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A Ship Made Of Paper: A Novel [Bargain Price] [Paperback]

Scott Spencer
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 10 2009 P.S.

Daniel Emerson lives with Kate Ellis, and he is like a father to her daughter, Ruby. But he cannot control his desire for Iris Davenport, the African-American woman whose son is Ruby's best friend. During a freak October blizzard, Daniel is stranded at Iris's house, and they begin a sexual liaison that eventually imperils all their relationships, Daniel's profession, their children's well-being, their own race-blindness, and their view of themselves as essentially good people.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Spencer's latest novel should cement his reputation as the contemporary American master of the love story. Daniel Emerson is a New York City lawyer who has returned to his hometown of Leyden, N.Y., a picturesque Hudson Valley village, with his girlfriend Kate, a novelist, and her daughter, Ruby. Kate drinks and obsesses about the O.J. Simpson trial instead of writing fiction. Daniel finds himself falling in love with Iris Davenport, an African-American grad student at the local university. Iris is married to Hampton Welles, an investment adviser. The book records Iris and Daniel's affair from both perspectives and poses the question, is their fleeting happiness really worth so much ruin? For ruin there is a-plenty: Daniel thoroughly humiliates Kate, destroys his financial status, becomes a subject of gossip in the village and inadvertently mauls Hampton in an accident with a roman candle, making it almost impossible for Iris to leave him. Spencer is an unerring writer. He describes the two couples at a local concert: "From time to time, Kate must glance at Daniel. His eyes are closed, but she's sure he's awake. Hampton takes Iris's hand, brings it to his lips, while she stares intently ahead. And then, Kate sees Daniel glancing at Iris. Their eyes meet for a moment, but it has the impact of cymbals crashing. It is a shocking, agitating thing to see. It's like being in a store with someone and watching them steal something." Kate's violated sense of order is captured in perfectly chosen metaphors. This book, in which matters of sex and race are treated with unusual frankness, could well be both the critical and commercial surprise of this spring season.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

