Ms. Demeanor: Elinor Lipman

Let’s say there were two people, a man and a woman, lounging on the rooftop terrace of an apartment building in midtown Manhattan. She is thirty-nine, a lawyer. He, on the neighboring chaise longue, is twenty-seven, a new associate in the same firm.”

In Elinor Lipman’s novel, Ms Demeanor, New York lawyer Jane Morgan has sex with a younger coworker on the roof of her apartment building. Little does she know that she has outraged a neighbor who has seen all with the use of a handy-dandy pair of binoculars. The neighbor insists that the police arrest Jane and her amorato. Next thing you know, the police arrive, she’s arrested and finds and herself in court. While “Noah” the male half of this incident leaves with a fine and a slap on the wrist, Jane, who takes the high road (professional suicide) route of arguing that the act took place between consenting adults in private property, ends up under house confinement for six months. The Bar Association then suspends Jane’s license to practice law.

Who didn’t suggest that I view my sentence as a sabbatical, a much-needed rest from briefs and deadlines and clients? Would they like to try six months off without travel or passport, without weekends away, or nights out, with the only fresh air available from the roof that was the scene of their crime.

Boredom is of course an issue, but more pressing still is the issue of money. Jane’s twin sister, dermatologist Jackleen finds “ways to underwrite” Jane’s “unemployed existence,” so Jackleen picks up the bills and even has food delivered. Jackleen comes up with the idea of hiring Jane as a “food guide and recipe curator” as a service to dermatology clients.

The novel started off a bit off-kilter for this reader. I didn’t have a great deal of sympathy for Jane but even less as the novel wore on. Parts were very funny and others not funny at all


Man, woman, mojitos. One thing leads to another


She praised not just my culinary expertise and presentation, but also the courage it took to plunge the [live] lobsters into boiling water.

There’s some romance if that’s what it’s called–or rather an arrangement with a fellow person under house-arrest, and a few other plot elements thrown into the mix. Ultimately this reads more like chick-lit (I’ll admit I am not familiar with the genre) than anything else. I have thoroughly enjoyed many novels by this author over the years, but this one was a little too giddy for my taste.

Review copy



Filed under Fiction, Lipman, Elinor

2 responses to “Ms. Demeanor: Elinor Lipman

  1. When was this written? Surely Americans aren’t so prudish these days?
    (Well, not counting those Southerrrrn states, that is.)

  2. The book was just published. It’s possible to provoke a prude anywhere I suppose.

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