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Perfect Reader: A Novel Paperback – July 12, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307474801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307474803
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,452,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This imaginative debut takes a profound look at the connection between words on the page and the infinite interpretations for a reader. For heroine Flora Dempsey, the father-daughter bond is a further complication. Flora moves back to her picturesque New England hometown after the death of her father, former president of the town's local college, where she discovers that her inheritance includes the role of literary executor. Lewis Dempsey, an academic writer, has left behind a manuscript of erotic poems written to Cynthia, his lover, whose existence is a surprise to Flora. Cynthia, meanwhile, attempts to become part of Flora's life, wanting friendship—and publication of the poems. Overwhelmed, Flora navigates her father's poetry, retreats into her memories of childhood and her parents' divorce, and poignantly contemplates the acts of reading and writing. Pouncey has skillfully created a portrait of smalltown academia, where the relationships between reader and text are just as elusive and complex as the relationships between father and daughter, husband and wife, or between two lovers. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Flora, a twentysomething magazine editor, enjoys her visits with her long-divorced, revered literary critic, former college president father, but she has never bothered to read the book that made him famous, Reader as Understander, or the new, unpublished poems he’s entrusted her with. When he dies unexpectedly, Flora is stunned to find herself designated as his literary executor. In a miasma of regret and grief, she quits her job and returns to her stifling New England hometown, Darwin, much to her irascible mother’s dismay. There Flora discovers that her father’s poems were inspired by his love for an art historian fond of flowers and bright colors who is anxious to see the lyrics in print. Flora––testy, rude, “wolfish,” and terribly lonely—enrages everyone as she struggles to understand all that she’s lost and found. Although poorly paced, Pouncey’s first novel is nonetheless sparkling, shrewd, and at times hilarious in its parsing of family dynamics, academic competition, the solace of literature, the aggression of the blogosphere, and what it truly means to be a “perfect reader” and a generous soul. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Pasiphae on April 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Perfect Reader is a novel of character, in the sense of well-drawn characters and in the sense of doing "right." This is the story of the educated elite who trumpet their concern over recycling, pet ownership and local wildlife, while remaining blind to the concerns of financially desperate working class people who live twenty miles away. My guess is that you would have to find their concerns (literary criticism, literary research, lectures, faculty jostling) interesting to find this book interesting.

I thought this book was beautiful and merciless and sad, like the main character, Flora Dempsey. Flora is educated, financially comfortable, undeniable privileged and profoundly unhappy. Her parents' divorce, a childhood accident, a lack of talent equal to her father's; whatever the source, the author has carefully presented just how miserable this young woman is, and how mean that makes her. She returns to the fictional town and college of Darwin to sort out her father's home and papers after his death. He's a respected critic and who was at one time president of Darwin college. He's respected enough that Harold Bloom is at his funeral, which sets off a small cascade of referential in-jokes at Bloom's expense. My point is, either you'll gobble that up or you'll roll your eyes. I laughed.

One of the burdens of intellectualism the way it can strip away the comforts and consolations available to people who don't study everything to death--hobbies, service to others, honest physical labor. Flora tries to take a class, walk the dog, make the best of her freedom from work, but she suffers from that profound disaffection of sitting smack in the middle of her WASP privilege while feeling alienated from all the other people sitting alongside her.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on May 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a very well written and intelligent new novel. The basic plot concerns Flora, a not very happy woman in her late 20's, who leaves her job at a New York City magazine to come home to a small New England college town in order to settle the estate of her recently deceased father. Her father was a prominent academic specializing in the poets Larkin and Hardy and also the former president of a prestigious college which sounds a lot like Amherst (complete with the museum/home of a poet who shares several characteristics of Emily Dickinson) even though the author chooses to call town and college Darwin. Flora soon finds she has not just inherited her father's house and money but also some unpublished poems of which he wished her to be the literary executor. Although she at times wishes he had left this duty to someone else she also learns a lot about her childhood, her parents and her adult self along the way.

The novel is seamlessly written and seems so genuine I have to believe some of it is autobiographical. Author Pouncey presents characters that are well rounded, consistent and memorable. Her portrayal of the elite college town of Darwin and its rather self absorbed inhabitants is one of the best parts of the book. And though Flora can be an annoying character she is always an interesting one. Though a relatively short book it is not a quick read but one the reader wants to take time to savor. PERFECT READER will be a favorite of many thinking, literature loving, book lovers.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Reader on May 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Columbia University can be proud of their MFA graduate and a new writer Maggie Pouncey. Her first published book is a true literary feast. Readers who appreciate fine words and a quick wit will love her book about a young woman, not yet thirty, whose father suddenly dies of heart failure. Her father is academic, living in a small college town. He was also college's former President well known to most residents of the town. Her parents are divorced and although divorce took place almost two decades ago, our heroine seemingly never got over it.

Book goes back and forth between main character's childhood and her adulthood. She has a task to reconcile her feelings for her parents and also make peace with her past. Her father's inheritance: large house, a dog, a lover she did not know existed and non-published work of poems are not making her grieving process easiers. After all, the love poems are not dedicated to her mother but rather to a woman she barely knows.

I enjoyed this fine read and I am looking forward to Ms. Poncey's future works. She has a fine mind and a way with words. This is a bright new star in a literary world that was long overdue.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. Quinn on April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book more than I ultimately did. The writing was intelligent and nuanced, and the storyline, centered as it was around books and reading, was a strong draw. Unfortunately, I found a lot of promise that was never really fulfilled, making for a frustrating read in the end. I never felt emotionally invested in the characters or their lives; for a book with so few personalities, none of them were particularly well-developed except for Flora, and I found her hard to like. The glimpses of Flora's childhood were the most emotionally compelling portion of the narrative, and came too infrequently for my taste.

In the end, I found myself unable to make a connection to these characters. Though the writing was strong, the sense of detachment made it possible to walk away from the book without a qualm to do chores or run errands. When I came to the end, I was neither glad to be done nor sad to be finished- I didn't have a viceral enough reaction to the book to care one way or the other.
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