I always read with a pencil, marking perfect sentences in the margins. By page 21 of The Three Weissmanns of Westport I had mined 3 literary jewels that sparkled with dry wit. Many more followed. Here’s a sample:
“It was not that the woman boasted. Quite the opposite. She was modest to a fault, the fault being that she insinuated her modesty, deftly, into almost any conversation, proclaiming her insignificance and ignorance, thereby assuring a correction.”
According to the jacket flap, The Three Weissmanns of Westport is a modern adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. The New York Times noted that author Cathleen Schine does more than copy the plot; she actually captures Jane Austen’s sensibility. I would add that Jane Green, a women’s fiction author who lives in Westport, is another influence in both style and subject. In fact, Jane Green moved to a beachside cottage in Westport after her divorce, met her new husband there and blogged about this novel. Schine borrows from the two Janes, but she spins an original tale in her own voice.
Betty Weissmann has been abandoned by her husband of nearly 50 years: “He glanced at his wife. She was wearing her old white bathrobe, and curled on herself on the couch, she looked like someone’s crumpled, abandoned Kleenex.”
Betty’s middle-aged daughters aren’t much better off. The eldest is a divorced librarian who pines for her grown sons and fills her hours rereading classic novels: “Annie was matter-of-fact but the facts were never hers.” Miranda’s “Awful Authors” ruin her literary agency; their salacious memoirs are revealed to be frauds.
Short on fortune, the three women move from Manhattan to a relative’s beachside cottage in posh Westport, Connecticut. Wealthy retired Jews and WASPs are the landed gentry of the 21st Century. Schine captures both settings well to my particular satisfaction. I grew up in Manhattan and used to visit my Jewish grandparents in Westport. On hearing the title, my parents said, “We know the Weissmanns of Westport.” Nope, this is fiction, but like the best social satire, it is true to life but far more amusing.
“He was eating a piece of dark orange cheese. She noticed it left a narrow oily trail on his lip, like a snail.”
Shakespeare Watch: On March 22, 2010 Arden is publishing a 19th century play "Double Falsehood or The Distressed Lovers" which is supposedly based on three missing plays by Shakespeare.