by Julie HaleJune 2008
Paperback picks for reading groups
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict
This charming debut novel features Courtney Stone, a 30-something career woman in Los Angeles who's struggling to get over a bad breakup with her fiancé. An avid reader, Courtney seeks solace in literature—specifically, the novels of Jane Austen. After a night of reading her favorite author, Courtney wakes up to find that she's gone backwards in time, to the England Austen chronicled in her books. In this new 19th-century world, Courtney takes on the identity of an upper-crust young woman named Jane Mansfield. With no explanation as to how or why she's been transported, Courtney is forced to get her bearings in a society ruled by strict customs and populated with strangers. Her new mother is anxious to see her engaged to a dashing man named Mr. Edgeworth, while her liberal-minded father encourages her to be independent. Miss Barnes, her servant, helps her handle troublesome matters, including questions of fashion and codes of behavior. Thanks to multiple readings of Pride and Prejudice, Courtney is somewhat prepared to handle these and other difficulties. But nothing can ready her for the tough decisions that lie ahead as she becomes acclimated to her strange new existence. Rigler writes skillfully about two very different eras, bringing both to convincing life. This is a page-turner of a novel composed with remarkable assurance by a promising new author.
A reading group guide is available at us.penguingroup.com.
Letter from Point Clear
This new novel from one of the leading voices in contemporary fiction is a tense family drama with more than a few unexpected twists. Siblings Ellen and Morris Owen are comfortably settled in New England when they learn about the recent wedding of their reckless younger sister, Bonnie. A former drug user and would-be actress, Bonnie has married an unlikely candidate: a minister named Pastor Vandorpe. Bonnie and Pastor have settled in Alabama, taking over the Owen family mansion on the coast. Concerned about Bonnie because of her troubled past, Morris and Ellen pay a call on the newlyweds only to discover that their sister is stable, content and very pregnant. As it turns out, Bonnie's husband is the one who stirs up trouble. When he discovers that his brother-in-law is gay - a fact that Bonnie hasn't yet shared with him - Pastor takes it upon himself to try and reform Morris, a mission that has a near-disastrous effect upon his new marriage. Characterized by carefully sculpted sentences and pitch-perfect dialogue, this vivid portrait of a family with Southern roots struggling to come to terms with itself is a complex, rewarding work. Author of the acclaimed novels The Music Room and Singing Boy, McFarland is a skilled novelist who deserves a wide readership.
A reading group guide is available online at picadorusa.com.
I Feel Bad About My Neck
This incisive collection of essays from Ephron, an acclaimed screenwriter and novelist (When Harry Met Sally; Heartburn), was a national bestseller in hardcover and a hit with critics. Showcasing the razor-sharp wit and stylish prose that have earned Ephron a wide following, these 15 wonderfully readable pieces are filled with priceless nuggets of wisdom about the nature of womanhood, the difficulties of aging and the complexities of romantic relationships. In "Moving On," the author's attachment to a very special apartment in New York City is documented with affection, regret and a good deal of hard-earned wisdom about the Big Apple's real estate market. In "What I Wish I'd Known," Ephron offers advice about everything from fashion to psychoanalysis, writing with an eye for the revealing detail and a refreshing sense of the absurd. In other essays she turns her attention to subjects like literature, cooking, politics, and female beauty. Ephron's personal anecdotes are characterized by her own brand of humor, yet there's no denying that some of these pieces find her in a pensive mood. Now in her 60s, she's taking stock of a full and eventful life, and doing so, as these essays reveal, has aroused mixed emotions. Overall, this is a lively collection that readers of a certain age will welcome.
A reading group guide is available in print and online at readinggroupcenter.com.