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Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing Paperback – May 25, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

Jane Rosenal, the narrator of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, is wise beyond her years. Not that that's saying much--since none of her elders, with the exception of her father, is particularly wise. At the age of 14, Jane watches her brother and his new girlfriend, searching for clues for how to fall in love, but by the end of the summer she's trying to figure out how not to fail in love. At twice that age, Jane quickly internalizes How to Meet and Marry Mr. Right, even though that retro manual is ruining her chances at happiness. In the intervening years, Melissa Bank's heroine struggles at love and work. The former often seems indistinguishable from the latter, and her experiences in book publishing inspire little in the way of affection. As Jane announces in "The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine": "I'd been a rising star at H----- until Mimi Howlett, the new executive editor, decided I was just the lights of an airplane."

Bank's first collection has a beautiful, true arc, and all the sophistication and control her heroine could ever desire. In "The Floating House," Jane and her boyfriend, Jamie, visit his ex-girlfriend in St. Croix, and right from the start she can't stop mimicking her beautiful competitor, in a notably idiotic fashion. "I'm like one of those animals that imitates its predators to survive," she realizes--one of several thousand of Bank's ruefully funny phrases. But even as Jane clowns around, desperately trying to keep up appearances, she is so hyperaware it hurts. Again and again, the author explores the dichotomy between life as it happens and the rehearsed anecdote, the preferred outcome. In The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, even suburban quiet has "nothing to do with peace." Bank's much-anticipated debut merits all its buzz and, more to the point, transcends it. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This is one of those rare occasions when a highly touted book fulfills the excitement and the major money (in this case, $275,000) surrounding its acquisition. Reading her debut collection of seven tightly interlinked stories featuring (with one exception) heroine Jane Rosenal, one marvels at Bank's assured control of her material, her witty, distinctive voice and her ability to find comedy, pathos and drama in ordinary lives without resorting to the twin crutches of dysfunctional families and sexual abuse that seem to prop up much current fiction. Jane is notable above all for her smart, irreverent sense of humor, evidenced in a typical teenager's mocking attitude when we first meet her at age 14, and irrepressibly sardonic and self-deprecating as she gets older, enters and leaves relationships and progressively doubts her ability to inspire or recognize romantic love. From girlhood, Jane is bewildered by the nuances of adult behavior, which seems like a secret code evident to everyone but her: "I should know this already" is her recurrent lament. She looks for insights everywhere: in her fickle brother's succession of girlfriends, in her parents' affectionate (but, as it turns out, secretive) marital bond, in the attractions between other couples. From her childhood in a Philadelphia suburb and the Jersey shore to her adult life in Manhattan (with visits to St. Croix and upstate New York), she is always testing the limits of her understanding and tending to doubt her perceptions. Though Jane is quick with a quip, she's sensitive and vulnerable, and when she finds herself falling for a handsome editor 28 years her senior, she knows she is out of her depth. Eventually, we follow Jane through several failed love affairs; career crises in publishing (a chapter about a viperish female editor is a gem) and advertising; the wrenching deaths of loved ones; and increasing fears that she'll never learn to play the mating game. By the time readers reach the final, title story, they'll be so firmly attached to self-doubting Jane that they'll track her misguided seduction of Mr. Right with drawn breath. "Beautiful and funny and sad and true" (to quote Jane), this book is also phenomenally good. Agent, Molly Friedrich at Aaron Priest. First serial to Cosmopolitan and Zoetrope; BOMC and QPB alternates; Penguin audio; author tour; foreign rights sold in the U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Holland, Norway and Denmark. (June) FYI: Bank is writing the screenplay of this book for Francis Ford Coppola and Zoetrope studios.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, Limited (UK); New Ed edition (May 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140278826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140278828
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (651 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,832,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

