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Reader Reviewed
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Seating Arrangements

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Selected by Sarah Broadhurst

One of our Books of the Year 2013.

Dark, comic with captivating prose, this is a stunning first novel and quite rightly being talked about as one of the literary debuts of 2012. A seemingly perfect East Coast upper crust american family are brought together by the oldest daughter's wedding. But the daughter is seven months pregnant and family tensions simmer just below the surface. Over the three days of the wedding run up and celebrations, the 59 year old patriarch, Winn's life implodes. Highly enjoyable, heartily recommended.

July 2013 Debut of the Month.

Winner of the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize.

reader reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Seating Arrangements a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'This was an awesome and often touching read full of moments to reflect on' - Edel Waugh. Scroll down to read more reviews.

If you like Maggie Shipstead you might also like to read books by Courtney Sullivan, Curtis Sittenfeld and Michael Chabon.

Who is Sarah Broadhurst


Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

A New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2012 Dylan Thomas Prize The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the New England island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to an impeccably appropriate young man. The weekend is full of lobster and champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust seep through the cracks in the revelry. Winn Van Meter, father-of-the-bride, has spent his life following the rules of the east coast upper crust, but now, just shy of his sixtieth birthday, he must finally confront his failings, his desires, and his own humanity.


Edel Waugh - ' This was an awesome and often touching read full of moments to reflect on.' Click here to read the full review.

Lynn Curtis - 'A razor-sharp comedy of manners, Seating Arrangements effortlessly evokes both its island setting and the insular preoccupations of its upper-class American characters. A fantastic debut from an author who is very much one to watch.' Click here to read the full review.

Sally Doel - 'I enjoyed this book - it dealt with a very specific social group and the things that seem important to them - quite an insight!' Click here to read the full review.

Megan Olwen Williams - 'With Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead presents us with a clever, exceptionally well-written novel that has enough wit and humour to render the very best of comics green with jealousy, and yet also with depth to match that of the Atlantic ocean...I would go as far as to say that if there was one book I had to recommend to people this year, this would be it.' Click here to read the full review.

Janette Skinner - 'This book is flawlessly written with subtle language and beautiful word pictures...This writer gets inside everyone’s head and lets you feel what they are feeling, a rare talent.' Click here to read the full review.

Emma Halford - ' I really enjoyed this book for its treatment of human complexity, strength and frailty, wilful self-deception and the ultimate intrusion of reality.' Click here to read the full review.

Victoria Halliday - 'This is an engaging, well-written novel worth losing sleep for! Read it, as soon as you can!' Click here to read the full review.

Francesca Ashurst - 'Maggie Shipstead’s award winning novel is a superbly written, bitter, funny, wry exploration of life for one family on the threshold of celebrating a wedding...Shipstead’s depiction of the ‘elite’ is merciless, perceptive and very funny. A hugely entertaining read, I really enjoyed this novel.' Click here to read the full review.

Suzanne James - 'Maggie Shipstead has written a beautifully crafted snapshot of a couple of days in the life of a wealthy New England family...This would be a brilliant holiday read - I read it in 2 days I was so caught up in the interactions between the characters' Click here to read the full review.

Michelle Russ - 'All in all, a good read and definitely recommended for a literary soap opera!' Click here to read the full review.

Alan Brown - 'A book that delves into the intricacies of group dynamics, extended family relationships and etiquette rules of a supposed upper crust New England society whilst telling a story that is fascinating and delightful...A book that I am glad to have read more than once.' Click here to read the full review.

Suzanne Marsh - 'Maggie Shipstead has constructed all her characters with excitement and full of buzz...As you are reading you can imagine a house full of guest to dinner with every kind of characters, the very posh, the extroverts, the ones who like to boast and the quite ones.' Click here to read the full review.

Zarina de Ruiter - 'The novel's strongest point is by far the beautiful way it's written. Author Maggie Shipstead has a wonderful way with words.' Click here to read the full review.

Glynis Elliott - 'I so wanted to enjoy this novel, it had all the right elements for me but I couldn´t get past my dislike of the characters and their selfishness.' Click here to read the full review.

Maggie Crane - 'This book is concerned with the discontent which can encase families regardless of their social standing in society and the wreckage which can be engendered due to the mindless actions of a few individuals.' Click here to read the full review.

Praise for Maggie Shipstead:

'Joyously good' Daily Mail

'A ferociously clever comedy of manners' Guardian

'Distinctive and dazzling ...The smart money has to be on Maggie Shipstead winning a Pulitzer before she's 50' Allison Pearson

'A wise, sophisticated and funny novel about family, fidelity, class and crisis' Marie Claire Books of 2012

'Maggie Shipstead is a hugely talented young writer Grazia

'A well-observed, hilarious, yet moving novel' Woman & Home

'Not to be missed' Good Housekeeping

'An outrageously gifted writer' Richard Russo, Pulitzer prize winning author of Empire Falls

'Bursting with perfectly observed characters and unforgettable scenes' Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine

'Shipstead writes satirically and lavishly about a certain privileged social stratum... Frequent shifts in point of view give the book a waltzlike rhythm, with beats of startling beauty' New York Times Book Review

'Gratifying on every scale' Boston Globe

About the Author

Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead graduated from Harvard in 2005 and earned an M.F.A at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She was also a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her debut novel, Seating Arrangements, won the Dylan Thomas Prize and the LA Times Prize for First Fiction. Astonish Me is her second novel.

Author photo © Alisha & Brook Photography

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Book Info

Publication date

4th July 2013


Maggie Shipstead

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Blue Door an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


432 pages


Relationship Stories
Debuts of the Month
Literary Fiction
Reading Groups
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)



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