The Three Weissmanns of Westport Paperback – Large Print, Feb 1 2011
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Like Jane Austen's original this sparkly, highly readable re-framing has interiors, wicked stepmothers, lashings of escapism and a heartfelt portrait of sisterhood, daughterhood and motherhood that will strike a chord with women everywhere. -- The Times A deliberate homage to Jane Austen succeeds in being intelligent and beguiling. Sunday Times And off races the sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious and deeply affecting new novel by Cathleen Schine, her best yet, The Three Weissmanns of Westport ... Schine's homage [to Jane Austen] has it all: stinging social satire, mordant wit, delicate charm, lilting language and cosseting materialistic detail New York Times Book Review Schine's real wit playfully probes the lies, self-deceptions, and honorable hearts of her characters. New Yorker Schine has been favored in so many ways by the muse of comedy ... The Three Weissmanns of Westport is full of invention, wit, and wisdom. New York Review of Books Swap genteel nineteenth-century England for upscale contemporary Connecticut, add two sisters-one impulsive, one practical-and stir with lively doses of romance, domestic discord, sudden setbacks, and sublime surprises, and you get Cathleen Schine's homage to Jane Austen. Elle No Cathleen Schine book is without wit and sharply observed moments. The Wall Street Journal Witty, lively, lovely Bookseller --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Cathleen Schine is the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, To the Birdhouse, The New Yorkers, and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review. She grew up in Westport, Connecticut, and lives in New York City and Venice, California. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
But Cathleen Schine probably shouldn't have tried to echo Austen. Her book, "The Three Weissmans of Westport" is a good read. Not a great read, but a good read. The characters are interesting and the plot's fine, BUT Schine boxes herself into a corner by having to make the characters and plot echo - in loose terms - Austen's.
The minute a writer tries to take-off another writer she opens herself up to justifiable criticism.
The surprising thing about Schine's book was its front page review on the NYT's Sunday Book Section. Normally this spot is reserved for an "important" book. Something usually deadly dull, but "important" all the same. Schine's book does not deserve this spot and I think almost places her in a position where anything less than perfection is disappointing to the reader, who's expecting more from the book.
Anyway, the book's a good read. Almost better to wait for the trade-paper edition, though.
I'm just left shaking my head, puffing out my lips that I'm finally finished and thinking it was even more difficult to read, in part, due to my yawning! Sorry, in good conscience, I just could not give this one a good review.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
All in all, whether you do or don't want to compare the book to Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" [as the very positive front-page review in The New York Times Book Review did], this is a book that you'll enjoy and tell your friends to read.
What I love about THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT is that you can read and enjoy its wit, charm, and humor without making any Jane Austen parallels whatsoever--yet, if you're a JA fan, you note each one with admiration and a frisson of recognition.
The story isn't the oldest one in the world, but it is certainly a familiar one in 2010--a man trades in his wife of many years for one much younger, in part as an attempt to stave off mortality. When Joseph Weissman leaves Betty, his wife of almost 50 years, she goes through a panoply of responses to the loss. His step-daughters (whom he considers his daughters) are equally emotionally savaged, even though both are well into adulthood. When the three wounded Weissmanns move into a Westport "cottage" together, they do so primarily for financial reasons. Yet they discover that the move allows them to move forward into entirely different (and for the most part, more positive) lives.
I don't want to give too much of the plot away--or the parallels to SENSE AND SENSIBILITY that are perfectly modernized. The Marianne and Eleanor roles are inhabited by people we've known or observed in today's world, yet true to Austen's vision of the sense/sensibility sisters. Betty is cannier and more central to the novel than the original Mrs. Dashwood, though just as improvident financially. The narrator/author is a wise, observant and entertaining observer of a rather large bit of ivory. Of course no one can compare to Jane Austen--the thought of such a thing is too ludicrous to countenance. But this is a worthwhile novel for Austen fans and modern fiction fans alike.
I was intrigued and baffled about why anyone would decide to end a marriage so late in life. Yes, there is another woman (no spoilers here, that info comes early on), a woman who is scheming and completely opposite from her name (Felicity). Even so, seemed shocking that she could compete with Joseph's wife, a woman who comes across as zany, fun, and far more appealing than Felicity. From my viewpoint, this made Joseph come off as somewhat dense, with no insight into Felicity's clearly manipulative moves.
Anyway, after the marriage ends, Betty departs for Westport with her two daughters, having the good fortune to have a relative who provides her with a cottage. While the thought of a cottage at first seems romantic and attractive to Betty, the structure turns out to be in need of serious repair.
This one definitely came across as a comedy of manners, making it clear why it has been compared to the works of Jane Austen. However, it definitely has a modern spin. Each character is illuminated in detail and I found Betty's daughters to be as intriguing as Betty herself. One daughter, Miranda, is a literary agent who trusted her instincts when it came to choosing authors - but, as it turns out, many of those authors made up their memoirs. Miranda lands on Oprah to defend herself (I couldn't help thinking of the whole mess involving James Frey, his book (A Million Little Pieces) and how he also appeared on Oprah with Nan Talese, trying to defend his own fictionalized memoir. In Miranda's case, however, she has several writers who have made up their memoirs. She is being sued. Her accounts have been frozen. This makes it very "convenient" (also known as having few other choices) for her to move in with her mother. She is even happy about the whole thing.
But the other daughter, Annie, is far less open to the whole idea. She loves her mother, though, so she goes along with it. This is when things take a stronger Jane Austin turn. Sure, there have been similar updates on the whole Austin genre or style but this one stands out. Even when I thought things were going to take a predictable spin, I'd be surprised. Events truly ramp up as the book reaches its conclusion. This is not a simplistic book, although I found it moved along at a rapid pace, but with the details that kept it from being too bland. It is the kind of book that begs to be read with a box of chocolates or fine cup of coffee or tea nearby. A glass of wine and comfy shawl or blanket would be the ideal additions for settling down for a nice afternoon of reading. But be forewarned- you won't want to come up for air, make dinner, or do anything but keep reading. So order takeout or have another family member handle the chores for the day. This one is definitely worth the time!
And yes...I ordered more of this writers' books. Reading this was like discovering a new friend, one who opened new worlds for me.
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