145 of 156 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2010
Catherine Schine has written a funny and on-target tale of three women starting over in their lives. Rarely in fiction is one of the heroines a 75 year old woman who is being dumped by her husband of five decades. The title refers to Mrs. Weissmann and her two daughters, forced to live together because of various dire financial circumstances. Ms. Schine examines the foibles of love and of relationships between men and women in middle age and the senior years (the 1987 movie "Moonstruck" comes to mind). It is refreshing to read of romance late in life, especially in a novel as well-written as this one.
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2010
What a terrific read! Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down until I finished. The author sets up her situation very quickly and draws readers in with fine characterizations, unpredictable plot turns and excellent insights. She also does a wonderful job with setting the scene - whether it is in New York City, a Westport beach cottage or Palm Springs. Her writing is subtle and accessible, without unnecessary flourishes or affectation.
All in all, whether you do or don't want to compare the book to Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" [as the very positive front-page review in The New York Times Book Review did], this is a book that you'll enjoy and tell your friends to read.
66 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2010
The Three Weissmanns of Westport is a fun read. It is hardly updated Jane Austen. Like past reviewers, I was quite surprised to see it reviewed on the front page of the Book Review of the New York Times. It is contemporary, easy to relate to, especially if you live in Manhattan and are of a certain age. I must admit at times I felt it was just a step up from chick lit and just a fun escape book. Visually, I could see Nancy Meyer casting it, setting her usual beautiul scenery, decorating the Wesport homes, Manhattan apartment of Betty and Josie or even collaborating with Nora Ephron and writing a really witty script.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
As a Janeite, I have noticed that there are two kinds of Austen fans--those who despise the spin-offs/sequels/as-inspired-bys and those who write them. Well, not quite. But I still feel like a bit of an oddity because I like some but find most really plebeian and some truly offensive.
What I love about THE THREE WEISSMANNS OF WESTPORT is that you can read and enjoy its wit, charm, and humor without making any Jane Austen parallels whatsoever--yet, if you're a JA fan, you note each one with admiration and a frisson of recognition.
The story isn't the oldest one in the world, but it is certainly a familiar one in 2010--a man trades in his wife of many years for one much younger, in part as an attempt to stave off mortality. When Joseph Weissman leaves Betty, his wife of almost 50 years, she goes through a panoply of responses to the loss. His step-daughters (whom he considers his daughters) are equally emotionally savaged, even though both are well into adulthood. When the three wounded Weissmanns move into a Westport "cottage" together, they do so primarily for financial reasons. Yet they discover that the move allows them to move forward into entirely different (and for the most part, more positive) lives.
I don't want to give too much of the plot away--or the parallels to SENSE AND SENSIBILITY that are perfectly modernized. The Marianne and Eleanor roles are inhabited by people we've known or observed in today's world, yet true to Austen's vision of the sense/sensibility sisters. Betty is cannier and more central to the novel than the original Mrs. Dashwood, though just as improvident financially. The narrator/author is a wise, observant and entertaining observer of a rather large bit of ivory. Of course no one can compare to Jane Austen--the thought of such a thing is too ludicrous to countenance. But this is a worthwhile novel for Austen fans and modern fiction fans alike.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Once I began this one, I absolutely could not put it down. The author starts off with a bang as she reveals that Joseph is leaving his wife, Betty Weissman, after a long and seemingly happy marriage (from the wife's current perspective). Betty is 75 and so you can imagine her shock, especially since she is also left in dire financial straits.
I was intrigued and baffled about why anyone would decide to end a marriage so late in life. Yes, there is another woman (no spoilers here, that info comes early on), a woman who is scheming and completely opposite from her name (Felicity). Even so, seemed shocking that she could compete with Joseph's wife, a woman who comes across as zany, fun, and far more appealing than Felicity. From my viewpoint, this made Joseph come off as somewhat dense, with no insight into Felicity's clearly manipulative moves.
Anyway, after the marriage ends, Betty departs for Westport with her two daughters, having the good fortune to have a relative who provides her with a cottage. While the thought of a cottage at first seems romantic and attractive to Betty, the structure turns out to be in need of serious repair.
This one definitely came across as a comedy of manners, making it clear why it has been compared to the works of Jane Austen. However, it definitely has a modern spin. Each character is illuminated in detail and I found Betty's daughters to be as intriguing as Betty herself. One daughter, Miranda, is a literary agent who trusted her instincts when it came to choosing authors - but, as it turns out, many of those authors made up their memoirs. Miranda lands on Oprah to defend herself (I couldn't help thinking of the whole mess involving James Frey, his book (A Million Little Pieces) and how he also appeared on Oprah with Nan Talese, trying to defend his own fictionalized memoir. In Miranda's case, however, she has several writers who have made up their memoirs. She is being sued. Her accounts have been frozen. This makes it very "convenient" (also known as having few other choices) for her to move in with her mother. She is even happy about the whole thing.
