Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

I must admit that I was very excited to read a story about publishing in New York City in the late 1950s, and especially one voiced by three very different characters. Eden Katz is a young Jewish girl from Indiana who moves to New York to try and make it in publishing. Miles Tillman is a bright young African American who is graduating from Columbia University and is trying to write his first novel. Cliff Nelson is the attractive, confident son of a famous publisher and is trying to find his own voice.

The three characters meet at the beginning of the story as part of group aspirants who frequent Greenwich Village bars where they try to inspire and outdo each other. The author, Suzanne Rindell, has crafted a familiar story of prevailing through adversity, allowing us three different perspectives as each protagonist tells their own story. I was taken by Rindell’s use of the language of the time and reminded of the TV show Mad Men – Eden Katz’s character could well be a Peggy Olson, while Cliff Nelson and Miles Tillman have aspects of Don Draper about them.

As you progress through this novel the layers of each character are revealed and you get to know a little more about how each character’s mind works in various situations. It is very moving at times, and with its deep, emotional truths I was even reminded of my earliest experiences of reading James Baldwin’s writing. Suzanne Rindell tackles the constraints of conservative 1950s North America with great wit and honesty.

Michael Awosoga-Samuel is a bookseller and music specialist at Readings Carlton.