Book Review: The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

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Have you ever read a book that you just can’t make up your mind whether you’re enjoying it or not? Several times throughout The Clasp, I briefly considered abandoning it, but like the little engine that could, I just kept going!

My biggest issue with The Clasp was the disparity between the summary and the actual content of the book. The summary, courtesy of the fine cataloger who created the master record in WorldCat:

“Part comedy of manners, part treasure hunt, the first novel from the writer whom David Sedaris calls “perfectly, relentlessly funny” Kezia, Nathaniel, and Victor are reunited for the extravagant wedding of a college friend. Now at the tail end of their twenties, they arrive completely absorbed in their own lives Kezia the second-in-command to a madwoman jewelry designer in Manhattan; Nathaniel the former literary cool kid, selling his wares in Hollywood; and the Eeyore-esque Victor, just fired from a middling search engine. They soon slip back into old roles: Victor loves Kezia. Kezia loves Nathaniel. Nathaniel loves Nathaniel. In the midst of all this semi-merriment, Victor passes out in the mother of the groom’s bedroom. He wakes to her jovially slapping him across the face. Instead of a scolding, she offers Victor a story she’s never even told her son, about a valuable necklace that disappeared during the Nazi occupation of France. And so a madcap adventure is set into motion, one that leads Victor, Kezia, and Nathaniel from Miami to New York and L.A. to Paris and across France, until they converge at the estate of Guy de Maupassant, author of the classic short story “The Necklace.” Heartfelt, suspenseful, and told with Sloane Crosley’s inimitable spark and wit, The Clasp is a story of friends struggling to fit together now that their lives haven’t gone as planned, of how to separate the real from the fake. Such a task might be possible when it comes to precious stones, but is far more difficult to pull off with humans”

So that “madcap adventure set into motion”? It doesn’t take place until the last 1/3 of the book. The rest of the book weaves between the three main characters as more of observances on life in your late 20’s. And being one of those folks myself, that’s the reason I stuck around the most. The conceit of the characters reuniting after some odd years of being out of college and out in the real world resonated with me. You’re not the same person as you were when you first knew these people, and you’re left with questions like “do I still want to be friends with this person?”, “how is my life stacking up compared to theirs?”, etc. Victor’s observations on how he really didn’t care for his newly married friend from college were pretty apt. Sometimes you grow out of friendships, and that’s ok. That’s life!

So as I continued to read, I figured out that it was going to be a while for the promised adventure to happen, which did lead to some moments of “do I really want to finish this? Nothing’s happening!” But what kept me going is that I did feel for the characters–sure, Victor’s a bit of a sad sack as he’s been laid off from his data scientist position at Motofit, a fictional search engine, but like Kezia does, you really can’t but wonder if he’s going off the deep end. Readers have a little more insight than Kezia, but the poor guy really does seem like he’s about to lose it. Kezia’s story of working for a jewelry designer/entrepreneur/crazy boss was interesting. I really liked the fictional glimpse at the jewelry biz, especially in her dealings with the Frenchman who can make the clasp she so desperately needs. Nathaniel, on the other hand, I could give or take with his being the pretty boy who’s floundering in his screenwriting career in LA. But he adds a lot of humor to the story, even if it’s more of a dry humor/eye-rolling at his self-importance/gawking at a bizarro sexcapade of his.

Overall, regardless of the misdirection of the summary, The Clasp is a fun, read of characters still trying to figure out adulthood. It is Sloane Crosley’s fictional debut (she’s written essay collections prior), and while it’s not a perfect debut, Crosley definitely has writing chops I hope she continues to deploy.

Random observations

  • The contents of the short story, “The Necklace,” is heavily featured throughout this book. Clearly it’s a short story that resounded with Crosley to have used it as a pivotal plot point in her first novel. I have not read it yet, and even though The Clasp has “spoiled” me on its ending, I’d still like to.
  • Victor hit a little close to home for me. He almost briefly considered going to library school before deciding to use his information talents as a data scientist. But Victor pretty much would’ve been a cataloger, had he pursued my brand of science, library science.
  • The book cover come in 3 different colors! My library copy was the blue, but each color is very befitting of the story. If I had to pick a color for which character, I’d say blue for Victor, hot pink for Nathaniel, and yellow for Kezia.

Purchase The Clasp on Amazon

Find The Clasp in your local library

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