echoing the words she put in Marguerite's mouth when writing the book sitting on the beach a year ago.

''There's a little bit of me in Marguerite, in how I cook,'' Hilderbrand says.

And, yes, that's her jogging in Morocco, unaware—like her character, Candace Harris Knox—that her blonde hair, baseball cap, and running shorts would draw so much attention in the Muslim country.

"The Love Season's scene in Morocco was a conscious effort on my part to get one of our travels into a book,'' says Hilderbrand, who traveled extensively with her husband, Cliffside Beach Club manager Chip Cunningham, in Southeast Asia before they started a family.

Capturing the island

But The Love Season and Hilderbrand's other novels are also a reflection-and usually a composite-of the people, places, and experiences she encounters living on Nantucket.

Cunningham (a character in his wife's first Nantucket book) says many repeat customers at the hotel he manages look forward to his wife publishing a new novel each season.

''It's part of what they associate with Nantucket,'' he says. ''I'll have Elin come down and sign it for them.''

Hilderbrand sees her books as souvenirs-little pieces of the island visitors can take home with them to evoke the feeling of Nantucket long after they've left.

The Love Season earned a four-star critic's choice rating in June from People magazine reviewer Sue Corbett, who wrote, ''Hilderbrand, who wrote 2002's Nantucket Nights, serves up a mouth-watering menu, keeps the Veuve Clicquot flowing and tops it all with a dollop of mystery that will have even drowsy sunbathers turning pages until the very satisfying end.''

Hilderbrand honed her writing skills at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop. Her cooking got its polish from taking lessons with cookbook author and former Que Sera Sarah owner, Sarah Leah Chase, one of the guests she has invited to this dinner. Hilderbrand explains how she decided to write a couple of novels (The Love Season and The Blue Bistro) based specifically on Nantucket's food scene: ''I did the hotel books, and a restaurant owner came up and said to me, 'You could never write about a restaurant. It would be too scandalous.' I thought, 'Aha, then I have to write it.' ''

She prepped by reading copiously, from Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential to Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires. She redoubled her usual food magazine reading of publications like Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine.

''Rarely do I come across something on a menu that I don't know what it is,'' says Hilderbrand, who eats out frequently with her husband.

Foodie stories

To further give her books a sense of behind-the-scenes restaurant work, Hilderbrand volunteered to work at Nantucket's well-known 21 Federal restaurant during Christmas Stroll one year. They told her she could pour water, then demoted her to the coat room, saying they were afraid she would spill the water. But she interviewed chefs, bartenders, and waiters, soaking in details—like the banter among kitchen workers—which she re-creates in the conversation between brothers who work in the kitchen of The Blue Bistro.

Jane Silva, former owner of the Galley at Cliffside Beach Club (the model for The Blue Bistro), is one of several muses Hilderbrand invited to this re-creation of The Love Season dinner. Silva spent hours telling Hilderbrand stories about The Opera House, a now-closed, glamorous restaurant where the island's artists gathered and Silva once saw Judy Garland sitting on the piano to sing. Silva says that The Opera House chef, the late Lucien Van Vyve, was her mentor and friend, who often hosted elaborate dinner parties, with hand-painted menus, at his home in the off-season.

Now a T-shirt and souvenir shop, The Opera House is the model for Marguerite's restaurant, Les Parapluies, which, in the book, drew ardent fans willing to eat whatever chef Marguerite felt like having on the prix fixe menu that night.

''It wasn't so much a reflection of The Opera House as it was that she captured the mood of those grand old restaurants,'' Silva says, sitting on the terrace at 5 Quince St.

Dining with friends

On the night of the dinner party, it is quickly apparent that the dining room of the 275-year-old house was not built to accommodate a dozen. Since her book focuses strongly on female friendship, Hilderbrand asks the guys if they would mind sitting in the kitchen. After some good-natured ribbing about being relegated to the kids' table, they cordially agree.

But first, Hilderbrand says raising her glass: ''All of you were important to me while I was writing this book, and that's why we're here. A toast to all of you!''

Dusk is falling hard outside the dining room's bay window as the women sit down to feast on dinner and conversation. Someone asks Wendy Hudson how things are going at the bookstore she owns downtown; someone else asks about when a neighbor will be back on island. As wineglasses are refilled, there's talk about how local produce compares to hothouse; and about the stifling hot weather, which has caused Hilderbrand's homemade baguettes to rise beyond the edges of the pan and form tasty globs of bread.

But quickly, conversations around the table shift to more personal topics: how couples met, children, grandchildren, and friendships. In the wash of words, in the candlelit dining room, it is easy to see these island ties; to imagine Marguerite Beale and her godchild, Renata Harris, in this place, resurrecting secrets of past and present.

By Gwenn Friss, Food Editor

Excerpted from Cape Cod Times © 2006

1. What is the love season? Is it a place in time? An environment? A feeling? Take a moment to discuss the meaning of the title.

