Cover image for Playing with fire
Playing with fire
Shapiro, Dani.
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New York : Doubleday, 1990.
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Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A calculated first novel, balancing glitz with integrity. Lucy Greenburg, beloved only daughter of well-off Orthodox Jews, leaves her protective home to attend preppy Smith College. There she meets instant trouble--her beautiful, mysterious, rich, perpetually tan roommate Carolyn. Carolyn disappears for days at a time and won't say with whom. The two gorgeous young women fall in love with each other, and then break up over Carolyn's mogul stepfather, Ben, whose mistress Lucy becomes. What's quickly obvious to readers takes Lucy over 200 pages to find out--Ben was Carolyn's secret lover. Lucy leaves Ben, and then promptly loses her father who dies after a car crash. On one level, this is a perfect beach book, sleek and langorous with juvenile fantasies and the eroticism of wealth, glamour, and forbidden love. But behind the made-for-TV-movie facade is the real story--Lucy's indelible Jewishness and her love for her father. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

A first novel with strong autobiographical overtones, this fledgling effort needed more capable editing to achieve its potential. Although Shapiro shows promise as a writer, too often she falls victim to overwrought, self-indulgent prose and a myriad of cliches. Narrator Lucy Greenburg, the blond, blue-eyed offspring of an Orthodox Jewish family that boasts a long line of revered rabbis, immediately falls under the spell of her Smith College roommate, a quintessential WASP. Carolyn Ward is beautiful, enigmatic and controlling; Lucy idolizes her finishing-school poise and perpetual tan, which Carolyn maintains by mysteriously disappearing from Smith for weeks at a time. She also awakens in Lucy a feverish sexual longing, which Lucy sublimates with a passion equally as strong--an affair with Carolyn's stepfather, construction tycoon Ben Broadhurst. Ben's influence gets Lucy a screen test, a career as a TV commercial model and her first movie. But the end of her dissolute life as Ben's mistress, a dramatic announcement by Carolyn (the ostensible plot bombshell has been telegraphed to the reader early on) and a family tragedy leave Lucy bereft of dreams, sadder but wiser at 22. Flashes of talent enliven Shapiro's often bathetic prose, especially when Lucy evokes the members of her religious family. This novel will probably fare well commercially, but one expects Shapiro to write a better book next time. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With situations that modernize some classic themes, this first novel is a moving, heartfelt tale of family, friendship, love, and maturity. Reminiscent in some ways of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited , the novel takes Lucy Greenberg from naive adolescence to disillusioned adulthood, and leaves her in control of her life--although that life isn't exactly picture perfect. Lucy breaks from family traditions when she leaves for college, and her friendship with well-to-do Carolyn Ward throws her into a tempestuous relationship with Carolyn's stepfather, Ben. Lucy's life spirals out of control until her family is touched by tragedy; then she is forced to take control of her destiny for the first time. Just shy of being melodramatic, the novel uses powerful language and intelligent imagery to communicate Lucy's evolution. The book seems somewhat autobiographical and is very effective, although there are a few loose ends--perhaps another comment on how life can be.-- Heidi Schwartz, ``Business Interiors,'' Red Bank, N . J . (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.