The Portrait of a Mirror

A. Natasha Joukovsky. Overlook, $26 (310p) ISBN 978-1-4197-5216-2
Set in the upper echelons of New York City and Philadelphia, Joukovsky’s droll if uneven debut reads like Gossip Girl all grown up. Young tech CEO and certified “golden boy” Charles Wesley Range IV shares a sprawling Manhattan loft with his stunning, quick-witted enterprise architect wife, Diana Whalen, where the almost-happy newlyweds mount a series of passive-aggressive maneuvers against one another. Meanwhile, 30-something Vivien Floris, a poised visiting curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, prepares to marry Dale McBride, a dashing consultant and aspiring novelist who lives in Philadelphia. While Diana and Dale are assigned to work on the same project, grade school crushes Vivien and Wes reunite for a fateful night. As the drama unfolds, the characters’ affairs get predictably tangled. The author uses the backdrop of Vivien’s exhibition on Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the figure of Narcissus for astute observations on the core characters’ self-involvement, though the story feels weighed down by too many less-rewarding tangents about professional mishaps and exchanges between the peripheral players, who find their incestuous social world alternately beneficial and stultifying. In the words of a mutual friend of the couples, “The one percent is such a small place.” While readers will enjoy the view of an insular, rarified world, they’ll also wonder what the fuss is about. Agent: Sarah Fuentes, Fletcher and Co. (June)
Reviewed on : 03/23/2021
Release date: 06/01/2021
Genre: Fiction
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