176 of 187 people found the following review helpful By Joni C. Lawrence on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
I decided to write a review of this book last night when I finished it because everyone should be privy to such a warm laugh-out-loud book such as this one. I was surprised to see the number of bad reviews! I was sure the Girl's Guide would have received an across the board 5 stars! Then I read the bad ones. Ok, first of all - this book is actually a collection of short stories. The author never intended for it to be perceived as a single themed novel. Second - interchanging first person/third person is perfectly acceptable for a collection of short stories AND gives them texture. Third - the protagonist, Jane, is not the author. Finally - she (Jane) is absolutely hilarious! Therefore, so is the author (Melissa Bank.)
This book deals with the all too familiar issues of coming of age as a woman in an increasingly complicated world. It deals with family issues, relationship issues, breast cancer, career, friends etc. The book is simultaneously thought provoking and highly readable. At first it seems like a Bridget Jones style light read. When you re-visit the stories about Jane, you realize how much deeper they go into the complexities of balancing all facets of life - family with relationships with jobs and how each facet is intertwined. I also enjoyed the fact that Jane's inner voice is part of her character -the inner voice in all of us that we either stifle or listen to. Part of growing up is learning to listen to that voice, and that's what Jane does. READ IT! You won't regret it. Hopefully when you finish it, like me you'll feel an overwhelming sadness that it's over.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Generally I'm not a fan of short stories because, all too often, favored stories end too quickly and boring, congested ones go on too long. You strike up a relationship with a character, only to find that the last date is just a few pages away.
Melissa Bank solves this problem (as have others) by writing intertwined short stories about the same character: The likeable, funny, and insecure Jane Rosenal. Her relationships with men (and other elusive goals) are the core of this humorous, easy-reading book. It's neither pre- nor post-feminist, just a recognizable woman facing the complexities of love and work.
The first story is one of the best: Told from the teenage Rosenal's view, it shows her vicariously experiencing her brother's relationship and break-up with Julia, an upper class, sensitive college student. Bank tells this story with the humor and perception of a J.D. Salinger (but without the Zen undertones). Two of the seven stories deal with Rosenal's relationship with a famous, older, somewhat unconventional editor. Bank is even-handed, as Archie alternates between mentor and monster, self-centered protector and sympathetic victim. He's a concerned, loving partner, but also a publicity conscious show-off, telling stories about Jane as if she were in one of his books. Interwoven with this story is an emotional and very effective look at Jane's parents.
The sixth story is a series of vignettes told in a combination of the third ("In post-op, he will tell you he is honored you threw up on him.") and second person ("You see yourself through his eyes, as THE GENERIC WOMAN, the skirted symbol on the ladies' room door"). Here, Banks writes with a faux-tough style that recalls Liz Phair: "Everywhere you go, you see women more beautiful than yourself.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I am not a Harvard graduate nor am I a soap opera fanatic. I am left wondering if the people who hated this book could not see past the use of simple words. To me, the thoughts and ideas put forward by Melissa Banks were effectively understated. Rather than being bombarded by overly descriptive prose, I was powerfully affected by the use of direct and succinct language. This conveyed to me the message that some situations in life are so profound, so comical, so unique, that just stating them as they are is enough. Flowery language and overly clever manipulation of words can often make the reader feel like the author doesn't have anything very interesting to say. Simple writing does not equal simple minds, and it is very narrow minded and unimaginative to see it as so. Living in London, I managed to avoid the "hype" that has been so lamented in other reviews. I picked up this book because the cover looked appealing, and once I started reading it, I was intrigued. I admit that at first I thought it would be a light read, but I quickly discovered that this book also dealt with life issues that seem mundane but are often very telling. Again, I am not a literary genius, but as an avid book reader, I do recommend this book.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Just finished the "Girl's Guide..." last night. I can honestly say it was one of the best books I've recently read. I was impressed that the seven short stories all featured the same central character (with one notable exception). I'm trying to figure out how anyone could finish the book and NOT identify with Jane. I finished it and kept hoping I would find more pages to continue with. Even despite the inserted story which does not feature Jane, (which is in no way a bad story, although I agree with complants as to it's incongruity) the rest of the book is skillfully written. From a teenager, un-sure of her self and frightened by her brother's failure in love, to a twenty-something woman in a relationship with a man twice her age, to the Jane at the end of the last story, the reader witnesses her transformation and maturation every step of the way. I would say that only the truly cynical reader would not identify or care about the central character and complaints about one incongruous story do not do justice to the other 220 pages of the book which are head and shoulders above the rest of the literary world. 5 instant classic.
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