Planet Books


Cape May, by Chip Cheek

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PUBLISHED BY hachette australia


It is 1957 and Henry and Effie, a young couple of Georgia who started dating in high school, are on their honeymoon in Cape May: a seaside town in New Jersey. Awkward at first, Henry and Effie make love for the first time and spend the first week discovering each other.

Effie had spent many a holiday in her uncle’s house during the summer and remembers Cape May as a fun place with lots to do. But in the off season most of the town is closed up. The couple feel the whole town belongs just to them as they explore the beach, closed houses and walk the streets at night. The charm of this solitude soon fades as the realisation sets in that it is just the two of them, and an empty town, with a lifetime ahead. Under the weight of that realisation, the newlyweds decide to leave early.

Before they depart, on one of their evening walks, they pass a house with lights on, music blaring and cars parked everywhere. Effie remembers it as the home of a not-so-nice friend of her sister. Henry thinks it would be neighbourly to say “hi” before their departure. Before they know it, they are caught up in the eating, drinking, partying and carefree fun of it all. Going home is now last thing they want to do, so they extend their stay.

What started as a glimpse into the life of rich ‘city folk’, as something different and exciting from their usual experience, changed them forever. Can they can ever go back to who they were? Can their relationship ever be the same?

Told from Henry’s perspective, “Cape May explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel South, corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites.” I enjoyed Cape May but I am sure that there will be some who do not. With a touch of old-fashioned Gatsby style glamour, reading it felt a little like watching an old movie.