Isabel's Bed

( 13 )

Overview

When Harriet Mahoney first sees it, Isabel Krug's bed is covered with sheared sheep and littered with celebrity biographies. Unpublished, fortyish, and recently jilted, Harriet has fled Manhattan for Isabel's loudly elegant Cape Cod retreat, where she will ghostwrite The Isabel Krug Story, based on the sexy blond's scandalous tabloid past. Unusually "talented" in the man department ("I give lessons"), Isabel revamps and inspires Harriet as they gear up to tell all, including the tangled history Isabel shares with...

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Isabel's Bed: A Novel

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Overview

When Harriet Mahoney first sees it, Isabel Krug's bed is covered with sheared sheep and littered with celebrity biographies. Unpublished, fortyish, and recently jilted, Harriet has fled Manhattan for Isabel's loudly elegant Cape Cod retreat, where she will ghostwrite The Isabel Krug Story, based on the sexy blond's scandalous tabloid past. Unusually "talented" in the man department ("I give lessons"), Isabel revamps and inspires Harriet as they gear up to tell all, including the tangled history Isabel shares with her odd lodger, Costas. Life according to Isabel is a nonstop soap opera extravaganza, an experience to be swallowed whole — and the attitude is catching....

When Harriet Mahoney first sees it, Isabel Krug's bed is covered in sheared sheep and littered with celebrity biographies. Harriet's job is to ghost-write the story of Isabel's scandalous past, all of it tabloid heaven. From the author of The Way Men Act.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Chicago Tribune If Jane Austen had been born about two centuries later...chances are she'd have written like Elinor Lipman.... One of the last of the urbane romantics.

Carolyn See The Washington Post Book World By about page ten of this novel, the reader gets a...grin on his face, and that grin doesn't really stop for about a week.

San Francisco Chronicle Delightful....Engaging....The perfect companion....After a short while, these characters become more vivid than one's own friends.

People A warm, affecting tale about one smart woman letting go of her dumb choices and fumbling toward love....

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Lipman's romantic comedy concerns true love, female friendship and the writing life. Aug.
Library Journal
Lipman The Way Men Act, LJ 12/91 has written another winner. Would-be writer Harriet Mahoney, fresh from the breakup of a 12-year relationship, answers a newspaper ad for a live-in ghostwriter. Because she sounds "normal," Harriet finds herself in a stunning house on the Cape with Isabel Krug, a blonde bombshell. Isabel wants to tell the world her side of how she happened to be in bed with her rich lover when his wife shot and killed him. The novel is full of zany twists as we meet Isabel's on-again, off-again husband and stepfather Costas Dimantopoulos; Nan Van Vleet, the freed murderess; and Pete, the appealing jack-of-all-trades. Within the book-bidding wars and the search for the "voice" for her book, Isabel finds a true friend and Harriet finds even more. Recommended for popular collections.-Rebecca S. Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671015640
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,166,883
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman is the author of the novels The Way Men Act and Then She Found Me, and a collection of short stories Into Love and Out Again.

Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, she lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and son.

Biography

Elinor Lipman began writing fiction in her late 20s, when she enrolled in a creative writing workshop. Since then, she has written a string of bestselling novels, as well as short stories and book reviews. Her books are more than just romantic comedies; Lipman writes entertaining characters who enlighten the plot with their human idiosyncrasies.

Her first release was a collection of short stories, titled Into Love and Out Again (1986). This charismatic collection of stories contains early elements of the thing that would make Lipman a loved novelist: finely drawn characters and page-turning plot twists. The theme of these sixteen stories is the stuff of modern domestic life -- marriage, pregnancy, weight gain and true love.

When Lipman released Then She Found Me (1990), Publisher's Weekly called the debut "...an enchanting tale of love in assorted forms ... a first novel full of charm, humor and unsentimental wisdom." When 36-year-old April Epner suffers the death of both of her adoptive parents, she seeks solace in her quiet, academic life as a Latin teacher in a Boston high school. Bernice Graverman is April's opposite. She's a brash, gossipy talk show host who lives her life with all the tranquility of a stampede. She's also April's birth mother. Lipman's story of their mother and child reunion is unforgettable.

In The Way Men Act (1993), Melinda LeBlanc returns home to Massachusetts to work in the family business. She finds a friend in neighboring shop owner, Libby, and has a one-sided love infatuation with Dennis Vaughan, another small town shop owner. Lipman takes on small town values by portraying the story's interracial relationship with wit and intelligence.

