Thursday, April 22, 2010

Was there a kayak in Sense and Sensibility?

The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel
by Cathleen Schine

Cathleen Schine's ridiculously delightful new novel is a contemporary take on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Here, the unmarried daughters are middle-aged, New York Jewesses--children of divorce--exiled with their elderly mother to Westport, Connecticut. They've been taken in by wealthy, generous Cousin Lou, who treats absolutely everybody "Like family!" in the revolving door of his hospitality.

I feel no need to summarize the plot further, for a tremendous amount of the pleasure is in seeing how Schine "contemporizes" the tale. Rather than detract from the story, a basic familiarity with Austen's classic adds immeasurably to the read. Yes, you'll have a pretty good idea of where the story is going, but you'll have so much fun with the infinite cleverness of Schine's update. And don't put it past her to throw an occasional curveball.

I suspect The Three Weissmans of Westport is an homage of which any Janeite would heartily approve. It's done with such affection. And even if you're completely disinterested in the original, I don't see how any reader could keep a straight face through this laugh-out-loud satire!
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