This book is easy, breezy, and fun. Fittingly, those are just the qualities one might hope to find in a book about South Florida. The pages fly by quite nicely and the mischief to be had is quite enjoyable, if not mostly good-natured. Oliver Booth is the butt of most of the jokes in the book, but that turns out to be a good fit since he has quite a big one himself. In the world of fiction there are times when the character at whose expense the laughs come elicits empathy from the reader. However, the author has done a sufficient job of painting Mr. Booth in a bad light that this does not happen, as should be done in a good satire. Additionally, much of the ill fortune that befalls Mr. Booth is of his own making.
While Mr. Booth is the namesake of the book he is not the true protagonist. That honor belongs to a grounded waiter by the name of Bernard. This real-life French waiter introduces not only common sense but also a sense of reality into the otherwise out-of-touch world of Palm Beach. He is sympathetic to the reader, as well as to the well heeled, but also well grounded, Mrs. Van Buren who becomes his benefactor, and Mr. Booth's tormentor (I use this term loosely here).
The book bounces back and forth between Paris and Palm Beach. Yet, in both cases the portrayal is a very selective and superficial one. The book of course lacks depth, much like a how a comic strip is very two-dimensional. However, much like a comic, there is still a narrative to be followed and laughs to be had in a two-dimensional portrayal. Many of the characters and settings are merely devices to move the plot along or to further a joke. Yet in these roles the characters and settings included prove to be more than adequately functional.
The book is a fast read and is good for some smiles and chuckles. If you are expecting some groundbreaking, insightful analysis of Palm Beach, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking to witness a few hearty jabs and Palm Beach culture, then you will be completely satisfied.
An interesting tidbit is that the author of the book is related to the Donald. Mr. Trump even gives his assessment of the book that "it should be a big success." Not that Mr. Desmond is trying to trade on Donald Trump's name or anything, but this review is plastered on the front cover of the book. Even without the Trump connection, Mr. Desmond is eminently over-qualified to write this book, as a graduate of the University of Chicago and holder of a PhD.
Not to assail Desmond's knowledge of Palm Beach, but I disagree with Donald's assessment that the book somehow reflects a Palm Beach insider's point of view. Any observant author could also have written a similarly superficial treatment after only a week's vacation in Palm Beach.
All of those issues aside, the book is a fun read. It goes by quickly and is never boring. For what it is, it finds just the right tone and temperature.
For even more on this book and the author visit the official Oliver Booth website.
by Cameron Hatch
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