A violent incident sends Daniel Emory, a successful white New York lawyer, back to his Hudson River hometown, where he is ensconced in edgy domesticity with his girlfriend, Kate Ellis, and her daughter, Ruby. His daily routine of taking Ruby to day care introduces him to Iris Davenport, a black woman whose son is Ruby's best friend. Daniel develops an obsessive attraction to Iris, who embodies for him the possibility of release from an emotional distance he has felt all his life. Iris tentatively returns the affection, yearning for her own respite from a frosty marriage to Hampton Welles, an investment banker, resident only on the weekends. A freak snowstorm affords the opportunity to begin an affair that sets in motion fierce jealousy--tinged with racial animus--in Kate and Hampton. This is an engaging novel of passion, romantic longing, race, class, family responsibilities, and the riveting anxieties of a couple embroiled in a relationship that cannot end well. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to all the hype and reviews. Brilliant. Dec 12 2005
By A Customer
I would give it 4.5 stars if I could.
I've just finished reading this book and I've got to say that this is one of the best books I've read this year. Although this book is supposed to center around the complicated problems that an interracial affair may face, I think this book is more about the consequences of infidelity, regardless of race.
Scott Spencer is an excellent story teller and a extremely good writer who has the ability to give emotion through his words without being too wordy or stiff. Even the love scenes within the novel can be read without cringing. Usually I'm cautious when it comes to fiction about interracial/cross cultural relationships because they always seem to fall into the same stereotypical and unrealistic traps that plague most of these types of stories and even though some people felt this book to be stereotypial, I didn't think this was the case at all. I think the author's portrayals of certain characters were meant only for those characters and not meant to paint broad stereotypical images of every member of that character's race.
Black authors are usually the only ones who seem willing to write stories on interracial topics and I was curious to see a white male author's point of view. I thought Scott Spencer did a terrific job even though I wasn't really sure why Daniel loved/obsessed over Iris so much especially since he left New York because he was scared of black people (did he love her because she represented everything he wanted in a woman, or did he admire black culture so much and just wanted a part of it for himself, or did he just simply love her without explanation?). I found Scott Spencer's writing to be poetic, honest and open. The story was interesting and I am eager to read his other books because I liked this novel so much.
Hollywood has already turned two of his novels into movies (Endless Love and Walking the Dead) and I would love to see this novel on the big screen as well.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Love Story June 16 2004
By A Customer
This is my first Spencer book and although I'm coming late to the hype, I just have to comment. I enjoyed this book if for no other reason than it kept me reading. I tried to be open-minded and constantly reminded myself that it was a work of fiction, however, as a black woman I couldn't help feeling at times like I got slapped. First, I was never convinced that Daniel was in love with Iris (this was not a love story). Second, there were so many stereotypes in this book I started to predict them before the passages appeared. And finally, black women are once again portrayed as empty, machine-like sexual beings.
What could have been an outstanding love story was instead a typical account of what most people probably believe a relationship between a white man and black woman would amount to.
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2.0 out of 5 stars what's love got to do with it June 1 2004
By anne
I agree with many reviewers that the writing was good in part but wasted on unlikeable characters, a weak romance and unpleasant stereotypes (why are all the young black male characters violent, why doesn't the devoted mother get counseling for a 5 yr old who left a babysitter needing 20+ stitches and shot at another kid, why does the caring stepfather let these kids play together unsupervised?)
And I think there was a glaring error in the very first sentence that foreshadows a critical scene when it says Kate has to leave the party to relieve the daughter's babysitter because they took the daughter with them to the party.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, but not perfect May 25 2004
A Ship Made of Paper works as kind of a riveting, emotional page-turner. This is rear for a piece of literary fiction, which can usually be easily put down, as much as I like the "genre." Some of the dealings with race are clumsy, and the plot turns push the boundries of plausibility, but Spencer also demonstrates real skill jumping in and out of his various characters' perspectives. Ultimately, it's just a terribly entertaining read.
Don't read the Publisher's Weekly review. They give away too much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Of Love And Human Frailty May 25 2004
A Ship Made of Paper is an excellent rendering of the deep morass two married people can sink into when they get involved in a love affair. Daniel isn't legally married, but he is in a committed relationship with another woman and her child. He is smitten with a black married woman, Iris, that he meets while taking the child to a day care center, and the relationship soon develops. Iris's husband, Hampton, is a cold, aloof banker who is consumed with feelings about race and discrimination.
Author Spencer does a good job of showing the difficulties of such a relationship, how they eventually cause anguish for those involved and those they live with. Can anything good come from infidelity? The question is asked not from a standpoint of morality, but from the reference point of psychological stress, and the effect such a relationship ultimately has on the physical, mental, social, and economic life of those touched by the event. Spencer deals with these issues. His characters are all decent people who perhaps have made unfortunate choices. Daniel's mate, Kate, can be shrewish, and Iris's husband is definitely not the romantic sort. Kate says frequently that Daniel is basically a decent man who has gone astray.
But perhaps we might question Spencer's characterization of this foursome. His attribution of flaws to the victimized spouses make it somewhat easier to elicit a few drops of sympathy for the wayward characters, who seem to really have no psychological deficits other than that they are unfaithful. Sure Daniel is passive, and lacks ambition, but Kate has no difficulty with this. How would this tale have spun out if the two victimized people had been a bit less flawed?
All in all SP does a good job of portraying the turmoil and destruction to relationships caused by an extramarital affair. Does everything work out in the end? That you will have to find out for yourself.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Wha?
I gave this book a 2 because the writing is excellent. However, the characters are all unlikeable. They act irresponsibly and disrespectfully and none of them seems to learn... Read more
Published on May 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Not a word wasted, this is a brilliantly crafted novel from every aspect.Absolutely beautiful prose, deep, almost mystical character development and well plotted, but all in an... Read more
Published on May 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars This Ship Did Not Sink
I loved this book! I felt it was a magnificent exploration of race, gender, and forbidden love. I hated the character Kate from the first moment she appeared on the page and I felt... Read more
Published on March 16 2004 by "jennie_jo"
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling......
A Ship Made of Paper is a stunning account of love, passion and disaster. The story beautifully and harshly depicts the complexity of relationships. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars dissapointing....
After all the hype and praise I read about this book, I had high expectations. Generally speaking, Im a fan of Scott Spencer and have enjoyed his work immensly in the past. Read more
Published on Nov. 30 2003
I just totally loved this novel. It is funny, sexy, and edge of the seat exciting. It's the kind of book you live in, get lost it, and wish were longer. Read more
Published on Nov. 24 2003
2.0 out of 5 stars A Ship Made of Quicksand
Like some of the other reviewers, I too felt I was duped into believing that this was a great book. I am not discrediting Spencer as a novelist, he's quite talented. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2003 by mp541
1.0 out of 5 stars Improbable
OK, I'll admit that love stories aren't my favorite genre, and I got the book from the library only because it was an NBA nominee. Read more
Published on Nov. 1 2003
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