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English as a Second Language Paperback – August 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446692867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446692861
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,467,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Heads up, world: British university students drink a lot. That's the main conclusion reached by first-timer Crane in this novel about a 20-something American student forging new friendships, swilling lager, kissing boys and generally behaving as if a master's degree is the furthest thing from her mind. When a smug, repulsive ex-boyfriend tells paralegal Alex Brennan that she could never get into grad school in England, she promptly applies, gets accepted and hops onto a plane. She arrives at a small northern university to discover a hideous campus, dreary weather, a gorgeous yet unapproachable professor and a social life that revolves around drinking pints in the double digits and nursing the resulting hangovers. Housemates Cristina and Melanie aid in reconnaissance missions to spy on Sean the professorial hottie, and drinking buddies Toby and Jason hover in the background in various stages of inebriation. Jealous and paranoid fellow student Suzanne embroils Alex in competition over grades, men and anything else she can think of. Meanwhile, the papers are piling up, and Toby's starting to look sort of attractive. Crane, herself a former university student in England, gets points for energy and effort, but this is an awkward jumble of a book with a familiar "Just shut up and kiss me" conclusion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

After several postcollege years working as a legal assistant, Alex Brennan realizes she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life. Her solution is the perennially popular option of going to graduate school. She chooses Oxford because her ex-boyfriend tells her she won't be accepted. It turns out he was right, so she opts for a different university in the north of England and begins her master's studies in English. Alex settles in very quickly, making friends with her housemates and an enemy of another American student, a neurotic woman who likes to force intimacy by spilling her guts to anyone within earshot. Countless pints and late nights later, Alex eventually manages to get a degree and is forced to decide whether she wants her move to England to be a year-long adventure or the beginning of a new life. Debut novelist Crane keeps things very light in this breezy but accurate take on twentysomethings who thought adult life began after college but find that the transition can take a bit longer. Beth Leistensnider
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Megan Crane is a New Jersey native who had great plans to star on Broadway, preferably in Evita, just like Patti LuPone. Sadly, her inability to wow audiences with her singing voice required a back up plan. Accordingly, she graduated from Vassar College and got her MA and PhD in literature from the University of York in England. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on AIDS literature, mostly so she could wallow in her obsession with the remarkable multi-media artist David Wojnarowicz and her idol, the bitter and hilarious David Feinberg. After many years in the rain and subject to the whim of seasons, she followed the sun to Los Angeles, where she lives with a dog, a cat, two crazy kittens, and an artist named Jeff. She is still plotting her Broadway debut.

Customer Reviews

I laughed at loud while reading this book, and I never do that.
Mara Aiken
Caution though, if you expect too much in terms of plot and character arc, you won't find it so much here.
I really wanted to like this, but it was just tedious to get through.
Samantha W. Mckevitt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Richards HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Alex Brennan moves to the UK to read for a Masters degree in English, because firstly, she's bored in New York and secondly, she decides to defy an ex-boyfriend who said she couldn't do it. She can't get into Oxford, so she takes a loan from her father and sets off for another university, where she proceeds to drink and smoke herself into oblivion.

This novel is about that year of excess, and while it is entertaining in parts, and so very British in humor, you never get deep inside any of the unlikable characters, so you don't get a sense of why they're doing the things they do. Alex herself seems extremely immature for a 26 year old woman with prior work experience, and how she survived the year is anybody's guess.

This novel is about alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, casual relationships, stalkers, nutcases and immature behavior, and while it's easy to read, alcoholism in the UK seems to be the central theme.

Funny in places, but mostly shallow and bitter.

Amanda Richards, December 27, 2005
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By KatyaW on December 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
English as a Second Language is the perfect example of how a young person's life can change if they take a chance. The story focuses on Alex Brennan, a 26-year-old New York girl, who is sick of her dead-end job. This all changes when she decides to apply for a Master's degree program in England, mainly to prove to an ex-boyfriend that she can do it. When she is accepted, she realizes that this is her chance to get out of the rut she is stuck in and find her place in life.

The novel is a light read filled with witty and hilarious dialogue. Since the author, Megan Crane, spent five years in Britain studying at a university, her experiences portray British life and the challenges and stresses of being a student in a foreign country. "The day outside was rainy and cold. Welcome to England I thought. I was still exhausted and stranded in a foreign country, away from everyone I had ever known."(Pg3) The novel's British phrases and diverse characters keep the reader laughing out loud as well as intrigued.

Life can be confusing in your twenties and many people can relate to this. I loved this book because I could identify with Alex. We are both struggling to find our place in life and I have always wanted to study in England. Alex's journey is difficult. "But I didn't know where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do when I got there. I had dreams, but they were vague things with no real substance. My whole life was fill-in-the-blank."(Pg8) Never the less she learned that when she took a chance, her life did change and she found a place where she belonged. "I shoved my hands into my pockets and watched them-the fools and the drunks that God was supposed to watch over with special interest, the ones I knew so well in so many surprising ways.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By shan on June 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
I loved this book precisely because it wasn't about finding love. It was the story of Alex Brennan finding out who she was and what she wanted to do with her life. I loved Alex because her personality resonated with me...and because at 26 she's turned her life upside down and hauled her ass across the pond! Her humor and wit is amazing and I found myself unable to put this book down...laughing out loud so many times. I love the development of the friendship with Alex and two other dormmates...so many times I have sat around with my girls and bs'ed like that. I LOVED this book because it wasn't about finding love like other chick lit stories...it was about finding herself. And that is what made this book so incredibly satisfying. Oh, and the funny drunken happenings are pretty hilarious too!! :)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mara Aiken on August 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
I laughed at loud while reading this book, and I never do that. I mean never. Megan Crane's witty dialogue, sharp characters and smart story are fabulously entertaining from the first word to the last. And this book isn't just about a girl in some desperate search for a boyfriend as the answer to all of life's problems. It's about trying to find yourself and when you finally do (after much trial, tribulation and even embarassment) choosing the right people to share it with. I highly, highly recommend this book!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ChickLitGirl on December 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Ever wonder what it's like to go to grad school in the UK? Are you endlessly fascinated with the British and/or the UK in general? Whether you answered yes or no to either question, you will still enjoy this book.

Alexandra Brennan is the main heroine in the novel. She is living in New York City and generally bored in life. When her ex-boyfriend tells her she wouldn't be able to get into Grad School in the UK, she takes that as a challenge - and gets in. With a full-on caffeine addiction and a penchance for alcohol, Alexandra wastes no time in throwing herself into the British Grad-school life.

Things are interesting at the school, to say the least. A fellow student named Suzanne seems determined to make Alexandra miserable, as well as show her up in everything. Alexandra also develops a crush on her gorgeous, intelligent teacher and develops a hobby of peeking in his windows at night. Meanwhile there are her good friends Toby - a handsome playboy type that Alexandra tries to stay friends-only with, and the hilarious Jason. Not to mention a bevy of other interesting characters.

Megan Crane blends together a perfect mix of intriguing, intelligent characters, the ups and downs of grad school life, drunken nights out and a wickedly humorous plot. There are also some interesting cultural differences between the UK and America that she points out. The book is basically impossible to put down once you get into the third chapter or so.

Overall I found this book to be an awesome read, and recommend it highly to people who like an intelligent, hilarious, delightfully fun book.
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