But the other daughter, Annie, is far less open to the whole idea. She loves her mother, though, so she goes along with it. This is when things take a stronger Jane Austin turn. Sure, there have been similar updates on the whole Austin genre or style but this one stands out. Even when I thought things were going to take a predictable spin, I'd be surprised. Events truly ramp up as the book reaches its conclusion. This is not a simplistic book, although I found it moved along at a rapid pace, but with the details that kept it from being too bland. It is the kind of book that begs to be read with a box of chocolates or fine cup of coffee or tea nearby. A glass of wine and comfy shawl or blanket would be the ideal additions for settling down for a nice afternoon of reading. But be forewarned- you won't want to come up for air, make dinner, or do anything but keep reading. So order takeout or have another family member handle the chores for the day. This one is definitely worth the time!
And yes...I ordered more of this writers' books. Reading this was like discovering a new friend, one who opened new worlds for me.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2010
This book was a huge disappointment. I bought the book as a result of seeing a glowing review in the New York Times. Other reviews I read suggested this was going to be a funny book about a mother and her daughters exiled in Westport. Either Schine forgot to bring the funny or these reviewers have a wildly different definition of what is funny compared to me.
I found myself struggling to finish the book. After about 100 pages I thought about giving it up but since I actually bought the book I felt like I should see it to the end. I also kept thinking that it would improve. It did not.
The women in the book were annoying and weak. I wanted to care about Betty, Annie and Miranda and their plights but I couldn't be bothered because I never felt any sort of connection to them or any of the other characters. The only character I did enjoy was that of a young child, Harry, who ends up being cared for by Miranda.
Lastly, I think if Jane Austen were to read this book I really don't think she would be happy with the comparisons to Sense and Sensibility. That book is a classic. This is not.
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2010
Our book club (urban, well educated, ages 39-62) chose this book based on an ecstatic NY Times review . . . and we were exceedingly disappointed. The characters are cardboard thin, unlikable and terribly dull. The meandering action takes us here and there to fill space but provides no tension. Nothing of any consequence happens. The story lacks veracity and insight . . . it doesn't help matters that our book club members are familiar with Manhattan, the Hamptons and Hollywood. We do not recommend this book.
33 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2010
By, Albert C. Bender, Author of "You Are Forever In Time"...Never to old for life to begin in ernest again, I say. Three women reinventing themselves once again sounds great..Its true in real life all the time, and not only in a fictional story...Being 75 or older should not stop anyone...The story has fine humor throughout, that one will enjoy...Life is an adventure, and a journey that never stops...We live in "Hope" at all times...It is what keeps us alive....Everyone should read this fine novel. And, that is one of any age...Well written and I like its substance to give it a high rating...
27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2010
Boy do I feel dumb. I practically always check Amazon reviews before I order a book- *especially* contemporary fiction! But I was heading off on holiday, and in a rare mood for some light fiction. After the NYTimes review- a feel-good, Austen-esque novel? just the ticket!- I ordered it. And as I read it there were some smiles at familiar details of modern life in the northeast corrider of the US.
But mostly it was astonishingly slight, and rather mean, and in the end it has a truly pathetic ending. I was so disappointed in it that I deliberately left it behind -it wasn't even worth the weight of carrying it home in my roll-on.
This is not a comedy of manners, it is a pretentious New Yorker writing for other pretentious New Yorkers. And not even that well: even the incredibly self-conscious title- The Three Weissmanns- is overdone by having their name mis-spelt on their mailbox (Wisemen, geddit?! ha ha). And it is a mis-nomer- the only one who is in any way 'wise' gets (SPOILER ALERT) killed off.
I could go on and on but you really don't care: all you need to know is that this book is not a feel-good book, is not an Austen-esque book, and even the funny bits are limited to observations of things like middle aged women colouring their hair. And, you neither know nor would want to know any of the people in this book (though you will feel sorry for (SPOILER ALERT) the one who dies with a broken heart).
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2010
Where do I begin to state how much I hated this book?
1. Let's start with "chance encounters" to further the plot. And we're not talking about much of a plot here. Get this. The author temporarily relocates her three main characters to Palm Springs because she wants to reunite another character who is pursuing an acting career in Los Angeles. Wait a minute you might say. Palm Springs is 100 miles from L.A. You can't really walk there. How does she get away with having the main characters reunite? The answer: Because the author is so stunningly untalented that this is the only way she can think of.
2. But wait! We're not done. There's yet another chance encounter in Palm Springs (I've never met as many acquaintances in O'Hare and I've lived in Chicago my entire life.) And let's not forget about yet another chance encounter on a commuter train.
3. In short, this author is so in love with her characters that she thinks that we should give her every benefit of the doubt.
4. The problem with her love for her characters is that they are self-absorbed bores. A general rule for fiction is would you want to spend 15 minutes overhearing their conversation at the next table at Starbucks. The answer here would be a resounding no.
5. There are 292 pages in this book. I dread that I wasted 292 pages of my life reading such a snooze.