Waltzing in Vienna by C G Metts

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Waltzing in Vienna by C G Metts

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Rebecca Foster
Reviewed by Rebecca Foster
Summary: Three girlfriends – a singer staging a comeback, a psychology professor reawakening to sexuality after being widowed, and a socialite Southern Belle – are reunited in Charleston, South Carolina in their early forties. Remembering their wild college days, they wonder how to make midlife count. There's a fun Sex and the City or Ya-Ya Sisterhood vibe to this recommended debut novel. C G Metts popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 280 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Catmoon Media
ISBN: 9780692533345

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Filmmaker C G Metts has written four nonfiction books, several of them of local interest to South Carolina natives and visitors. This is his first novel, however, and you may be surprised to learn that it is an enjoyable chick lit/women's fiction romp. Three girlfriends meet up again in Charleston; in their early forties, they're facing turning points in their professional and personal lives. As they reminisce about summers spent together at Folly Beach during college and resume their communal marijuana smoking habit, they summon the courage to decide what they want from middle age and refresh their sex lives.

The novel opens with Diana Parks, 42, back in Charleston to search for warehouse space for the T-shirt printing business she and her husband Jack are growing. They might even move down from Nashville if all goes well. Diana's parents were in the country music business, and she, too, had a taste of music stardom through her college girl band, Crazy Hearts, who played 'country grunge' covers. It was through the band that she met Jack, the former road manager, and they now have two teenage children. You wouldn't think she was a family woman from the opening scene, though, which has Diana shagging the real estate agent right there at the warehouse. And that's not the only extramarital encounter she has in the book. 'Fidelity' is 'a flexible idea … often nonexistent' for a character 'addicted to the act of love.'

When Jack joins Diana, they go out to dinner and bump into her friend Eve Hayes. Recently widowed, Eve is a psychology professor at their alma mater, the College of Charleston, and hosts an educational radio programme about relationships. Eve catches them up on her life and that of their good friend Lucy Pendleton, a socialite of old Huguenot stock. They arrange a meet-up with Lucy for tea – and marijuana, their old college habit. In fact, this is how the novel gets its title; 'waltzing in Vienna' is the friends' shorthand for smoking. It was at Lucy's parents' Folly Beach summer home that Diana's suite-mate Maggie introduced them to pot and taught her to play the guitar. Both discoveries would change Diana's life, to varying degrees. Gently high, the friends started waltzing without music, and a catchphrase was born.

Metts does a nice job of contrasting the girls' golden summers of flirting with Citadel cadets with the slight letdown of middle age and its responsibilities. But he also gives each of the central characters a chance to reinvent herself in midlife. Diana performs her first solo acoustic show in nearly 20 years, devoting a song to Eve and Lucy: 'time has passed us by, / and I need you now my dear friends, / Will you still go waltzing with me, / dancing until the music ends?' Eve has a physical reawakening thanks to an Italian baker and his delicious concoctions. And Lucy takes her future into her own hands after a crisis in her marriage. There's a fun Sex and the City or Ya-Ya Sisterhood vibe to the novel, though it's tempered with references to serious women's literature, like Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own and Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

Sex scenes are frequent and vary in quality; there's quite a good erotic sequence set in a bakery, but some of the others are a little cringe-worthy. However, Metts gives great descriptions of Southern scenery and trademark dishes like Frogmore stew and shrimp étouffée. I especially liked the line 'The trees wore gray gossamer dresses of Spanish moss that quivered at every breath of the wind.' The interior layout of the book is also appealing, with a William Morris-esque floral design at the head of every chapter. You can tell careful attention has been paid to every detail of this book, even down to the font. I liked the mixture of nostalgia and gentle feminism in the book's message, and I think this may also inspire readers to go see South Carolina's coastal landscape for themselves. A recommended debut.

Further reading suggestion: Eve's story is somewhat reminiscent of Chocolat by Joanne Harris. For another novel about a group of university friends, try The Unfriended by Jane McLoughlin.

You can read more about Craig Metts here

Bookinterviews.jpg C G Metts was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy Waltzing in Vienna by C G Metts at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Waltzing in Vienna by C G Metts at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Waltzing in Vienna by C G Metts at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Waltzing in Vienna by C G Metts at Amazon.com.


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