Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Review of Cornelia Read's Invisible Boy

Invisible Boy
The blurb:
The smart-mouthed but sensitive runaway socialite Madeline Dare is shocked when she discovers the skeleton of a brutalized three-year-old boy in her own family's weed-ridden cemetery outside Manhattan.

Determined to see that justice is served, Madeline finds herself examining her own troubled personal history, and the sometimes hidden, sometimes all-too-public, class and racial warfare penetrating every level of society in the savage streets of New York City during the early 1990s. She is aided in her efforts by a colorful assemblage of friends, relatives, and new acquaintances, each one representing a separate strand of the patchwork mosaic city politicians like to brag about. The result is an unforgettable narrative that relates the causes and consequences of a vicious crime to the wider relationships that connect and divide us all.

Invisible Boy is the third of Cornelia Read's stories involving the quirky, struggling socialite Madeline Dare. Unlike The Crazy School which is part amateur mystery, Invisible Boy is largely focused on Madeline Dare, her family and her life which I found to be a more interesting read.

From the earlier novels, we know that Madeline Dare's family ranks high in the Social Register and that her Mayflower legacy largely trumps her current poor financial situation. Though Madeline shares a cramped and no-frills (read: slightly rundown) apartment off of Union Square with her husband, her sister Pagan and her friend Sue, her connections and legacy still open doors. While she faces slights and snubs, Madeline handles things with her brand of grace and humor. I found Cornelia Reed's description of old prep school friendships especially effective and added to my appreciation and understanding of Madeline. Madeline's sense of justice also comes across well in Invisible Boy; she is willing to face all sorts of risks to bring Teddy Underhill's killers to justice.

Overall, I liked enjoyed Invisible Boy. This third story reveals more of Madeline Dare's history and personality, which works to her advantage.

ISBN-10: 044651134X - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 30, 2010), 432 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author, courtesy of her website:
Cornelia Read knows old-school WASP culture firsthand, having been born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island. She was subsequently raised near Big Sur by divorced hippie-renegade parents. Her childhood mentors included Sufis, surfers, single moms, Black Panthers, Ansel Adams, draft dodgers, striking farmworkers, and Henry Miller's toughest ping-pong rival.

At fifteen, Read returned east, attending boarding school and college on full scholarship. While in New York, she did time as a debutante at the Junior Assemblies, worming her way back into the Social Register following her expulsion when a regrettable tantrum on the part of her mother's boyfriend's wife landed them all on "Page Six" of the New York Post.

Today, her Bostonian Great-Grandmother Fabyan's Society of Mayflower Descendants membership parchment is proudly displayed at the back of Read's tiny linen closet in Berkeley, California. She has twin daughters, the younger of whom has severe autism.
Learn more on Cornelia Read's website at

Thank you so much to Miriam and Hatchette Book Group for this review opportunity!


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this - I've become fond of Maddie Dare. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Came over from Cym Lowell's McLinky links for Book Review Party Wednesday (BRPW).

    So Gaby, if you were going to rate this book in a scale of 0-10 where 0 is the least and 10 is the greatest, what score would you give it?

    Cherry Mischievous

  3. Cherry Mischevious, you're tough! I try not to say because I'm a hard grader that way. I have a low threshold to enjoy a book but to really grade it and compare it to others I tend to be harsh.

    100 would be something that I really love and expect to return to every few years (like Hunger Games, I, Claudius, Scaramouche, Wodehouse, Jim Butcher's Codex Alera) and a 5 would be a decent read though I would borrow it from the library and not buy it. To be honest, this would be a 6.5