Filled with surprising friendships, Isabel's Bed (1995) tells the story of Harriet Mahoney, a writer at the end of her rope. When Harriet's long-term lover leaves unexpectedly, she moves from Manhattan to Cape Cod for an unusual writing assignment. Harriet has agreed to write the life story of tabloid darling Isabel Krug, a vivacious woman who earned her fifteen minutes of fame for her role as the other woman in a high-profile murder case. Their unusual partnership is the basis for this twisting, hilarious comedy of friendship and trust.

The Inn at Lake Devine (1998) is loosely based on a true story. The serious issue of anti-Semitism is treated with humor -- something Lipman is able to do so wonderfully in all her novels. When Natalie Marx's family is denied entry into the Inn at Lake Devine in Vermont, she plans revenge. But her plans are complicated by a friendship with Robin, fiancé to the son of the Inn's owners. Lipman's deft treatment of the play between discrimination and friendship creates a novel whose characters and setting may as well walk straight off the pages; and readers will find themselves laughing at the most serious of issues.

A committed spinster, Adele Dobbin is reunited with the man who left her at the altar thirty years earlier in The Ladies' Man (1999). Nash Harvey arrives, unannounced of course, on Adele's doorstep, and brings chaos into the lives of Adele and her sisters (also single, aging baby-boomers). In a rousing game of sexual politics, Nash unintentionally forces the sisters, particularly Adele, to examine their desires. Five distinct plot lines weave together seamlessly around Nash and his haphazard, womanizing lifestyle.

Sunny's homecoming in The Dearly Departed (2001) is equally life-altering. When her well-loved mother passes away, an entire small town mourns her departure. Back at the scene of her unhappy teenage years, Sunny dreads facing her former classmates, employers and so-called friends. What she finds is unsettling, but in a healthy way: the small town and its citizens are not nearly as malicious or clueless as she mythologized. Likewise, she realizes, neither was her mother. In a touching blend of social commentary, family drama and romantic impulses, Sunny learns that you can go home again.

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift (2003) is classic Lipman. Serious and shy, Alice aspires to be a philanthropic surgeon, using her skills for charity more than personal gain. That is, if she can make it through the rest of her medical internship. Alice is shaken (and confused) when she falls in love with an eccentric, foul-mouthed fudge salesman. But don't expect too much sentimentality here: Lipman gives away the ending in the first chapter, telling readers that the relationship was kaput, but the fun in reading this book is discovering why the two characters even glanced at each other in the first place. It's a great read -- Lipman places Alice on an unthinkable, yet totally believable path and we get to watch her find her way through.

Good To Know

In our interview with Lipman, she shared some fun facts about herself with us:

"I was nearly fired from my second job, which was writing press releases for Boston's public television station. I couldn't do anything right in the eyes of my newly promoted and therefore nervous boss. I quit after three months, one step ahead of the axe, feeling like an utter failure."

"Tom Hanks and his production company have optioned my fifth novel, The Ladies' Man. Robert Benton (Bonnie and Clyde, Kramer vs. Kramer, Nobody's Fool, Places in the Heart, Billy Bathgate, The Human Stain) is signed on as director and screenwriter."

"I was runner-up for the Best Actress award at Lowell High School in Lowell, Massachusetts, class of '68, after playing Gabrielle (the Bette Davis role) in The Petrified Forest and Elaine (the ingénue/niece) in Arsenic and Old Lace. And I was grievance chairman for the staff union when I worked for the Massachusetts Teachers Association in the late 1970s. Both of these inclinations come in handy to this day."

"I knit all the time."

"I wear a pedometer, aiming for five miles a day -- don't be too impressed; that includes walking around my house and food shopping. Sometimes I walk no farther than my own driveway because I can hear the phone ring -- 12 round-trips equals one mile."

"I cook quite seriously, which I think is an antidote to the writing -- i.e., I finish the project in an hour or two and get feedback immediately."

"I watch golf on television, although I don't golf -- except for visits to the driving range in spurts."

"I wake up at 6:00 a.m. no matter what time I go to bed."

"I was a roving guard on the Lowell Hebrew Community Center's girls' basketball team all through high school. My specialty was stealing the ball, but my only shot was a lay-up."

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    1. Hometown:
      Northampton, Massachusetts, and New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 16, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lowell, Massachusetts
    1. Education:
      A.B., Simmons College, 1972; Honorary Doctor of Letters, Simmons College, 2000

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter 1

WINTER BEFORE LAST, a tea-leaf reader at a psychic fair looked into my cup and said she saw me living in a house with many beds and a big-mouth blonde. At the time it meant nothing to me. I was sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with a balding, malcontent boyfriend of twelve years, who said we'd get married if I conceived his child or when he felt like it. Since I was looking for literary prophecies — that I'd write a best-seller or at least find an agent — and because my tea-leaf reader wore, in a room full of gauzy peasantwear, a knock-off Chanel suit, I moved on to another booth.

