Eden Collinsworth,
It Might Have Been What He Said
(Arcade, 2006)

Eden Collinsworth's first novel is a work of fiction that undoubtedly has some basis in fact, since both author Collinsworth and main character Isabel are high-powered women in the New York publishing industry. Assuming Collinsworth never actually tried to kill her husband, that's where the similarities stop.

The mystery opens with Isabel in her psychiatrist's office answering questions about what she was thinking when she tried to kill her husband of more than 10 years. Through a series of brief, essay-like chapters, Isabel explores her childhood with a cold, unreachable mother, her early career-climbing days, her introduction to an unlikely, reckless mate, their courtship and the evolution of a marriage that eventually dissolved in alcoholism, adultery and anger. Each chapter opens with a poignant sentence about the subject (character) at hand.

The mystery at hand is why Isabel felt compelled to attack her husband, and the answer lies in Isabel's own closeted, tumultuous family history. It's a compelling personal journey, and the prose is articulate and elegant, but this falls short of being a pure five-star narrative. Several characters are underdeveloped, namely Isabel's brother Ian and her older-best-friend/token-gay-man John, who appears in the novel with no backstory and no evidence of why the pair are such fast friends.

Collinsworth is compared to Edith Wharton on the back of the hardcover release, and the comparison makes perfect sense, because the author is trying just a bit too hard to achieve the sublime, understated brilliance of Wharton, and she misses the mark. Wharton is larger-than-life, however, and the majority of modern fiction does not compare to her catalogue. Enjoy this book as a mystery/personal history, perhaps in a beach chair this summer.

by Jessica Lux-Baumann
12 August 2006

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