Our Arcadia: An American Watercolor

Written by Robin Lippincott
Review by Alice Logsdon


Can a divorced mother, her best friend, her two young children, three artists and their various lovers live together in the same house for over fifteen years in almost perfect harmony? They can if they live in True House, the setting of this original novel.

Our Arcadia begins in 1928 when Nora Hartley and her gay friend, Lark Martin, set out to create new lives for themselves. Their purpose is not necessarily to shun convention, but to live freely, with no constraints other than those they choose for themselves. They buy a home on Cape Cod, christen it True House, and rent rooms to others with similar interests. Together, they form an engaging and bohemian family. They see each other through happiness and tragedy, offering one another inspiration and empathy. Separately, they search for love, artistic and personal fulfillment, secure in the knowledge that while the outside world may not accept them, those at True House will.

The story unfolds in a series of short, brilliant chapters, some almost tableau-like, evocative of a feeling or idea, highlighting a moment. Others are more concrete and expository, aimed at moving the story along. This structure is fluid and suits the artistic theme of the novel. Overall, I found it to be delightfully romantic and provocative.