Suzanne Rindell’s new novel Three Martini Lunch is a tale of love, betrayal and well guarded secrets in 1958 Greenwich Village, New York. The Village. New York City, 1958. A place for poets, writers and musicians, pushing to thrive under a new surge of hopeful post-war optimism. While equal and civil rights movements are still in their beginnings, there is a certain vibe in the air that has nothing to do with the bongos played by beatnicks, and more to do with new possibilities.
At least it feels this way for Cliff Nelson, Eden Katz, and Miles Tillman, three young and hopeful individuals, who soak up the new cultural and social change that is pulsing in Greenwich Village. While Cliff, a Columbia University dropout, his dream of becoming a writer is many times overshadowed by his famous publisher father’s name. Cliff is certain that his talent as a writer is evident, but his father believes he may be wasting his time, leaning on false hopes and expectations of a non-existent talent.
Eden arrives in New York from Indiana, with big dreams of becoming one of the few female editors in the publishing business, in a time where “mad men” still dominate the circuit and women are relegated to secretaries and assistants. While Eden works hard to achieve her dream, she finds that the real world may not be ready to accept what she has to offer.
Miles, a gifted black writer from Harlem, confronts the brazen reality of discrimination and his own uncertainty regarding his sexuality. Searching for the truth about his father’s past, may reveal truths that he does not want to discover. Miles will have to face the difficult dilemma of his own secrets, if he truly wants to feel free.
The fates of these three individuals will inevitable intertwine, leading to betrayal, plagiarism, and heartbreak.
Randell’s Three Martini Lunch is a window into a long-gone era, and she presents the youthful struggle of Cliff, Eden, and Miles in a sympathetic but also at times, harsh view. The novel is told from the points of view of all three characters, and while this narrative works for the purpose of adequately understanding their personalities and inner thoughts, it sadly falls apart towards the end.
This problem with endings seems to be a tendency with Rindell’s novels. Her previous book, The Other Typist, was an astounding example of character development until the unfortunate lukewarm ending. Like in Three Martini Lunch, everything is hastily resolved, and while avoiding the corny and cliche presentation of an inconceivable happy ending, there isn’t any evidence of a satisfactory resolution to the story.
Despite this, Rindell’s novel is certainly worth reading. Even with the aftertaste of a weak ending, Three Martini Lunch is a fantastic story of a time infused with winds of change, when anything and everything seemed possible.