Literary Criticism and Significance
Stiltsville is written by Susanna Daniel, and it is her first novel. Published in 2010, it received warm praise and accolades for its quality writing, especially for a first attempt by an author. Daniel shows a remarkable talent for detail, cohesive prose and an epic framework. Her undertaking was massive; covering a family's life for over thirty years, including all of the local history and landscapes was an impressive feat.
The novel's most highly praised strength was its focus on the powerful love that can bind two people together over decades. Whereas many other novels focus on the intense, passionate, romantic adventure that love stories typically highlight, this story instead showcases more realistic characters living life as it is, whose love ties them together throughout all of love's hardships. Critics praised this approach as "authentic and true," as showing "tremendous maturity," "keen insight," and as an "exquisitely written homage to love in an enduring marriage."
In addition to the realistic focus on marriage and love, Daniel's detailed descriptions of life in Miami drew attention from critics. Florida itself became a character, one who is the "true star of Daniel's" novel, with a personality as "real and vivid" as the people in the novel itself. Also of note was the quiet, calm prose that gave the novel a tone of maturity and elegance. Its first-person perspective allows for a consistent voice that relays the events; Frances's "pensive, sharp perspective" is a perfect one to describe the details of her life in Florida with her family.
Though many people find the story touching and the characters interesting, there were criticisms that the novel as a whole was lacking conflict and an intriguing plotline. Its focus on the ordinary, some found, was tedious and dull, like reading an uneventful "journal entry." They felt it meanders slowly and dully through ordinary life; while this was praised by some critics as realistic and mature, others found it to be a disappointment, and even lacking in purpose.
Stiltsville is a good read for those seeking to find a calm, uplifting, and motivating story that highlights the power of lasting love, the difficult journey through terminal illness, and the complicated yet beautiful nature of families. Its strength is in its focus on real life, and how the lives we lead, though not action-packed and filled with drama, are still elegantly beautiful and fulfilling.