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The English American: A Novel Hardcover – March 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based on her semi-autobiographical one-woman show of the same title, Larkin's debut novel takes a comedic but heartfelt look at issues of identity, heredity and self-acceptance. Pippa Dunn—British, 28 and living with her sister in West London—loves her adoptive parents dearly, but has rarely felt at home with the primness and very British emotional restraint with which she was raised, as her funny, anxious narration demonstrates. When Pippa discovers that her birth mother, Billie, is an American (from Georgia, no less) she feels compelled to travel to the U.S. to meet the the sweet, understanding, empathetic ethereal mother she's always imagined. Not surprisingly, both Billie and Pippa's birth father, Walt, fail to live up to her imagined ideals. Although Larkin's premise leads to worthy reflections in Pippa's winning voice, awkward attempts to marry the birth-mother search to a conventional romantic comedy plot are less successful. Through a midbook e-mail exchange, we learn that Pippa met her soul mate, Nick (now a banker in Singapore), in a London park seven years before, but wasn't ready to feel love. Nick the banker-cum-painter is far too tortured and emotive to be believable, and the ensuing romantic revelations are predictable. Pippa, however, is a complex, compelling character—truly an amalgam of her heredity and her environment—and readers will root for her as she uncovers her roots and finds herself. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Despite loving her English mum and dad dearly, Pippa Dunn—adopted as an infant from America—never feels she fits into her family. Her fear of abandonment has her looking for the wrong men, in order to leave them before they leave her. At the age of 28, Pippa goes to America seeking her birth parents: beautiful, artistic Billie and her married lover, Walt, who gave up their daughter for the sake of their relationship. The first blush of parental love is intoxicating, with Pippa seeing her traits in others and feeling truly free to express herself. Then reality (Billie’s possessiveness, Walt’s evasiveness) sets in, and Pippa faces the issue of nature versus nurture. Pippa’s long-distance correspondent through all this is fellow adoptee Nick Devang, but her true source of support is right in front of her. A predictable romantic outcome is easily forgiven, given comedienne-actress-playwright Larkin’s vivid description of the obstacles facing adoptees who find their birth parents. Drawn from Larkin’s own life, this debut novel—like Pippa herself—is smart, funny, and utterly charming. --Michele Leber
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Simon & Schuster Hardcover Ed edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141655159X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416551591
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,545,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

ALISON LARKIN is the bestselling author of "The English American," a novel.

Springing from her hit one woman show, "The English American" is a compulsively readable autobiographical novel about an adopted English woman who finds her birth parents - and true love - in the United States.

A Vogue 'most powerful book of the season' and Redbook's 'Book Club pick of the month,' "The English American" is currently under development for a film adaptation.

"'The English American' is a funny, charming and poignant book - the kind that you can't resist reading in a single day." - Chicago Sun Times

"Hugely entertaining." - The Times

Read more about "The English American" and sample the audiobook at www.AlisonLarkin.com.



What's New!

The audiobook of "The Birthday Dinosaur," a children's bedtime story, written and read by Alison Larkin. Purchase the audiobook at http://www.audible.com/pd/Kids/The-Birthday-Dinosaur-Audiobook/B00LP01YMC.

Visit http://about.me/thebirthdaydinosaur to learn more.


Purchase Alison's audiobook of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice - The 200th Anniversary Audio Edition" at Audible.com.

Hear news about Alison's reading of Austen at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pride-and-Prejudice-The-200th-Anniversary-Audio-Book/491867600911368.



Alison Larkin - The One Woman Show

A recording of the original one woman show from which Alison's novel, "The English American," sprang, the release of Alison Larkin's "The One Woman Show" has been much anticipated. The 90-minute recording includes an interview with Alison, in which she talks about how finding her own birth parents in the US catapulted her into a new life as a stand-up comic and, eventually, a novelist.

The recording also includes a hilarious sneak preview of Alison's brand new show!

