The first page of Elinor Lipman’s 2006 novel, My Latest Grievance, grabbed my attention immediately:
Of the five main characters, narrator and protagonist Frederica Hatch is a sophomore at Brookline High School. Two of the others — Frederica’s parents — are well described in the excerpt above. The fourth is her father’s over-the-top ex-wife, Laura Lee French, who serves as the catalyst for conflict and resolution within the novel. The fifth, Dewing College itself, might or might not be based on Pine Manor College; that’s my hunch, though I have no hard evidence to support this conjecture.
As you can probably tell by this point, My Latest Grievance is a satire, but a very gentle and sympathetic one. Elinor Lipman is best known as an observer of human interactions and social mores; the added touch of having her novel narrated by an indulged only child of radical parents gives it a point of view that’s fascinating to the reader (at least to this reader). While it’s firmly anchored in Brookline, no special knowledge of the Boston area is needed in order to enjoy reading it.