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In the Drink Hardcover – May 4, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Bridget Jones's Diary seems to have unleashed a flood of similar novels featuring unmarried, underemployed, somewhat neurotic young women searching for the right job--and, more importantly, the right man. One of the better entries in the Bridget Jones Sweepstakes is Kate Christensen's In the Drink, which features a 29-year-old New Yorker. Claudia Steiner long ago traded in her initial dream of making it big in journalism for a position as personal secretary and ghostwriter for Genevieve "Jackie" del Castellano, an elderly writer of bestselling novels and a lunatic to boot. In addition to her employment woes, Claudia has an unsatisfactory love life: her lover is married, and the man she loves just wants to be friends. Helen Fielding played these miseries for comedy; Christensen, however, takes her character--and her readers--down a darker path. Where Bridget would get tipsy in a pub with her girlfriends, Claudia prefers to drink alone. Still, though Claudia's tribulations mount--she loses her job, she can't pay the rent, she makes a pass at her best friend and secret crush, William, and gets rebuffed--Christensen manages to keep the tone hopeful even as she refuses to pull her punches. When, for example, an acquaintance calls her a drunk, Claudia thinks:
A drunk was someone to be reckoned with, someone interesting and far-gone. I should have been alarmed and ashamed, should have considered joining all those chain-smokers in church basements--I knew what I was supposed to feel. But the sunlight covered the street with the clear healthy gold of ale, the brownstone faces were burnished the toast-warm color of bourbon in candlelight, the air was clear and lively as gin, and something leapt in me, a persistent little flame of self.
In the Drink is not a Cinderella story, after all--nor even a retelling of a Jane Austen classic--but Christensen ends her debut on a hopeful note without giving its heroine a complete makeover. And in Claudia she has created a character who is endearing because of her flaws, not in spite of them. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

The smart, urban and aimless have found their heroine in this charmingly original debut novel. Claudia Steiner is a funny, pretty, cynical 29-year-old who has "failed to connect" and who's disillusioned with her spotty employment history and restless, rootless existence. Having long ago lost the journalistic ambition that brought her to Manhattan, Claudia lives in a hole of an apartment on the Upper West Side. She can't pay her rent or bills and spends all her money on cabs, take-out food and nights of drinking at East Village clubs. Her bleak love life consists of drunken one-night stands, a passionate but doomed relationship with a married poet and a consuming but seemingly unrequited love for her dearest friend, William. Claudia works as a ghostwriter (and personal secretary) to 70-something Jackie del Castellano, bestselling author and socialite, a "semi-lunatic" spitfire whose outrageous mistreatment of Claudia borders on the sadistic (yet perversely hilarious). Claudia's miserable existence approaches its nadir when she makes some endearingly horrific blunders at work and gets fired. "A persistent little flame of self" and a wonderfully ironic sense of humorAincluding a kind of wry pride in her capacity for boozingApull her through, however. Claudia comes to realize that the people to whom she's enviously compared herself aren't what they appear to be: Jackie is not as invincible as she seems, and even William, her idealized romantic hero, has his dark side. The discovery of compassion and connection in the midst of Claudia's chaotic and confusing life encourages her to redefine what she wants and what it means to be an adult. Though often poignant, her memorable story never cloys and is enlivened with refreshingly unsentimental humor and a sparkling ensemble of skillfully drawn contemporary urban characters.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (May 4, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385494505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385494502
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,961,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A lot of the marketing information about In the Drink bills itas a funny novel. While there is a lot of humor in the novel, I thinkits way too dark to be funny a la Bridget Jones, which is what I was expected when I started reading. After about 25 pages or so, when I realized that this was not another funny novel, and adjusted to the dark, and rather depressing world Claudia inhabits, I really grew to like this book. Kate Christensen does a fabulous job of taking us into the dark world that so many women can inhabit or come close to, but she does so without depressing the reader. I suppose that is because Claudia narrates with an amusing, self-deprecating humor.
I actually found this novel quite fascinating because Claudia's life reminded me of many people I knew when I was around her age (29). I think a lot of us could have drifted into the nowhere job, the drinking too much, the meaningless sex world that Claudia inhabits without actually even noticing. I can't think of any contemporary novel that explores this idea so well, so honestly. Claudia teetered up to the edge and almost fell over, but somehow managed to keep herself from plummeting into the depths of despair.
I would strongly recommend this book with the caveat that it is not a "humorous" novel. The subject matter is serious, and well-handled with much dark humor.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bravo, Kate Christensen! What a wonderful first novel...I can't wait for a follow-up.
"In the Drink" is the story of a 20 something single woman named Claudia Steiner. She lives in your typical roach-infested Manhattan apartment, works for a complete passive-aggresive nut case, dates the wrong men, and is madly in love with the "Unavailable-Man." There were many times throughout the novel when I wanted to shake Claudia and tell her to wake-up and change her miserable existence. But the beauty of the book is that Claudia IS flawed just like we all are. There is no "tied-up in a pretty bow" ending. Claudia plods through her life making the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results. But Christensen always kept me believing that Claudia would turn out OK. And even though the ending is not "happy" I had a gut feeling that when Claudia finally hits her bottom she has the inner strength to pull herself out of it and end up on the right track. This is what kept me going.
While "In the Drink" is a dark story, Christensen has an amazing sense of humor and writes some of the funniest scenes I've read in a long time. Her affair with the married John Threadgill is hilarious, as is a party scene at the apartment of her "crush," William. I so identified with Claudia because there was a period of my life where I WAS her. But fortunately, I pulled myself out of it as I believe Claudia will. Another wonderful part of the book is examining Claudia's relationship with her mother. How many of us have been at a restaurant with our mothers and been pressured into ordering what SHE wanted us to eat? I've been there! There are some things Claudia does that I don't necessarily approve of.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are many reasons I like In the Drink so much: 1) It is not a cute story. It is real. There are people whose lives are less than perfect and therefore find comfort in substance abuse such as drinking. 2) It is not Bridget Jones's Diary. It is more real, it has more soul. Don't get me wrong, I love BJD, but the redundant story of a 30-something heroine whining about being single at 30 it's too blah for me. Claudia whines, but for a good cause. 3) Its urban appeal. Love it, the writing has a poetic feel -- Christensen obviously loves poetry -- or is a poet, because the writing is beautiful. Claudia Steiner is the anti-heroine, she is not glamorous or even extremely witty, she is one of the most realistic characters I have read. And finally, I can relate to the story about her secret love to William, I too was secretly in love with my male best friend, although I am glad that he is not a pervert. Anyway, give this novel a chance, it is a great novel, one of the most unique and beautifully written ones from last year. I hope to read more novels from this author in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book because of the reviews, and I am so very glad I did. Those who criticize the book because of the "self-obsessed" or "thieving" nature of its protagonist seem to me to be missing the point. Claudia is 100% human. Unlike Bridget Jones (which I loved), Claudia isn't always prepared with breezy one-liners and witticisms. She is incredibly flawed, but this makes her somewhat more real and accessible than Bridget. As a late twenty-something professional, I can entirely relate to her thought processes and woes; although I'm not sure if I would personally steal from my employer, or sleep with a married man, the author makes sure that we understand *why* Claudia does what she does, and that's the genius of it. I was also rather impressed that although the ending was entirely not what I expected, it was still uplifting and entirely true to the characters. I am extremely anxious to see what the author will write next; but in the meanwhile, I will be reading "In the Drink" again.
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