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Summer Reading: A Novel Paperback – May 20, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
The eighth novel from Wolitzer (The Doctor's Daughter) opens as Alyssa (Lissy) Snyder—trophy second wife, reluctant stepmom, and major dyslexic—hosts a summer book discussion group. She's hoping to catch the attention of Ardith Templeton, who initiated the group and who, with her husband Larry, commands center stage in the tony Hamptons social scene. Retired English professor Angela Graves conducts the group, assigns the readings and tries to inspire her charges to take life lessons from the likes of Jane Eyre and Madame Bovary. Lissy gamely tries to read enough pages (or search out enough online commentary) to appear prepared—but Ardith rarely shows up. Meanwhile, Lissy's husband dotes on his children and begins spending time with his first wife. First-person chapters alternate among Lissy, Angela (who picks over old regrets), and Michelle Cutty, a young local who works as Lissy's summer maid and who provides some class-based frisson. There are small pleasures, but the trio of pretty endings is too hurried (and in Lissy's case too unearned) to be satisfying. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
In this intricate tale of love, loss, and redemption, Wolitzer, author most recently of The Doctor's Daughter (2006), tells the story of three women whose paths cross during a summer in the Hamptons. Lissy Snyder, an insecure second wife, is uncertain of her place in her husband's heart and feels intimidated by her stepchildren. To help cement her position in Hamptons society, Lissy decides to host a book club for other young socialites and hires an eccentric former English professor, Angela Graves, to lead the group. Angela guides her pupils through books such as Madame Bovary, inspiring both Lissy and her day girl, Michelle, to reexamine their relationships with the men in their lives. Meanwhile, Angela herself is haunted by a years-old love affair. Wolitzer's subtle analysis reveals the underlying hopes and tensions that guide each woman's daily life as she struggles to come to terms with her own choices and mistakes, led, in part, by the heroines of the books Angela has chosen. Katherine Boyle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
Top customer reviews
"Summer Reading" is set in the present and weaves interlocking tales about three very different women during one summer in the Hamptons on Long Island. Each is brought together by a summer reading group--actually, more of a social club for summering New York high-society women. The group is hosted by a genuinely sweet, naïve, and totally clueless young trophy wife named Lissy. Poor Lissy happens to be dyslexic, adding spice and humor to the text. In an effort to make her new book club more legitimate, she hires Angela, a retired English professor as the book club leader. Angela is a woman who lives in her mind and through her books. She takes her job very seriously. She is confident that "literature teaches us how to live." She is eager to help the club members develop better insight into their lives through literature; however, she is not distracted when members take her literary insights as conversational springboards toward juicy local Hamptons' gossip. Michelle, Lissy's maid, accomplished all the work behind the scenes, work that transforms each club event into a smashing social success. She is disdainful of these women and hardly pays attention to them, but she can't help but observe and listen in on all the bookish happenings. Not surprisingly, over the course of the summer, it is Michelle who manages to learn the most from the book club experience.
Wolitzer knows her literature, but don't expect bookish prose--this is effortless, clean, strong writing by a truly gifted writer. The characters and dialog are completely believable. The story moves along artfully, never getting tied down in unnecessary detail. And the books? Well, they turn up everywhere in the story, but it is not necessary to have read any of them to appreciate this tale. For the record, the reading list includes "Villette" by Bronte, "Mrs. Bridge" by Connell, "Madame Bovary" by Flaubert, "Love in the Time of Cholera" by Garcia Marquez, and "Can You Forgive Her?" by Trollope. Herrera's "Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo" and Rowling's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" also make brief appearances but are not on the official club's reading list.
I am left with an overpowering desire to buy copies of this book as gifts for all the book-loving women in my life--serendipitously, I want to share the joy. My guess is that there are very few women--young, old, bookish, adventureous--that would not love to read this book. I recommend it highly.
I heard about this book on NPR and ordered it immediately. Book Club & summer reading! It sounded great. Just perfect. It is not. It is not perfect. It is not entertaining. It is boing. And annoying. There is no one here to like. There is no one in this book to care about. There is nothing to learn here. It is not literary. There is no real sense of place. There is little plot and since the characters are so unappealing what little plot there is doesn't really matter. The characters are a bore or at best uninteresting and unpleasant. Warning plot detail follows - There are two lovely dogs in the story who make repeated appearances and the author (how shameless really) has a large SUV run over and kill one of the dogs - thus annoying any reader who likes animals - a cheap shot way of creating some - a little - drama.
My recommendation - don't buy this book and don't accept it as a gift.
If you want something interesting and literary Reading Lolita in Tehran is a much more worthwhile read in every way - yes it gets tedious and the author sounds so much the English teacher at times that she can get on your nerves; still there is a real book for summer reading. The characters are interesting (and real or at least real-ish) and the back story - the revolution in Iran is fascinating.
I wish I hadn't bothered with Summer Reading - there is nothing here except a very nice innocent dog getting run over by an SUV. Ugh.
I don't know how this novel got itself published. What a waste.