Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins

In 1969, when Frances Ellerby is in her early twenties, she’s visiting a friend in Stiltsville, a community of homes on stilts in Biscayne Bay, Florida, when she meets and falls for handsome Dennis DuVal. Within weeks Frances is absolutely smitten with Dennis and leaves her boring life in Atlanta for the exciting and exotic Miami and the home in Stiltsville that comes with her new husband. She and Dennis later have a child, and although their life together isn’t always perfect and they endure many tribulations, it’s these issues that, over time, only bind them closer together.

I’m not sure what made me decide to finally pick up Stiltsville – honestly I think it was the beautiful cover – but I’m so happy that I did. I’d heard a lot about this book for a while, and now that I’ve read it I can see what all the fuss is about. This novel is really a story about a long and mostly happy marriage, and although the book sounds very simple, really it’s so much more than just that.

More than anything else, this is a character study. And while Frances and Dennis are the characters the reader is focusing on, their marriage is almost a character as well. I haven’t read a book in a long time that examined marriage in such an honest way as Stiltsville does. These two characters go through some truly difficult things as a couple, and my emotions were all over the place as I was reading their story. It felt so real to me because it was written so beautifully, but also because these characters got into my heart and stayed there. I rooted for their marriage just as they did, and I worried about it when things got sticky.

The city of Miami was just as much a character in the novel as the people were, as well as the tiny town of Stiltsville. The ocean air, the humidity and heat, and the casual way of living that defines life in South Florida were so easy to understand by reading this novel. I’ve spent a little time in Miami, and although the culture has changed a bit since the time period of this book, I can attest to the fact that Stiltsville gets it right in many ways. The laid-back, lackadaisical attitude of many Floridians was depicted very well in this novel, and I loved getting to step into this way of life as I was reading the book.

I have to say that Stiltsville really got me emotionally. By the end of the novel, I was hanging on to every word and I even shed a few tears in certain places. This novel really does grab you and it made its way into my soul. This truly shows how talented Suanna Daniel is, and I would definitely love to read anything else she writes.

I would highly recommend Stiltsville. There are so many things to love about this novel – great writing, a fully developed sense of place, and characters that will stick with you for a long time.

11 thoughts on “Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel”

  1. I really feel sort of strange that I seem to be the only person on the planet who didn’t connect to this book. I forget exactly why I had a hard time with it, but for some reason, I didn’t buy into the relationship between the two main characters. I am pretty sure this is a failing that is strictly on my shoulders, because everyone else who read it seemed to just love it. I can’t say that I had that experience with it, but I have enjoyed reading everyone else’s more generous opinions on it. I liked what you had to say about how it made you feel. In theory, this one should have been a great read for me 😦

    1. Too bad it didn’t work for you, Heather. Personally I found their relationship incredibly believable, to the point that I even shed a few tears at the end of the book! I guess it just goes to show that not every reader is going to connect to every character.

  2. That is fascinating, because when I read (the other) Heather’s review, I mentally crossed it off my life. Now I want to read it! There is such a culture in Southern Florida, and on the beach in Florida in general. I can close my eyes and imagine it so well. And when a book captures that, it captures my heart. That is why I love any book that takes place here. Love the review Heather – excellent! (See you Thursday?)

    1. Yes I will see you Thursday! 🙂

      And yes, I agree about South Florida. I haven’t spent a ton of time there but I have been to Miami twice and West Palm Beach a few times (not exactly SF, but close enough) to definitely understand the distinct culture there. There is something so laid back and chill about the people there, and Daniel captured that feeling exceptionally well in this novel, I think.

  3. I’ve been wanting to read this since it first came out. I haven’t gotten to it yet but it sounds so good! Love that both the marriage and Miami are almost characters in themselves.

  4. I sobbed at the end of this book. I really connected to it – maybe because I was watching my mother take care of my father toward the end of his life. I thought this was a beautiful love story. Your review is fantastic!

    1. I sobbed too! I thought it was such a great love story mostly because it was so very realistic. I think every marriage has those moments when one or both members of the couple question if the relationship will really stand the test of time. I loved how that happened with Frances, yet she was able to keep things together and stayed in love with her husband and by his side through everything. I’m glad to hear you liked this one so much, Kathy!

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