Six weeks later, Kenny took me out to dinner at an expensive chef-owned restaurant and told me he was ambivalent about us. I said what I'd been saving for such an occasion — that we were commonlaw spouses by now and he'd better get over his ambivalence.

"I met someone," he replied.

There went twelve years: my youth. In three months, he was married.

So at forty-one, feeling like eighty, I was looking for something — a job, a friend, a hiding place where I could live out my days — when I overheard a stranger on the subway confide to her seatmate, "There are no guarantees in this world, but chances are that people who take out ads in the New York Review of Books aren't idiots or crooks." I bought my first issue and read the personals for laughs, circling one or two that didn't ask for "pretty" or "vivacious" before my eyes wandered into "Share." And there it was, my answer, my job, my tea-leaf destiny:

Book in progress? While you're at it, why not share my Cape retreat? Gourmet kitchen, beach rights, wild blueberries. Considering lap pool. Roomy and peaceful: your life will be your own. Write me about your spectacular self. Room and board negotiable in exchange for services. Include writing sample. Box 8152.

"Harriet Mahoney," I heard between the lines, "Your troubles are over. Box 8152 will cure everything that's been wrong with your life." I could see myself, a better me, at this Cape retreat: at my typewriter, sharing thoughts and kitchen
privileges with a kindred soul, baking wild blueberries into muffins.

In the past, I would have signed up for a course on pouring my heart into a cover letter, but I figured even prophecies had expiring deadlines. I had to write the letter of my life, threading my frayed self through the eye of the employment needle into the Yes pile; to find the silver lining in the fact that I'd spent my thirties unofficially engaged to a spoiled child; to put a good face on my B.A. in English from a defunct women's college, my two unpublished novels, and a string of secretarial jobs where I had learned to clear the paper path in all makes of copying machines.

So I wrote that for twelve years I had successfully shared quarters with a challenging roommate, that I was intelligent, considerate, and neat. I sent a laser-printed chapter from my first novel, American Apology, along with its best rejection letter ("competently written, at times even affecting") and a short story that my writing group insisted The New Yorker should have taken.

Although dozens of people applied, people with Ph.D.s and hardcover contracts, it was my letter that Isabel Krug liked best. "I didn't want any big shots," she told me later. "No prima donnas. You sounded normal."

She liked the "secretary" part. She wanted someone to ghostwrite her story, and she figured if it were a simple matter of channeling her voice through someone else's fingertips, why not a blunt set that typed 105 words a minute?

Over the phone she asked without apology how old I was, if I'd been in jail, if I had AIDS or the HIV virus, if I'd be squeamish about male visitors, and if I drove a stick.

It wasn't a tone I could stand forever, but it was offering what I needed. Assuming I had beat out the others on the strength of my prose and my suddenly spectacular self, I accepted ecstatically. Without meeting Isabel Krug. Without asking who else lived in this Cape retreat. Without asking what her story was.

Copyright © 1995 by Elinor Lipman

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First Chapter

WINTER BEFORE LAST, a tea-leaf reader at a psychic fair looked into my cup and said she saw me living in a house with many beds and a big-mouth blonde. At the time it meant nothing to me. I was sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan with a balding, malcontent boyfriend of twelve years, who said we'd get married if I conceived his child or when he felt like it. Since I was looking for literary prophecies -- that I'd write a best-seller or at least find an agent -- and because my tea-leaf reader wore, in a room full of gauzy peasantwear, a knock-off Chanel suit, I moved on to another booth.

Six weeks later, Kenny took me out to dinner at an expensive chef-owned restaurant and told me he was ambivalent about us. I said what I'd been saving for such an occasion -- that we were commonlaw spouses by now and he'd better get over his ambivalence.

"I met someone," he replied.

There went twelve years: my youth. In three months, he was married.

So at forty-one, feeling like eighty, I was looking for something -- a job, a friend, a hiding place where I could live out my days -- when I overheard a stranger on the subway confide to her seatmate, "There are no guarantees in this world, but chances are that people who take out ads in the New York Review of Books aren't idiots or crooks." I bought my first issue and read the personals for laughs, circling one or two that didn't ask for "pretty" or "vivacious" before my eyes wandered into "Share." And there it was, my answer, my job, my tea-leaf destiny:

Book in progress? While you're at it, why not share my Cape retreat? Gourmet kitchen, beach rights, wild blueberries. Considering lap pool. Roomy and peaceful: your life will be your own. Write me about your spectacular self. Room and board negotiable in exchange for services. Include writing sample. Box 8152.

