Executive Times






2005 Book Reviews


One Sunday Morning by Amy Ephron


Rating: (Mildly Recommended)




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Amy Ephron’s new novel, One Sunday Morning, describes how four New York socialites respond to scandal during the 1920s when the boundaries of socially acceptable moral behavior where changing. Not a word is wasted in this short book, in which both setting and character are presented with precision.


Here’s an excerpt, pp. 24-28:


For Clara Hart, it was a blissfully peaceful Sunday, at First. Outside, the rain was coming down, lightly, almost like mist, Her mother had made biscuits and fried ham and soft-boiled eggs and the smell of fresh coffee brewing had awak­ened her before she was ready to be quite awake. She’d taken a bath with lilac bath salts, put on a brown gingham dress with sleeves that fell just below the elbow and a dropped waist, and walked quietly downstairs.

Her father had a fire burning in the fireplace in the study, the smell of pine cones mingled with the smell of cedar wood. He was reading the morning newspaper. The rain beat softly on the leaded glass panes of the windows, Her father didn’t notice her, at first, She stood in the doorway and watched him, settled in his leather chair, his soft gray hair thin­ning, his glasses halfway down his nose, distracted as he always was when he was doing something. Her father was purposefully single-minded. Her mother said that was the difference between men and women, that men were only capable of doing one thing at a time and women, because of their place in nature, were better suited to cook, clean, hold a baby, and carry on a conversation all at once, Clara wor­ried that she might take more after her father than her mother in this regard, preferring to do only one thing at a time. She’d never been that comfortable in chaos, Not that her mother ever cooked and cleaned except on Sundays when both Evelyn and Marguerite had the day off. She could smell the sweet, salty bacon from the kitchen, slightly burned, the way her father liked it. It would only be a few more weeks that she would live here. Strange to think the wedding was three weeks from today.

They had already rented an apartment on 20th Street, It was not the most fashionable of neighbor­hoods but Billy said that just by their being there, they would set a trend, Clara didn’t think there was much trend-setting about her, except Billy. He was attuned to the latest art, music, fashion, nightspots, al­most before anyone else, as if he somehow knew what was current a moment before it was. In a way, they were an odd couple. Not that Billy wasn’t from old stock, too, but he liked to push at the edges of conven­tion. Even the apartment they had rented was a bit unusual with “an open floor plan”—no wall between the kitchen and the living space. Her mother hadn’t quite known what to make of it. Clara had borrowed a bit of furniture from her mother’s family house up­state, a love-seat that was pink and so old-fashioned it was amusing and almost trendy, beautiful pewter lamps that she would buy new shades for, three an­tique French rugs. The windows had been measured and the fabric for the curtains had been purchased and cut. The drapes would be hung next week, Billy’s family had given them an old oak dining table and matching chairs, a bit old-fashioned for their taste— Billy had his eye on a Biedermeier but the price was awfully dear and they both agreed they should be careful, Clara had picked the china pattern herself, a simple white Wedgwood, service for twelve, a gift from her Aunt Mae, Her mother had bought the linens, a trousseau of sorts, percale sheets, sensibly cotton, an eiderdown quilt, lace tablecloths, all of which were packed in a trunk and waiting to be moved, It was strange to think that it would only be a few more weeks that she would live here.

“Hi dear, I didn’t see you come in’

“Yes, Papa, I know, I didn’t want to disturb you.”

A moment later they were in the dining room, warm biscuits and fresh preserves, soft-boiled eggs the way her father liked them, the outside of their breakfast plates scattered with a rasher of ham for flavor and appearance. Clara had barely cracked the shell and let the warm yolk slide into the egg cup when the doorbell rang...


The sparseness of Ephron’s writing in One Sunday Morning, can become frustrating at times, when description stops abruptly, and scenes shift. The depth of character development becomes constrained in the limited space. Ephron’s precision in One Sunday Morning remains exemplary and the brevity means that in a single afternoon at the beach, you can travel back to the 1920s before heading home.


Steve Hopkins, June 25, 2005



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the July 2005 issue of Executive Times


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