In Gossip, Beth Gutcheon tackles the wily world of female friendships developed over four decades. The main players meet at Miss Pratt’s School in the 1960s where Lovie Walker is the poor scholarship student from Maine struggling to fit in. Avis Metcalf is the daughter of distant yet wealthy New York parents, and Dinah Wainwright is loud, proud, and confident. Lovie remains friendly with both following graduation, but Dinah is resentful of Avis due to a perceived insult.
Lovie is the owner of a swanky dress shop on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and floats on the edge of the high society circle in which Dinah and Avis are entrenched. Lovie also embarks on what becomes a decades-long relationship with an older, married man who loves her but refuses to leave his wife. Dinah and Avis both marry and have children. Dinah's marriage produces two sons but falls apart following her husband’s infidelity while Avis slowly distances herself from her alcoholic husband. The ladies continue working, lunching, and shopping and deal with the passage of time. Things come to a head when Dinah’s son (and Lovie’s godson) Nick falls in love with Avis's daughter Grace. Dinah, still angry at Avis, tries to usurp her role in Grace’s life and put a wedge between mother and daughter.
Lovie serves as an engaging narrator and many of the novel’s most important incidents are revealed to her second-hand. She hears things through another friend or listens to chatter in a doctor’s office, at a restaurant, and especially in her shop. This is the gossip of the novel’s title and the gossip that ends up controlling all of these ladies’ lives as confidences are broken or secrets are not shared. Years pass, complications ensue, and beloved characters die. Gutcheon is an expert at conveying the passage of time and weaving significant cultural events into the fabric of the story while still maintaining her strong characters. These ladies and their tragedies and triumphs will stay with you long after you finish the last page.