Close to Hugh by Marina Endicott–part 2

published 2015

Close to Hugh 1

[Small town Canada: some High Schoolers are having a party, in a house where there is a clothes collection on display to be photographed]

The new girls gasps. Jason flicks her arm and says she’s done.
But he takes L’s hand at the doorway and pulls her back – what for? Oh, to fix her dress. The tunic has fallen to one side. He straightens it, adjusting the folds, fingers cool on her skin. His breath on her shoulder….

The living room has furniture in it. Chairs, a glass table. And along the wall, a parade of dummies dressed in psychedelic clothes…

Jason says “But some of this stuff is valuable, I don’t want it wrecked or stolen…”

Jason and L take the dummies upstairs, one at a Close to Hugh 2 Mondriantime: the backless, black-skirted, paisley-sequined cocktail dress; the Mondrian colour-block; the hot-pink mini that goes with the pink gloves. L puts the gloves in her pocket, rolled together the way Mimi always did. It’s kind of a nightmare because the clock is ticking – they’re still on the stairs with a long black satin Audrey Hepburn-type gown when the first bunch of people comes banging at the door.
observations: I explained in an earlier entry how much I loved this book, and how it was full of amazing clothes descriptions.

I could list what I liked about the book all day, but here are some of my favourite things:

The language is distinctive and matched to the character – I loved the word order of ‘who even is that?’, when the teenager L sees something unexpected at a party.

There is a look at a young woman cutting herself – it’s a minor, glancing moment in the book, but it was honest and totally convincing. 

There’s a beautifully reported mother/daughter argument which the reader can see equally from both sides:
‘nobody in the world makes me as mad as you do!’
Shit, shit, shit, there goes the Buddhist vow. Give her a loving, gag-me, big-toothed smile, maybe she won’t start sobbing.
I loved that at one point in the book Hugh thinks about all his friends and ends up making a table.
In his head he makes a list of what everybody needs:
           What’s Wrong?       What Would Help?
MIMI     dying                       0-nothing-nada-zip
RUTH   old, poor                 affection, $$
--- and so on through all the characters. It was the perfect summing up two-thirds of the way through the book.

There are great coats in the book (‘Ivy loves a suitable coat for the person’) – an asymmetric tweed coat, a jacket with a $100 bill in the pocket, a black coat with a brilliant lining.

There are Hugh/you jokes and misunderstandings throughout the book, and also an unexplained series of anagrams: Argylle, Gallery, Largely and allergy all keep popping up.

As well as looking at people, relationships, love and money, Endicott also takes in art and art galleries, and acting and plays. The Masterclasses for the High Schoolers are particularly fascinating, as well as hilarious as they keep changing which play they are meant to be studying.

Honestly, this is a great book, and will surely be one of my Best Books of the Year: I highly recommend it for anyone who can get hold of it.

The top picture is an Oscar de la Renta dress (thanks to Leah for modelling) – zigzag hot pink colour blocking, whoo - the lower pic is an Yves St Laurent Mondrian.


  1. It does sound like a great read, Moira. And I'm so glad you brought up the language that's used. So often dialect and sentence structure and the like don't match the personality of the character. I think it's great when they do in a natural (not self-conscious) way. I like the wit, too!

    1. Yes, I really do recommend this one Margot. And plenty for the language watcher like yourself - Marina Endictot is very good at giving her different characters distinct ways of talking.

  2. Sounds fascinating - hope it comes over here soon - rather pricey in the USA just now. In the meantime, I have bought another of her books, Good to a Fault: A Novel, as I like the sound of her reading hopefully. Thanks again for the heads up!

    1. I know! I can't imagine why it isn't so far being published here. Also recommend Little Shadows. Will be interested to hear what you make of Good to a Fault.

  3. Not enough material to make one dress or another then.....

  4. I am sure how much I will like this one but since I loved Little Shadows, I will certainly be reading it. And I also want to try Good to a Fault, but am going to wait until after the book sale and see if it pops up there. You never know.

    1. It might take a while to filter through, giving you a chance to catch up with your other reading. A number of people in the UK have asked me how they can find it - even the import copies on amazon have dried up. (I'd like to think sold out because of my blogposts, but that's probably not the case!)


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