2. A show of hands: Who has been to the island of Nantucket? How is it similar or different than portrayed in The Love Season? Others: Does this book make you want to go there for a visit?

3. The action in The Love Season centers around two elaborate meals: the one Marguerite prepares for Renata, and the dinner party at the Driscoll's. What is the significance of food—how it's prepared, served, and appreciated—in The Love Season? Discuss the dynamics, and politics, of the dining table.

4. In what ways is reading a good novel like eating a good meal? Are readers ever truly satisfied at "The End"? Or are they always left hungry for more?

5. What are the themes of hunger and nourishment that resonate throughout Marguerite's life? And in this novel?

6. Renata believed that Marguerite was like a shipwreck—she had, somewhere within her hull, a treasure trove of information about Candace. Do you think, in the end, that Renata found the answers she was looking for? Can one individual ever reveal the "truth" about another's life? How is it possible to discover someone's essence after death?

7. Talk about the characters' lives off the island of Nantucket—in Paris, Morocco, and New York City. What did these outside locations reveal about the inner lives of Marguerite, Candace, and Renata respectively?

8. During a moment of romantic desperation, the younger Marguerite had asked herself: Did love fall into categories, or was it a continuum? Were there right ways to love and wrong ways, or was there just love and its object? How might the more "modern" Renata answer these questions? How would you?

9. Discuss the symbolism of Renoir's Les Parapluies painting as it's represented and referenced in the book. (You may wish to have a reproduction of it on hand during your meeting as well.)

10. Marguerite, during her early visits with Porter, played a game called "One Word." What word would each member of your group use to describe The Love Season?

Customer Reviews

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Love Season 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 76 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is wonderful, but the typos are VERY VERY distracting! Unacceptable for an e-book. This needs a complete re-read by whoever edited it for this format.
KarenCO More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. Was so sad to see it end. I recommend every book this author has written. They are FABULOUS!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Currently I am raising a teenager and as I watch him/her venture in the twists and turns of discovering themselves and trying to guide them. This book has opened my eyes to allow him/her to make his/her own choices and ask me for my wisdom or guidance. Through this book we see how time has elapsed and forgiveness was never given or received until years later. This has occurred in my life and as I mend fences and move forward to forgive, I find myself feeling happier and accepting the death of my mother. My family is healing from six years of guilt we have all placed on ourselves. This book made me experience emotions I have not experienced in some time and I am grateful.
JeanieJF More than 1 year ago
I did enjoy this story very much, as I have with other books by this author. HOWEVER - I bought this as a Nookbook and I have to say the quality of the text was abysmal. I've been annoyed by other nookbooks type quality previously, but this one really made it difficult to follow the story. VERY frustrating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Love Season, by Elin Hilderbrand had me intrigued from page one. The interesting layout- one day documented hour by hour- captured my attention throughout the whole story. It is hard to believe that this entire story was expanded from just twenty four short hours! The characters all had such depth and complexity, and I felt like I was really able to dive into each character's point of view. Marguerite, a former restaurant owner, is preparing for a very important dinner with her goddaughter Renata, whom she had been forbidden to see since the death of Renata's mother fourteen years earlier. In preparing for this dinner, Marguerite left her home for the first time in a long time, seeing people for the first time in a long time that she had a past with. This span of twenty four hours in which Marguerite revisited her social life had her reminiscing on her past: in Paris, with her first love Porter, her beloved customers at her restaurant, the owners of local markets, and her distanced goddaughter. With the reunion of Marguerite and Renata, they give each other the strength to acknowledge the past and courage to move forward. The outlying theme in The Love Season is the journey to self discovery. Instead of dwelling on the past, it is best to move onward and find the positive outlooks about life while in search of finding one's place in the world. I was truly touched by this story, from beginning to end. I found myself diving into it whenever I could, because I was felt like I could relate to the journey of self discovery, as I am currently in that stage of my life. I would highly recommend The Love Season to any young adult that is looking for a simple, romantic, moving novel that is sure to be a great catch.
AngelaCT More than 1 year ago
Again the author grabs your attention from the begining and you come to love all the charactors. It was hard to put this book down. This author has new story lines, she is so refreshing.
Anonymous 30 days ago
This was a great read. After just visiting the Cape, this story was most enjoyable. Thank you for your novels. I have read many.
bearette24 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Marguerite, a woman who is living alone on Nantucket after a mental breakdown some years before. The book begins on an optimistic note, re-introducing the people from her past into her life; but toward the end, it takes a chilling turn. I thought this novel was well-written, but it was definitely not a beach read and not quite what you'd expect from Elin Hilderbrand.
MargaretdeBuhr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a surprise! This book was interesting from beginning to end. I want to read more by this author.
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You will not be disappointed. She is one of my favorite authors.
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