Book Bag: “The Necklace” by Claire McMillan

Friday, August 04, 2017


By Claire McMillan



Novelist Claire McMillan, in her debut novel, “Gilded Age,” channeled Edith Wharton’s “House of Mirth” in a story about the social-climbing elite of modern-day Cleveland. The narrator of her story, Ellie Hart, had returned to the city after a scandalous divorce in New York and needed to find her way back into the good graces of Cleveland’s monied set.

In her new book, “The Necklace,” McMillan, who lives outside Cleveland herself, tells another story of money and class, this one set partly in contemporary Ohio. Nell, the black sheep of the Quincy family, returns to the old estate when she discovers she’s been made the executor of her great-aunt Loulou’s will. She also finds out her late great-aunt has bequeathed her an ornate and priceless Indian necklace.

Nell’s cold-hearted cousins are soon talking about legal action to get the necklace, and Nell turns for help to the only person she feels can trust: the estate lawyer, Louis Morell, who’s not part of the old-money crowd.

McMillan also develops a separate storyline, set in the Roaring Twenties, that describes how Nell’s grandmother, May, became involved in a love triangle with Ambrose Quincy, who gave her the necklace, and Ambrose’s brother, Ethan, whom May later married.

Publisher’s Weekly writes of the new book, “McMillan … expertly weaves the narratives together in an emotionally resonant, captivating tale of love, loss, and family secrets that culminates in a satisfying finale.

Fittingly enough, in a story that explores a wealthy family and its secrets and resentments, McMillan completed “The Necklace” during a writer-in-residence stay at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, where she is also a board member of the house and museum.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

Claire McMillan will read from “the Necklace” Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley.