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New England White (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – May 27, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Two lesser characters from Yale law professor Carter's bestselling first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park (2002)—husband and wife Lemaster and Julia Carlyle—take center stage in his second, a compelling, literate page-turner that effortlessly blends a gripping whodunit with complex discussions of politics and race in contemporary America. Lemaster, one of the country's most influential African-Americans, has recently begun his tenure as president of a prestigious New England university. As he and Julia, who serves as a dean in the university's divinity school, drive home one snowy night, they happen upon the corpse of Professor Kellen Zant, a brilliant economist as well as Julia's former lover. The murder threatens to shatter not only the Carlyles' marriage but also the fragile psyche of their precocious but troubled daughter, Vanessa—and may affect the upcoming, bitterly contested race for the White House. Julia proves an unlikely but dogged investigator, who looks beyond the official verdict that Zant was killed in a chance encounter with a robber. In the richness of his characters, both major and minor, and the intelligence of his writing, Carter rivals Scott Turow. Expect another bestseller. 300,000 first printing; author tour. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Featuring the setting and two minor characters from his best-selling debut novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, Stephen L. Carter has crafted a literary thriller peppered with shrewd observations about wealth, power, race, culture, and politics. Several critics were disappointed with the murder mystery, citing a melodramatic plot with too many characters. However, the Washington Post declared, "Let's be honest: No one should read a Carter novel for the mystery." Indeed, Carter's astute dissection of the upper-class black milieu and his scathing portrait of the subtly racist community surrounding the university shine brightest, offering a compelling exploration of ethics and power. Fans of his first novel will certainly welcome his second.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 617 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 27, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375712917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375712913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #882,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 80 people found the following review helpful By J. Belt on July 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
After Emperor of Ocean Park, I could hardly wait for a second book from Stephen Carter. I even emailed him once to find why it was taking so long (no, he didn't respond) and so when I found out his new book was coming out last week, I rushed to my local bookstore (coupons in hand) and started reading. Once again, Carter has delivered an intriguing mystery while providing juicy tidbits about life in the rarified atmosphere of rich black intellectuals.

However, as much as I loved reading all 556 pages (whew!), I found that about halfway through the book, I started getting lost in all the details. There is just so much information he includes that after a while they start to detract from the story. More than once I thought "And who is this again?" Not that any of that stopped me from reading, it's that with so many characters, so many events, so much repetition, I was relieved to finally get to the big reveal. Yes, it was worth it find out whodunnit and why, but there is another message Carter delivers that members of both the darker nation and the paler nation will likely find themselves admitting, even if to no one other than to themselves.

My favorite scene in the book? When Julia finds herself in an unfamiliar neighborhood, knocking on doors and understanding that it's race, not money/class/privilege that people see first. And that truth is not lost on her.
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81 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Vaughn A. Carney on July 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Does Knopf still employ editors? This book has a fascinating plot, but following it is like trying to find a jewel amid waist-deep weeds. There are just too many irrelevant characters, pointless digressions and tiresome, unnecessary details. At 556 pages, this book is about 200 pages too long, and slogging through it becomes a chore. Yes, Mr. Carter displays many wonderful turns of phrase, and yes, savoring a literate work by a black author who knows the racial score is very satisfying, but the knowledgeable reader must fight the urge to shout "For God's sake, man, get on with it!" The premise of this book is unique and brilliant; the execution, however, falls short.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on July 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The characters in this book were very compelling, especially Julia Carlyle, the wife of the university president, and her daughter. Mrs. Carlyle is an elitist African American raised at Dartmouth College and now an assistant dean at an Ivy League divinity school. As she works to uncover what is behind the murder of an ex-lover, she learns - for lack of a better term - how the other half lives. In her world, things get done because of who she is and to whom she is married - someone bothers her and he loses her job; she is an assistant dean without getting a degree - in her stratus it is who you are that matters. That group of "who you are" clashes with the more typically portrayed white privileged class which sets up the mystery portion of the book.

The book is a mystery only secondary to the exploration of the class strata among African Americans and how that compares and mirrors the white classes. The mystery is one for which Oliver Stone would be proud. It is conspiracy upon conspiracy upon complicity mixed with antagonism among whites and blacks and blacks and blacks. The black elite strata is manifested in elite clubs who pull strings behind the scenes in our society. Mr. Carter disavows the existence of such clubs in an afterword.

The characters truly carry this book, because it is s-l-o-o-o-w. I kept waiting for it to heat up; after all there are murders, conspiracies and intrigue, but somehow all of that was overcome and the pace remained slow throughout.

This is an intriguing look at American society from an elite black's view, which is a rare one to see and experience. Unfortunately, the slow pace detracted from the work.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Barbara L. Pinzka on August 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Seldom have I been more disappointed by a book than I was by New England White (NEW), as I enjoyed and felt enlightened by his first book, The Emperor of Ocean Park.

I agree with the other reviewers who commented on the book's unpruned state. Carter isn't creating red herrings or phosophical asides with his over-writing, he's indulging in the sound of his own voice. But that does fit with the character of his male lead, one of the most chauvinistic and overbearing characters to be found in modern fiction. His wife, the heroine, knows she's being demeaned, but does almost nothing to help herself or her children, despite the words of the narrator in claiming she reaches a transcendent state: she's even supposed to be grateful that her husband hired a secret bodyguard for her as he knew she was going to be in life-threatening situations because of his own actions.

As for the plot, not even Robert Ludlum at his most ludicrous ever devised a more complicated and impossible set-up. As with most conspiracy theories, the silence and obedience of literally hundreds of people has to be secured to make the conspiracy work. Sorry, folks, but humans just don't act that way.

I guess the writing was good. And the on-going commentary on US race relations offered some insights, but generally of the sort already known by any well-read reader who has not limited his or her reading by race.
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