430 of 448 people found the following review helpful
At 60 and divorced, Rebecca Winter, the well known photographer and lifelong New Yorker, is still a famous name, but her works are no longer bringing in the money they once did. Money she needs now to provide elder care for her parents. So she sublet her New York apartment and has just moved into a "fully furnished" cottage that's turned out to be nowhere near the gem its ad had alleged it to be. What's more, it's on a street that has no name, it's got a raccoon in its attic, only four forks in its silverware drawer and nary a single electric outlet in its bedroom. Not so hot a spot for starting over, it would seem. But fate seems to have other ideas.
As a reader with a table-high stack of books waiting to be read, I can't believe that what I did after getting to the end of this book, was to go straight back to the beginning and start over. I don't think I've ever done that with a book before. Sure, I re-visit my Jane Austens from time to time, but I've never before liked a book so much and gotten so involved with its characters that I went straight from the end right back to the beginning. Bravo and thank you, Anna Quindlen.
By the way, "Still Life With Bread Crumbs" is the title of Rebecca's most famous and best-selling photo.
Addenda 1/29/14: I've just read a really interesting interview with the author in today's Washington Post and am posting a link in the comment below.
163 of 176 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2014
Anna Quindlen is an outstanding author and when I saw she had written something new, I knew I had to read it. I am so glad I did, it did not disappoint. I found myself wanting more but satisfied with what I got.
To begin with, Rebecca Winter, the person this whole story is about, is 60 years old. I mean a bright, youthful, intelligent and healthy 60 years old. That to me is such a refreshing change, rather than a grandmotherly, aging, overweight and sickly 60 years old. So I was wonderfully pleased with that immediately. Beyond the fact of age, Rebecca is a very engaging woman, a rather famous photographer who has been successful in her life. Yet, she has come to a crossroads, where the money isn't flowing in any more and she looks for a change.
Rebecca rents a cabin in the woods that she found on the internet. So site unseen she moves in to this cabin and begins on a new and very different way of living than she has ever experienced. Many people become part of her life. One young roofer in particular, Jim Bates. Thus begins a very touching and realistic love story.
This is not only a love story though. It is about a woman re-inventing herself and finding peace with her aging parents, son and most of all herself.
245 of 270 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
I had never read an Anna Quindlen novel prior to 'Still Life with Bread Crumbs'. But the premise and the mostly glowing reviews, convinced me to give Ms. Quindlen's novel a try. I'm always excited when I discover a new author I like. However, now I'm not at all sure I will try any of her other novels.
I found some of the descriptive passages in this book to be almost poetic. I always enjoy a writer who can make me see what she sees. And since I am sixty years old and am in the process of 'remaking' myself after retiring from a career of 27 years, this book should have resonated with me. It did not. I felt as if I was reading a first draft, that the author had wanted to get all the bare bones of the story down quickly so she could come back and flesh out the scenes later. There was so much potential to plumb with various relationships in Rebecca Winter's life. However, I felt the author spent way too much time going over and over all the ways Ms. Winter's snobby husband had scarred her and not enough time showing the relationships blooming in her new life. I found Ms. Quindlen's habit of foreshadowing future information with 'more about that later' and of cramming additional information in parentheses particularly annoying. These only serve to jerk a reader out of the story, much like someone talking to you when you are trying to watch a movie.
I feel the bones of a good book are here. But depth of character is not and if I am not emotionally invested in the characters, no amount of artful description is enough to make me like a book.
83 of 94 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed this new book by accomplished writer Anna Quindlen. It is a delightful book that is both a good story and well written.
Charming, eccentric and talented, photographer Rebecca Winter held a place of esteem in the New York City art world, until she didn't. At sixty, divorced and responsible for the care of her aging parents, Rebecca seemed to be heading on the fast track to nowhere. Expenses mounting, she decided to rent out her lovely Manhattan apartment and move to a rustic cabin a couple of hours out into the country. She hoped to save money and possibly come up with artistic inspiration.
Anna Quindlen has drawn a marvelously complex character in Rebecca - a success story trying to doge her downfall. Away from the city, Rebecca begins to discover aspects of life that are far different from her prior experience - such as a raccoon living in the attic that must be removed and destroyed. Why destroyed? As the roofer, Jim Bales, explained to her, raccoons will return to their old hiding spots and her attic was perfect. It seemed that he was a font of information of the kind that artsy city dwellers rarely had need to use. He was also doing a study of birds for the Audubon Society and hired her to do photography for the study. That he was also helpful and good-looking was an added attraction.
This would be an excellent book club selection with its variety of characters and the contrasts between rural and city life and life outlook. I would strongly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys women's fiction.
117 of 140 people found the following review helpful
Rebecca was sophisticated, Manhattan matured. How did she get duped into a country cottage with things that go bang in the night, odors, dilapidation, and aloneness? Rebecca's life framed-out like photography needing explanation, denoting failure.
Anna Quindlen has created a melancholy muse of the inner spirit, complete with classic ghosts from life's past and forward expectancy. Chance love of a second variety.
