A novel chronicling a year in the life of four families in an upscale Brooklyn neighborhood as they seek purpose, community, and meaningful relationships — until one unforgettable night at a raucous neighborhood party knocks them to their senses.
This reads like a wink from von Ziegesar herself, and as a fan of breaking the fourth wall, I hope it is ... A lot is happening in Cobble Hill (infidelity, multiple fires, theft, frequent drug use) and yet the novel sustains a calm, plotless schema ... Von Ziegesar easily dips into the psyches of adults, teenagers and children, often on the same page, and she lets us into the interlocking structure of the story quite quickly. There’s much to be thankful for in a novel that doesn’t waste a reader’s time ... At times, the novel is the fun fall romp that it was intended to be. But the self-consciously idiosyncratic characters in an intensely geographically accurate portrayal of Brooklyn also present an odd “for us, by us” veneer; it often reads like a joke you had to be there for. Much of the appeal of this novel relies upon its references to gentrified Brooklyn. The magic comes in the form of a jolt of recognition; that feeling when a character in a novel shares your birthday, or when you see your neighbor’s face on the local news ... much like the neighborhood it’s named for, Cobble Hill may delight readers of a certain age and income bracket.
In Cobble Hill, the residents’ lives intersect and tangle with one another as school dramas unfold and neighbors host social gatherings. As the couples examine their significant others’ relationships with the neighbors, author Cecily von Ziegesar spins a fast-paced, funny tale of the sometimes confusing but often entertaining ways neighbors relate to one another.
... a difficult novel to summarize. There is no grand narrative, but the microcosms of the characters’ individual storylines touch at surprising points, making nearly every occurence a spoiler. This is very much a character-driven novel, as the many players here push the plot forward little by little while advancing their own developments and encounters with the bizarre. While each character has a definite conflict and motive, there were so many of them that I often struggled to orient myself whenever I resumed reading. That said, taken as a whole, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and tension-filled novel that reads a lot like a grown-up Gossip Girl book. Von Ziegesar is skilled at character development and creating chaotic, practically combustible scenes of love, community and desire ... Though I do not feel like I can safely describe the plot without spoiling it, I can discuss the characters: Roy and Peaches were highlights for me, but the magic of this book is that every reader will find a different protagonist to root for ... For all of the issues it explores, Cobble Hill is not the deepest of books; eating disorders and mental illness are touched upon only lightly, and some of the motivations of the characters, like Mandy, were dreadfully under-explored. But this did not affect my enjoyment of the novel, which reads very much like a television program. As a light, humorous look at a pretentious Brooklyn neighborhood, it excelled. Von Ziegesar examines everything from trendy eateries to fancy schools with a keen eye, and her wit flowed through her characters’ observations in a way that was as self-aware as it was funny.