"Harriet Mahoney," I heard between the lines, "Your troubles are over. Box 8152 will cure everything that's been wrong with your life." I could see myself, a better me, at this Cape retreat: at my typewriter, sharing thoughts and kitchen privileges with a kindred soul, baking wild blueberries into muffins.

In the past, I would have signed up for a course on pouring my heart into a cover letter, but I figured even prophecies had expiring deadlines. I had to write the letter of my life, threading my frayed self through the eye of the employment needle into the Yes pile; to find the silver lining in the fact that I'd spent my thirties unofficially engaged to a spoiled child; to put a good face on my B.A. in English from a defunct women's college, my two unpublished novels, and a string of secretarial jobs where I had learned to clear the paper path in all makes of copying machines.

So I wrote that for twelve years I had successfully shared quarters with a challenging roommate, that I was intelligent, considerate, and neat. I sent a laser-printed chapter from my first novel, American Apology, along with its best rejection letter ("competently written, at times even affecting") and a short story that my writing group insisted The New Yorker should have taken.

Although dozens of people applied, people with Ph.D.s and hardcover contracts, it was my letter that Isabel Krug liked best. "I didn't want any big shots," she told me later. "No prima donnas. You sounded normal."

She liked the "secretary" part. She wanted someone to ghostwrite her story, and she figured if it were a simple matter of channeling her voice through someone else's fingertips, why not a blunt set that typed 105 words a minute?

Over the phone she asked without apology how old I was, if I'd been in jail, if I had AIDS or the HIV virus, if I'd be squeamish about male visitors, and if I drove a stick.

It wasn't a tone I could stand forever, but it was offering what I needed. Assuming I had beat out the others on the strength of my prose and my suddenly spectacular self, I accepted ecstatically. Without meeting Isabel Krug. Without asking who else lived in this Cape retreat. Without asking what her story was.

Copyright © 1995 by Elinor Lipman

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2014

    Ehhh

    This book is good,but I have to say it is quite boring. At first you can't put it down, but by the end you cant pick it up. I must praise the beginning. It is very interesting and I couldent put it down. By the end i have lost interest. I still have yet to pick up the half read book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Quirky Characters & a Fun Page Turner!

    Now this was a great book -- some really quirky characters and an incredibly original plot really juiced up the urge to keep reading and to turn each page until the very end. I fell for the author's push for me to love certain characters, and dislike others, and I enjoyed the ride. A great book for traveling, beach reads, and your general desire to get away from it all and relax.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2006

    I loved Isabel

    This book was so good. The ending was the biggest disappointment since we found out who shot Mr. Burns.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    dissapointed with ending

    I loved the characters, but felt like the rug was pulled out from under me with the ending. The story line took an abrupt turn and none of the things it had been building to were concluded.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2005

    Nice read, unfortunate ending

    I picked up this book at a BN and sat down on a Sunday night at about 7:00 pm and read it all the way through until about 3:00 am. It certainly was a page-turner. I was sad to see how the book ended though. Everything kind of climaxed a little late in the book and then sort of just ended with Harriet going in a totally different direction. I did enjoy the characters though, and couldn't put it down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2003

    I wish I was Isabel

    I found myself loving Isabel from the beginning. Her rude and unapologetic ways left me feeling very at home. It was just great to pick up and read a cute little novel. It was charming.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2001

    Familiar and Funny

    Reading this book was like hanging out with hilarious old friends. I smiled the whole way through.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2001

    Give it a try!

    I'll admit, it took a second reading for me to enjoy this book. After the first reading, I thought Harriet was sort of pathetic, although I loved the characters of Isabel and Pete. I'm not even sure why I read it again...but I'm glad I did, because I enjoyed it much more the second time! Perhaps it was the passage of time and the changing of goals in my own life that made me more sympathetic towards Harriet. Also, Lipman injects her characters with such great humor and humanity - especially Isabel, who is a delight in her strange way. I recommend giving this book a shot...and if you don't like it, try again in seven years!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2001

    Au Contraire!

    Isabel's Bed is one of the funniest, most enjoyable books I've ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary fiction and really strong characters and dialouge.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2000

    borrrrrrring

    Tries to be titillating, but is sooooo borrrring.... I couldn't maintain an interest in any characters except that 'bad' boyfriend who kicked out the main character, and who could blame him? A directionless person at the crossroads of life? Could turn into something good, but instead, I wanted to slap Harriet, and say, 'Live your own life, you wuss!' Had there been an option to give no stars, I would have seized it. However, I must assign at least one star, so I will also concede that there were no spelling errors or typos.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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