You can find more info on books and events and sign up for news updates at Alison's website, www.AlisonLarkin.com. Follow Alison on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/alison.larkin.944.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Susan Angelow on November 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
Speaking as an adoptee myself, I can say that Alison Larkin's book, with great humor and truth, allows readers to experience all the feelings an adoptee has on meeting her birth parents. I plan to buy 3 more copies of this wonderful book to give my own children, because she has said everything so much better than I ever could. I laughed and cried my way through it in one day. Ms. Larkin even managed to answer a few questions that I could never bring myself to ask. I highly recommend this book to all adopted adults and anyone who wants to understand an adopted loved one better. And, of course, anyone who wants to laugh!
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Carole on March 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Best of Both Worlds

'The English American" is both an immensely readable and enjoyable novel, and a story with deep meaning on multiple levels. Likewise, its heroine, Pippa Dunn, embodies the best of both worlds: genteel British upbringing on the one hand, and irrepressible independent American spirit on the other. But there is more; the more you read and reflect, the more is revealed, not only about Pippa, but also about oneself. I felt connected to Pippa and enjoyed traveling with her on her journey "across the Pond" and back again, and also within. It doesn't matter whether you have experienced any of the situations presented by "The English American," whether you are a man or a woman, young or old. It speaks to the human heart, with both humor and spirit.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Anne Varney on November 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
How I loved this book! I am an avid reader - probably reading at least five or more books a month- so sometimes my choices are disappointing. Not this one. It has joined the list of my favorites and I'll definitely suggest it to my Book Club. It is an interesting story written from the point of view of an adoptee but you don't have to have an adoption connection to enjoy it. I really enjoyed the subtle differences the author brought up between Americans and the English. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good read. Just be sure to put aside the time for it because, believe me, you are not going to want to put it down!
A. Varney
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Kaye Oldner on October 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"The English American," by Alison Larkin, is a funny, charming and poignant novel. Pippa, born in the American south, was adopted by an English couple at birth. Her adoptive parents, Alasdair and Gemma, had a daughter a year after Pippa was adopted. Both were raised in the traditional British upper middle class fashion. However, Pippa with her red hair was physically and temperamentally different from them.

The story line of the book is how Pippa finds her birth mother and father and discovers her genetic roots. It helps that she strongly resembles both her genetic father and mother in looks personality traits. Finding out why she is the way she is, she also discovers the real meaning of family and finds true love.

Separation, alienation, genetics, and family are all topics raised in Larkin's book. We see through Pippa's eyes as she experiences these topics. For me, this was an introspective read because of similar situations in my life. I found "The English American" to be funny, very British, very Southern, well written, and easy to read.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By janey reynolds on February 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I would follow Pippa Dunn anywhere--she's a fresh, wonderfully captivating heroine, and the characters she attracts and seeks and smashes up against are nearly as indelible as she is. As a reader I love to be surprised, and The English American is full of surprises. But the biggest one may be that a novel can have so much to say that's genuine and poignant about love and family and yet offer up such a good time along the way. As moving--at times wrenching--as Pippa's journey is, it's also fun and funny, never failing to entertain. Larkin is the real deal, a writer and storyteller whose instincts are dead on.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By sirrah231 on January 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I will confess that there were parts that I found cute, quirky, even darling. Especially the contrasts between American and British culture. And it was nice for once to have a British character actually defending Americans against all the bashing that seems so prevelant in many novels of similar ilk. However, I cannot believe all the glowing reviews of this book. Sophomoric, predictable writing with an annoying central character and poorly drawn charicatures of supporting characters. Are we supposed to believe that the young ingenue is REALLY so dense that she doesn't see a man falling for her? And the man she pines for, an artist aquaintance from years back whom we get to know superficially through their e-mail exchanges, is so lackluster and one-dimensional I am left scratching my head as to what, exactly, she's so attracted to. With gems such as "Yes, my love. Your nipples were hard, and so was I" ... barfo!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By cybercita on December 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
I really couldn't put this one down -- the author does a wonderful job conveying what it's like to love one's family but not quite fit in. The American parents who gave her up for adoption are difficult, complicated people, and she deftly portrays them, and all of the complex emotions they inspire in her and in each other, in all of their awful splendor. Her British parents, while exasperating in their stiff upper lip tea drinking way, are clearly loving and supportive. I also loved how she managed to poke sly fun at each culture while being respectful to both. As her British parents would probably say, well done.
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