The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

Last week I visited Canberra, and popped into the Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery. It was spectacular. In fact, it was so sparkly it was obscene (it’s hard to believe that emeralds and rubies as big as golf balls are the real thing).

So it was fitting that my holiday reading was Sloane Crosley’s first novel, The Clasp.

It’s the story of three friends – Victor, Kezia and Nathaniel. Back in college, Victor loved Kezia, Kezia loved Nathaniel and Nathaniel loved himself.

Before Kezia pushed him to the brink of insanity, before he hit his depressive groove, back when Victor was just dabbling in casual melancholy, he was actually fun. Or at least amusingly honest and steadily deadpan.

Fast forward to the present when the friends reunite at a wedding. Victor is unemployed (and a kleptomaniac), Kezia works for an eccentric jewellery designer, and Nathaniel is an aspiring TV writer, whose shot at fame is now a fading memory. In a strange set of circumstances, Victor finds himself in possession of information about a legendary necklace, which leads him on a goose-chase to Paris.

The structure of the story is clever – The Clasp is a riff on Guy de Maupassant’s famous short story, The Necklace. Madame Loisel in The Necklace discovered that humbling lessons can come from unexpected places and in The Clasp, Victor has a similar experience. Additionally, Maupassant’s short story forms the basis for Victor’s quest to Paris, and is also cited as the reason that the three main characters first became friends (they met in a literature class where The Necklace was assigned reading). While Crosley has done an admirable job of paying homage to one of her favourite stories, The Clasp lacked sparkle.

The Crosley I am familiar with is sharp, observant and has a dry sense of humour. Unfortunately, there were only glimpses of that in this novel.

She was on the lookout for Victor’s notorious class issues, which tended to manifest when surrounded by people who reminded him of the lacrosse-playing Abercrombie employees that populated his youth. Had Caroline asked her to keep a watchful eye on him, to make sure he didn’t slap anyone for using ‘summer’ as a verb?

And then there were the coincidences. I recently read something John Irving said about coincidences – “Coincidences in novels are routinely deplored by book reviewers; yet it has been my observation, from so-called real life, that coincidences abound.”

Yes John, one or two coincidences are acceptable but a string of coincidences supported by convenient back-stories (Victor the kleptomaniac and Kezia the jewellery designer), stretched my patience.

I received my copy of The Clasp from the publisher, Random House UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

2.5/5 I’ll stick to Crosley’s excellent essays.

On the way out, Victor grabbed a piece of peanut brittle. No tongs. Like a fucking cowboy. His chosen brittle was stuck to a larger chunk of collateral brittle, but he shoved the whole thing into his mouth like an ice shelf.

As part of the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge, I’m comparing the Belfast summer and Melburnian winter. The results for the day I finished this book (July 14): Belfast 11°-24° and Melbourne 4°-16°.

8 responses

    • In fairness this was more of a homage than a rewrite but…. I agree with you, there seems to be a lot of re-tellings published in the last few years.

      • I feel this way because I like literature that engages with the issues of its own time, and rewriting some other era’s issues just isn’t the same…

    • I couldn’t help but compare it to her essays, which are witty and engaging – I thought her writing here was flat in comparison and the story perhaps overcomplicated by too many references to The Necklace (it did make me want o read The Necklace again!).

  1. Pingback: 20 Books of Summer (except that it’s Winter) | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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