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Wit's End Hardcover – April 1, 2008

3.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of this quietly funny, slightly mysterious novel of discovering one's roots from bestseller Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club), 29-year-old Rima Lanisell visits her estranged godmother, Addison Early, in Addison's house by the sea, Wit's End, in storied Santa Cruz, Calif. Addison, the wildly successful but cautiously private author of the Maxwell Lane mysteries, was once the girlfriend of Rima's recently deceased father, Bim, for whom a character in the series is named. For each novel, Addison first constructs a dollhouse diorama that depicts what will be the principal murder scene, but her upcoming novel and its dollhouse are uncharacteristically delayed. By weeding through decades-old correspondence with eccentric fans and the contemporary channels of online forums, Rima slowly discovers the truth behind Addison's novels and that Rima herself is a topic of interest among Maxwell Lane devotees. As Fowler analyzes our modern-day relationship to novels and writers' relationship to their readers, the line between fiction and reality blurs-real people become characters in another's blog as fictional characters become real to the fans that fetishize them. Author tour. (Apr.)
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“She has a voice like no other, lyrical, shrewd and addictive, with a quiet deadpan humor that underlies almost every sentence.”
—Beth Gutcheon, Newsday

“What strikes one first is the voice: robust, sly, witty, elegant, unexpected and never boring. Here is a novelist who absolutely comprehends the pleasures of imagination and transformation.”
—Margot Livesey, The New York Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399154752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399154751
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,762,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a reader of mysteries, I might be the ideal audience for this book.

The plot that drives the story flows quietly; it's the sparkles and sallies that make this story enchanting. Like the Jane Austen Book Club, this is not a book to be rushed through.

What I liked best about the book - and I liked a lot of things - was the author's voice. The absurdities of the story are the absurdities of everyday life, observed by a master and reported in a deadpan voice; I frequently found myself chuckling. (It's a book that elicits chuckles rather than guffaws.) The characters (dachshunds included) are drawn with affection and an eagle eye. Rima, the protagonist, was good company.

It's got a great sense of place: the beach town of Santa Cruz, the decrepit ranch, the interesting Victorian mansion, Wit's End, and the intricate doll-houses relating to the murder mysteries of A.B. Early.

The mysteries driving the plot are interesting, but aren't the story; which is why it doesn't matter that there is no case. To me, that was about Rima coming to terms with the loss of her father, and even more, of her beloved younger brother. And yet, despite the tragedy at its heart, this is not a tragic book. It's a story of how one goes about surviving: with humor and heart.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm at my wit's end, feeling like a party pooper for writing a negative review of a book I so wanted to like, a book which seems to give other people great enjoyment. But truth be told, this novel just didn't grab me. The critical endorsements on the book jacket all mention the author's narrative voice, which I agree is witty and engaging, what enticed me to read in the first place. And, since I live in Northern California, it's always fun to recognize specific places and types of people, especially the "characters" who hang out in Santa Cruz. But they remained just that- "characters" and not real people with whom I could connect. Other reader comments summarize the plot much better than I can, so I will just try to give an idea of what I expected but failed to find. As a mystery lover, I love a good puzzle, whodunnit and why. But this novel is a case of habeus corpus: where's the body? Where's the mystery? Many possibilities (the protagonist's search for her father's past, the mysterious disappearance of a dollhouse figure, fan mail to a fictional detective, the link between cult communities, both fictional and real), but nothing that even the apathetic protagonist seems compelled to investigate. In fact, she doesn't start seriously searching until 2/3 of the way through the book! Also, for me a clever, humorous narrative voice has to connect to the characters in a meaningful way, not just convey their random thoughts and lack of introspection. At one point the protagonist complains about "sarcasm without wit"; "Wit's End" has the cleverness that goes beyond sarcasm yet still remains on the surface, away from psychological depth. Not "sarcasm without wit," but wit without empathy.
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Format: Hardcover
After the death of her father (expected), Rima Lannisell moves from Cleveland, Ohio to Santa Cruz, California to stay with her godmother, famous mystery author, A.B. Early; a woman whom she hardly knows. During her stay, Rima plans to find out just what the story is behind Addison's relationship with her father.

The majority of the plot focuses on Rima becoming embroiled in her own "Maxwell Lane" mystery, making it sometimes difficult to tell what is "real" and what is fantasy.

During Rima's quest to find out about the relationship between Addison and her deceased father, Rima finds herself becoming a detective with the help of Addison's fictional detective, Maxwell Lane.

Much of the plot centers around letters written during the early times of Addisons career from a woman named Constance Wellington, who lived in Holy City - a transformed cult. The reader soon finds that Addison is quite obsessed with cults.

Most of the time, Rima is a self-pitying woman who continues to mourn the death of her brother, Oliver, who's been dead about four years. Personally, I found Rima the least likable character of the bunch, but it didn't interfere with the reading of the novel.

Fowler interlaces humorous characters (with Addison Early, herself, and other secondary characters) while still making them appear as real as can be. The commentary about online blogs and "everyone being a writer" (through Addison) is hilarious and oh-so true.

The plot ties together neatly at the end, but also wants you to hope for more.
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Format: Hardcover
No one writes more engaging books than Karen Joy Fowler, and WIT'S END is no exception. Part mystery, part reluctant love story, part hilarious cultural send-up, the book is elegant and intelligent at every level. Fowler is the best postmodern writer working today; her books weave allusions and jokes into their engrossing plots with great deftness, and her prose is inventive and always beautiful. In WIT'S END she not only creates a mystery novel but also a contemplation of what mystery means--why we seek and need the very things we yearn to solve. A wonderfully learned book that wears its learning lightly, a gorgeously written book that moves with grace and economy, it's one of the finest books published this year, and one that I am commending to everyone I know.
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