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Venus Envy [Mass Market Paperback]

Rita Mae Brown
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1994
At thirty-five, Mary Frazier Armstrong, called "Frazier" by friends and enemies alike, is a sophisticated woman with a thriving art gallery, a healthy bank balance, and an enviable social position.  In fact, she has everything to live for, but she's lying in a hospital bed with a morphine drip in her arm and a life expectancy measured in hours.  "Don't die a stranger," her assistant says on her last hospital visit.  "Tell the people you love who you are."  And so, as her last act on earth, Frazier writes letters to her closest family and friends, telling them exactly what she thinks of them and, since she will be dead by the time they receive the letters, the truth about herself: she's gay.

The letters are sent.  Then the manure hits the fan in Charlottesville, Virginia, because the funny thing is, Frazier Armstrong isn't going to die after all.

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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good premise can't carry the whole novel Oct. 24 2001
By A Customer
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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1.0 out of 5 stars Expectations are prearranged resentments June 12 2000
By A Customer
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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1.0 out of 5 stars a premise that holds promise lost in bad writing Aug. 29 2000
By A Customer
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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4.0 out of 5 stars College Prep Review: Venus Envy Jan. 10 2002
By A.B.
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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1.0 out of 5 stars Nothing to Envy Feb. 25 2004
By A Customer
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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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A Big Disappointment
This book in not anywhere near Ms Brown's usual standards. Lacklustre story based on an unbelievable premise. Too bad!
Published on July 8 2004 by m-lee
1.0 out of 5 stars Unpleasantly preachy
A novel like this needs a light touch. Instead, Brown gives us a fantasy sex scene after which the lovers lie in each other's arms discussing Reagan-Bush AIDS policy & the... Read more
Published on Aug. 24 2003 by Isabeau
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure "Envy"
I thoughly enjoyed this book about a women who decides to comes out to her friends ands family when she is mistakenly diagonsed as dying. Read more
Published on June 22 2002 by Michael S. Waren
2.0 out of 5 stars What promise this story had!
When I started reading this book, I thought, Good ol' Rita Mae has out-done herself this time--it was the funniest, cleverist beginning of a book I have ever read--but I would rate... Read more
Published on Nov. 8 2000 by Starr
1.0 out of 5 stars ick, ick ick!
This book is absolutely one of the worst I have ever read. Brown may be one of the most talented authors in America, but I'm sure as heck not liable to read anything else she's... Read more
Published on July 13 2000
1.0 out of 5 stars Poorly Written Drivel
This was a "book of the month" for my book club, and what a snooze. The theme of the book--authenticity of self--is well-worth exploring in our phony society. Read more
Published on May 29 2000 by S. Winter
3.0 out of 5 stars Lost story line
I read the description of the book so I was not surprised at the content, and true to MS. Brown's writing, she captures you with her characters. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2000 by "ccwaylan"
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointment
I have read a number of the author's books and enjoyed them all which is why I chose to read Venus Envy. I was very disappointed in this book. Read more
Published on Dec 14 1999
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