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VENUS ENVY Hardcover – Apr 1 1993


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1st Edition edition (April 1 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553091999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553091991
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 816 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,729,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The risible title is arguably the best thing about Brown's latest comic novel, the tale of a woman who unwittingly comes out of the closet in midlife when she is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Under the impression that she is on her deathbed, wealthy North Carolina art dealer Mary Frazier Armstrong mails a series of brutally candid letters to her kith and kin, only to discover that she isn't dying after all. Brown delivers some nicely sketched southern characters: Mary Frazier's imperious mother, Libby, whose long-simmering anger has poisoned her daughter's life; her sensitive brother, Carter, an alcoholic redneck whose lifelong self-destructiveness is partly a response to Mary Frazier's success; her closeted lover, Ann, who is made uncomfortable by their claustrophobic secret life; and her dazzlingly outrageous gay friend Billy Cicero. But this gallery of character sketches cannot save the story from predictability and a deeply unconvincing resolution. Arch dialogue, lack of plot and an overall inattentiveness to nuance are the distinguishing features here. Fans of Brown's previous books ( Bingo ; Rest in Pieces ) may enjoy this story, but first-time readers are bound to be disappointed.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

More frothy fun from the queen of southern sexual farce--this featuring a former debutante who comes out of the closet in gossipy, backstabbing Virginia. ``Dying's not so bad. At least I won't have to answer the telephone,'' remarks 35-year-old Mary Frazier Armstrong, who's lying in the hospital with a terminal case of lung cancer. A stressed-out art-gallery owner with brilliant business instincts and drop-dead looks, the well-born Virginian cares more about dying than she'll admit to others and--on what she believes to be her final night--scribbles half a dozen heartfelt messages to her nearest and, in some cases, dearest. The next morning Frazier learns that her diagnosis resulted from a computer error and that she suffers only from bronchitis--but the letters, in which she finally informed her loved ones that she was gay--have already gone to the post office and can't be retrieved. Happy to be alive but dreading the nasty backlash sure to come, Frazier has no choice but to brace herself for the catty remarks, social snubs, tears, and general lambasting that inevitably do come her way. Only Frazier's eccentric aunt, her stoic father, her loyal assistant, a bisexual friend, and, when not in his cups, her layabout brother stand up for Frazier while society's vultures circle to rip her to shreds. But Frazier's a survivor--and when the pressure grows too great, she simply escapes via a fantasy visit into a painting of Mount Olympus, to sport with the ancient, wiser goddesses and gods. Brown's story drapes thinly across a tiresome string of platitudes (``You are as sick as you are secret,'' ``Normal is the average of deviance,'' ``Death is like a punctuation mark, a period at the end of a sentence,'' etc.), but her sexual frankness and flippant humor are as refreshing as always. (First printing of 75,000) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By A Customer on Oct. 24 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the third Rita Mae Brown book I've read. I loved the first two (Rita Will, Sudden Death). The premise in this novel is hilarious, and about the first third of the book does not disappoint. I'll admit, I could not put it down, but after the first third, it seemed to lose some steam. In other words, the great premise doesn't carry the whole novel. It may have been better as a short story. Anyway, all we're left with when the premise poops out are very one-dimensional characters who are either lovable 100% tolerant saints, or 100% prejudiced, narrow-minded bigots whom you can't choose but to hate. No character falls in between. A few of the plot lines ended up very unrealistic, at least to me. Unlike some of these other reviews, I absolutely loved the sequence in the painting, but I wouldn't have ended the book with it either. The problem is, by the time you get to the painting sequence, the plot has pretty much fallen apart anyway into either the mundane or the wholly unreal. Don't get me wrong, it is an interesting read and the author's humor stays with you throughout, but once the premise wears off, the novel falls apart a little.
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By A Customer on June 12 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Upon finding this "liberal" novel in my conservative, college library, I was quite interested to read the author's views about homosexuality in southern aristocratic culture. The beginning of the story grabbed my attention with Frazier's near-death experience and her subsequent "outing" to her friends and family. However, by the second half of the book I was wondering if the author had a point to make, or even a plot. The conclusion of the novel was highly disappointing because the author forgot about the minimal plot she had developed and proceeded to display highly controversial political messages in the form of Frazier's interactions with greek mythological characters. All in all, Rita Mae Brown could have spent more time on character and plot development, and less time on the southern scenery she so loves to describe. If you are expecting to read an interesting and open-minded novel, chose something else, or you'll resent the time wasted.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Rita Mae Brown is fantastic at creating a well-round up character - in this story it is Frazier. A woman of 35 years who takes a down-to-earth approach of life after discovering that she does not have to die afterall. Frazier, now, evaluates life and her relationships in a different light and discovers who her true friends are after the whole town is talking about her being gay. The novel is very inspiring to the extent of what one chooses to talk about in his/her final moments. It invites you to be true to yourself and to your community. Overall, the book is hard to put down - a lot of laughing throughout the entire story. I read it within a day since I could not stop. Weird ending, however, that is why I did not give it a 5-star rating. After having spent two years in Charlottesville, VA myself this book was a small journey back to this beautiful small town in Central Virginia.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I read what this book was about, I thought it sounded interesting - what would we do if we thought we weren't going to live. However, I found the interesting idea was way overshadowed dull characters and writing. The characters are either goody/goody or someone absolutely hateful - very one-dimensional and totally unrealistic. As for style of writing, I felt like the book was written for pre-teenagers - very, very simplistic, although the subject matter certainly is adult. The ending read like some kind of inane dream that the author had one night, embellished with some kind of misdirected how-can-i-make-this-seem-spiritual mythology which seemed to me to be just asinine. I was bored from the beginning but kept reading, hoping it would pick up. Alas, it never did - I was embarrased for the author.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Venus Envy was an enjoyeble book that got my attention and kept it the entire way through. The relationships between the main character, Frazier, and her family and friends, were developed so well that you were screeming at the book when her mother would call, and wishing that you had a friend like Mandy, her best friend.
Through her characters Brown shows a very realistic view of the pressures homosexual women feel. In her impressive character developement of Frazier she shows the fears an American woman may have of coming out. Such as being feared by parents and losing money in her business.
Over all Venus Envy was a well written book that showed true friends are the ones who accept you for who you are. I would recommend reading this book. And I look forward to rading more of Brown's books.
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By A Customer on Feb. 25 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After searching for months for a lesbian novel told in the third person, i was really excited to find Venus Envy. I am currently on chapter 22 and I think i'll stop here. I didn't like hte beginning, I haven't liked the progression into the middle and after reading these reviews, I think i'll jsut skip the end. I read Brown's Ruby Fruit Jungle and i had really loved it. Despite some far-fetched plot points, I was able to suspend my belief and give her the benefit of the doubt, but this one.. it just doesn't work. I blame the dialogue. It's really awful. But not that the rest of it is helping much. It feels as if the author let the plot dictate the novel and not the characters and that just makes for bad writing. I'd go for other Brown books, but just not this one.
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