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Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite
This engaging novel begins on the twenty-first birthday of Ben Steiner, a Jewish student at Columbia University, in May 1975. Living a comfortable life in Beit Yitzhak, or the “B”, a communal house for Jewish students, seemed boring to Ben. He was ready to find some excitement, and hopefully an attractive girlfriend. The title of Part One, “Whatever a Man Soweth….,” lays the groundwork for the fascinating novel, Stainer: A Novel of the ‘Me' Decade, written by Iolanthe Woulff. That evening, Ben met the girl of his dreams, Rebecca Glaser. But, his acquaintance with P.T. Deighland, a student from Princeton, was the beginning of Ben living out the Me Decade. When Becky left for a summer in Israel, Ben explored the wilder life. Deighland was cool, mocking traditional beliefs and Ben’s life; he offered Ben seemingly exciting adventures, including drugs and crazy parties. He also introduced him to a beautiful model named Anthea Montague. It was quite a summer, and his relationship with Becky is challenged when she returns.
The author is an excellent storyteller and has crafted an easy-to-read novel. The reader is uncertain until the last pages as to how Ben will manage the two divergent lifestyles. The way Ms. Woulff captured the decade of the 1970s, through descriptions of fashion, speech, and other details, is amazing. Anyone who lived during that era (especially as a college student or young adult) will be reminded of things they may have forgotten. Also, the characters are realistic and the dialogue is authentic. Author Iolanthe Woulff has written a wonderful book in Stainer: A Novel of the ‘Me' Decade. This is truly a gem!