Two unlikely friends search for understanding in 1950s Bohemian NYC.
Finalist for the 2017 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction
A modern retelling of Balzac's classic Cousin Bette by one of America's most prolific and significant writers. Earl, a black, gay actor working in a meatpacking plant, and Bette, a white secretary, have lived next door to each other in the same Greenwich Village apartment building for thirty years. Shamed and disowned by their families, both found refuge in New York and in their domestic routine. Everything changes when Hortense, a wealthy young actress from Ohio, comes to the city to "make it." Textured with the grit and gloss of midcentury Manhattan, The Cosmopolitans is a lush, inviting read, and the truths it frames about the human need for love and recognition remain long after the book is closed.
"A rich evocation of its time and place . . . Simultaneously a realist exploration of a particular milieu, an illustration of the changing roles and possibilities for women at that time, and a series of thoughtful musings on the nature of companionship and platonic love, Earl and Bette's story is also a satisfying revenge narrative and a portrait of an unexpected but vital friendship." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Style and setting allow beauty to intrude on this story of love, loss, and how low one might stoop to right a wrong . . . It testifies to the elegant construction of the novel that it can balance the hopes of an entire era on the backs of a fragile relationship and leave no doubt as to its resilience. Jarring and beautiful, this is a modern classic." —Kirkus (starred review)
"Plot twists keep the pages turning until the very last, and the cast of characters are engaging—unusual in the most refreshing ways. Sarah Schulman has given us a finely tuned, clever, and remarkably contemporary historical novel." —Lambda Literary Review
"Vivid and moving. Novels about the past that can celebrate it with intelligence rather than nostalgia are rare and are themselves to be celebrated." —Samuel R. Delany, author of Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders
"The author's subjects and style exist outside of the dominant narratives of US literature and will appeal to readers of contemporary literary fiction looking for something new." —School Library Journal
"A deep, smart, and satisfying novel." —Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman
"This novel is book club gold—weighty dilemmas, unforgettable characters, and a roller-coaster plot!" —Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow
"The psychological insights Schulman shares with artful simplicity will shatter your heart. A masterpiece." —Michelle Tea, author of How to Grow Up
Interested in reading this book with a group? Download group discussion questions here!