Rebecca's signature photo titled "Still Life with Bread Crumbs," a triumph in her youthful creative years, now served her little more than a reminder of aging and her struggle as a mature lady caught in the `sandwich generation' trap. Her income's failing to cover living for three generations suggested economization, which meant down-size.
Cottage life at a forest's edge included accounts of a stray dog called Jack. It could mist the eyes of a brawny handyman. Speaking of which . . . Jim, a roofer, evicted pests, hammered a fit tin roof, and could be objectively romantic. Was 15 years age disparity a factor in the "seniors'" world?
Such an intimate look at life, loneliness, love, loss, time past, time frozen, thoughts, fears, joys, and through balm and berries--hope.
Being a Baby Boomer I can wholeheartedly recommend this book of fiction. Though for the Boomer culture group Anna Quindlen's story will seem more like reality. It's pleasant reading but really gets the nostalgia churning. Poignant!
It's like a crocus blooming among sprouts of senility.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By odd coincidence, I had just finished a book with a similar plot: woman escapes her fancy life in the city, comes to mountain cabin to heal, rediscovers her art, makes instant friends with townspeople, especially one who bakes delicious pastries for her own shop, and, above all, true love. The writer of the first is decently respected; her books have tasteful covers, no ripping bodices or raised gold script. The prose seemed so cliched, as well as the template of so many novels I had devoured when I was younger. I wondered if I had lost my taste for fiction!
Not to worry, Anna Quindlen to the rescue. Every character is fresh and genuine seeming, the writing not laden with turgid cliches, things don't magically fall together, but arise organically out of the plausible circumstances and characters drawn. The writing craft is also different, with an extremely omniscient narrator at times, yet this just adds to the enjoyment---with minor characters, sometimes you get to find out what they really said when they got home, or what ever became of them!
My only disappointment is that it was so fast to read, it was over too quickly. Unlike the ealier book, I did not feel like the last x pages were a slog to find out what happens because I had invested so much time into the book; to the contrary, I did not want it to end.
A most satisfying read!
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2014
I loved the idea behind the book: an unconventional love story between older adults. However, the book was slow in an irritating way and the narration transitions ( from describing Rebecca's experiences to describing Jim's experiences) were jarring. Throughout the book, I felt as though the author was disconnected from her characters, as though she was writing about them from far away and without enthusiasm.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2014
Quindlen is way too good a writer to produce such drivel. I started
reading her when she was a New York Times columnist and have read
all of her subsequent books. She's written some good ones and some
not so good. This falls into the latter category. Still a Marylou
Henner or another actress like her will have a field day with this
when she is paired off with some hunk (He's a roofer in the book)
and eventually after trial and tribulation finds happiness.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Rebecca, the main subject of this story is what is sometimes described as "An unfinished woman". I see her as a woman whose previous success as a photographic artist has supported her and her aging parents and her son. The income is decreasing as the years go by and her photograph know as "Still Life with Bread Crumbs", an iconic work is used in calendars and cards and is the source of most of their money. She is divorced from a man who shattered her self confidence even more than her mother had over the years. Her aging father had always bolstered her with compliments and advice. He is still living in the family apartment and her mother;saddled with dementia is in a nursing facility nearby. Rebecca decides to rent out her upper west side Manhattan apartment and rent a small cabin upstate counting on the rent from the apartment to cover her bills and hoping the change of scenery will inspire her work. The challenges of living in a rural area are apparent immediately when she is faced with a raccoon in the attic, something she would never deal with in Manhattan. In fact in Manhattan the supers deal with everything. Here she must deal long distance with her disrespectful, downright rude agent of her work. She makes a discovery on a walk that changes her life. An altar almost, complete with a cross and as she discovers and photographs others found over time, she wonders what they signify. This is the mystery that affects her life as well as her chance at love. The ending was unexpected and so nicely tied up the story, No hanging on and wondering about a sequel here. This is a complete story!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Rebecca Winter, 60 years old, divorced, once a well known photographer has exchanged her tony Upper West Side apartment for a drab cottage in the boondocks of Upstate New York for financial reasons. Her feminist photos no longer bring in the money they once did so she has had to sublet the luxe apartment for the shack in order to pay the bills. There she will make 'friends' with the locals, acquire a dog and take more photographs. If this sounds like you have read it before, you have, as it hits every elite Manhattan cliche in the book. Her former husband is a domineering, know it all jerk. She has an emotionally cold mother who is a self-hating Jew and is suffering from dementia whose nursing home fees she must pay. Her agent is abusive and no longer sees value in her work. And she finally comes to the realization that what she sees through the lens of her cameria isn't necessarily real life. What a revelation!
Along the way there is the obligatory romance because lonely 60 year olds never wind up being really lonely in this type of book. And we are asked to commiserate with the financial fears of this woman who paid $6000 for a stove, when the sale of her apartment would solve all her money troubles. Ms. Quindlen appears to be completely out of touch as everything in this book is a cliche right down to the ending.