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Interesting Women: Stories Paperback – April 8, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks (April 8, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812966848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812966848
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,176,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

It would be difficult to overstate the elegance of this story collection from Andrea Lee, who produces fiction and journalism for The New Yorker, among other venues. Lee's interesting women are usually Americans trying their luck in Europe; most of them are African American wives of the Italian elite. Because her subject matter is so rarified (the first story mentions cashmere two times in as many pages) and because her writing is so beautifully transparent, it seems at first that Lee is coasting on the glamour of her subject matter. Not so--these stories are every bit as well put together as the women who inhabit them. "Brothers and Sisters Around the World" is an unforgettable tale of a well-to-do black woman who vacations in Third World countries with her European husband: "on vacation we travel the world to get hotter and wilder." When the narrator impulsively slaps a teenage girl who's been flirting with her husband in a village near Madagascar, the balance of the whole island is upset, with surprising results. Lee limns race, class, and a peculiarly female ambitiousness while always keeping her language as deceptively simple and sharp as an Armani suit. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Although Lee has published one novel (Sarah Phillips) and one book of reportage (Russian Journal), she is best known for her frequently anthologized short stories infused with international glamour and a particular brand of American world-weariness. The 13 here are thematically unified, focusing on outsiders doubly estranged and often struggling to factor a sexual power play into the equation. The unnamed narrator of "Brothers and Sisters Around the World" is vacationing in the Caribbean with her young son and her Franco-Roman husband, who adores the tropics and assumes she does, too. "He doesn't seem to see that what gives strength to the spine of an American black woman... is a steely Protestant core... that in its absolutism is curiously cold and Nordic." Another American wife whose Milanese husband assumes she is traditional gives him a birthday present of an evening with two elegant and very young fancy women. The book takes its title from the musings of a woman vacationing in Thailand while her husband investigates mines in China. "Interesting women are we ever going to be free of them? I meet them everywhere these days, now that there is no longer such a thing as an interesting man." Reading Lee, you know you're in the presence of an author fully able to, as another narrator says, "picture an endless mazurka of former wives, husbands, lovers, children, and assorted hangers-on, not excepting au pairs, cleaning women and pets." The stories are full of tension sexual, material, racial. If they are less than perfectly realized, and if their glitter seems to fade from a distance, they still provide instant and sophisticated gratification. New York author appearances. (Apr. 16)Forecast: Lee's work is frequently published in the New Yorker and other high-profile venues, and readers already captivated by her cool, ironic voice will be this collection's chief audience.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By artemis on October 20, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read a wonderful review of this book in the New York Times, bought it and had it on my shelf when a good friend told me I HAD to read it. Once I started, I couldn't put it down! The stories are about everything I find relevant and interesting: relationships between men and women, and between women and women, the dynamics of race, and travel and life in other countries. Isn't this what life is about? Well it is for educated, mixed-race women who enjoy and appreciate travel and living overseas, and who are or were married.
I am looking forward to Andrea Lee's next book with eager anticipation!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is great! The writing is suburb--dense but not too "much" for before bed or vacation reading. Her female characters are so well drawn. They are smart, self aware but never self-indulgent and annoying and the tone is great and the themes--about women relating to women, to men, about class distinctions among blacks, etc--are fantastic. it departs from the Bridget Jones genre, taking more risks, is slightly more literary than the multitude of "female perspective" books out there right now, and more complicated. A total pleasure to read, i'm recommending it to everyone i talk to.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By John A. Lewis IV on July 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I think this book should be retitled "Some Moderately Interesting Women and Some Very Uninteresting Women All of Whom Fit a Personality Template." The author is clearly a worldly, sophisticated, and well-travelled women, but I think she assumes that a worldly person who runs with other worldly people in exotic locales is somehow inherently "interesting." Unfortunately, she mainly presents us with numerous examples of the "expat bore."
I think she has a tin ear for dialogue, yet she does a capable job of evoking a sense of place, and her most believable characters are the ones that I assume are largely autobiographical: the recently divorced and remarried expat American woman in Italy who is dealing with her children, her race, their new stepfather, and the echoes of her previously directionless, dissolute, yet financially comfortable life. The worst story is where the author attempts to render her pre-teen daughter in first person. The story sounds like a mother trying to imagine what her daughter thinks about, yet projects both her voice and her concerns upon the daughter. It's just awful. I was led to this collection of short stories by Lee's story in the New Yorker "The Prior's Room." In this story, Lee actually gives us an interesting woman, and the New Yorker story is far superior to anything in this collection. I recommend the New Yorker story, but not these stories.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By zugenia on August 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
The cover of my (European) edition of Lee's short stories is misleading. Between the gritty Vogue-ish photo of an elegantly dressed woman's back, the gold script font of the title, and the dominant blurb by Elle Magazine on the back, you'd think you were in for some classy chick lit. What you get instead are a series of expertly crafted, sophisticated literary gems. With precision, control, and deadpan wit, Lee sketches a series of female characters who find themselves at cultural crossroads: ex-patriots living in a new language, cosmopolitan professionals dating across racial lines, first-world citizens figuring out the terms of their status in the greater world, individuals making sense of their various, conflicting cultural legacies. There's not a single weak story in this collection. I particularly enjoyed "Brothers and Sisters Around the World" and "Anthropology."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
the book is great, just a little repetitive is all. Lee is an incredibly gifted, astute, dryly humorous writer who deals with complex topics like race, gender, sex and class with great subtley and style. The only problem is that all of her short stories employ nearly the exact same tone and narrative voice -- the same quietly observant female who makes sly little observations about all of the above-mentioned themes. After a while you start to long for a man's perspective or a variation in tone or style, just to mix things up a little. Nadine Gordimer does this with great skill -- hopefully Andrea Lee will evolve to become as dexterous as Gordimer is at portraying many different points of view. In any case, Lee is off to brilliant start!
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By A Customer on May 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I first discovered Lee when I read her brilliantly sly, sexy & astute short story "Brothers and Sisters Around the World" in the anthology of 2001 Best American Short Stories. So when I came across her own collection of short stories, intriguingly called Interesting Women, I immediately bought it.
I was a little disappointed to see that the tone in almost all of her stories was surprisingly repetitive. Almost every single story is told from the nearly identical point of view of an intelligent, observant and slightly judgemental woman. This quote from her story "Full Moon Over Milan" perfectly describes the character of that ever-present female narrator: "With family and lovers Merope learned early to defend her own behavior by adopting the role of ironic spectator, an over-perceptive little girl observing unsurprised the foibles of her elders."
Still, despite the fact that the narrator, the tone, and the themes (of sex, race, nationality and gender) are repeated over and over again, the stories are nevertheless incredibly compelling, thought-provoking and, ultimately, quite satisfying. With time, I hope to see Lee grow to be as skilled a writer as Nadine Gordimer, who explores many of the same themes in a slightly more varied way in her own quite brilliant stories.
In the meantime, I strongly recommend that people read Lee's Interesting Women to discover an equally brilliant writer in the making.
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