The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel

The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel

2.8 155
by Cathleen Schine
     
 

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A New York Times Best Seller
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband's mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach

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Overview

A New York Times Best Seller
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband's mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine's playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, the impulsive sister is Miranda, a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals, and the more pragmatic sister is Annie, a library director, who feels compelled to move in and watch over her capricious mother and sister. Schine's witty, wonderful novel "is simply full of pleasure: the pleasure of reading, the pleasure of Austen, and the pleasure that the characters so rightly and humorously pursue….An absolute triumph" (The Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A geriatric stepfather falls in love with a scheming woman half his age in Schine's Sense and Sensibility–flecked and compulsively readable follow-up to The New Yorkers. Betty Weissman is 75 when Joseph, her husband of nearly 50 years, announces he's divorcing her. Soon, Betty moves out of their grand Central Park West apartment and Joseph's conniving girlfriend, Felicity, moves in. Betty lands in a rundown Westport, Conn., beach cottage, but things quickly get more complicated when Betty's daughters run into their own problems. Literary agent Miranda is sued into bankruptcy after it's revealed that some of her authors made up their lurid memoirs, and Annie, drowning in debt, can no longer afford her apartment. Once they relocate to Westport, both girls fall in love—Annie rather awkwardly with the brother of her stepfather's paramour, and Miranda with a younger actor who has a young son. An Austen-esque mischief hovers over these romantic relationships as the three women figure out how to survive and thrive. It's a smart crowd pleaser with lovably flawed leads and the best tearjerker finale you're likely to read this year. (Feb.)
Booklist
It may be hard to envision a novel of manners set in our ill-mannered times, but accomplished author Schine has captured the essence ofSense and Sensibility and dropped it into today's Manhattan and Westport. The Weissmanns, elderly mother and two mature daughters driven to penury by divorce and career reversals, must rely on the beneficence of Cousin Lou for the shabby roof over their heads. Annie, still modestly employed as a librarian, has both salary and an apartment to sublet, so it falls to her to provide the income for the three. Alas,the other two spend money as if it were still the old days. Mother Betty affects widowhood as it is easier than the pending divorce. Sister Miranda finds inappropriate love. The wide-ranging cast of characters--fools, scoundrels, poseurs, the good-hearted, and secret heroes--provides interesting interplay. Wild coincidences abound, so that Manhattan, Westport, and Palm Springs are but mere extensions of the classic drawing room. There is sadness but also love in this thoroughlyenjoyable, finely crafted modern novel.
—Danise Hoover
The New York Times Book Review
Schine gives her characters more than their fair share of luck, but she is also brave enough to let them wrestle with raw fear. Among its many gifts to the dearest sort of reader, a fully engaged one, 'The Three Weissmanns of Westport' offers the chance for a mediation on that snake of Emily Dickinson's as it slithers through the grass-the snake that sometimes startles and frightens us, so undefended and unprepared are we, caught in our 'tighter breathing, and zero at the bone.'
—Dominique Browning
Dominique Browning
…sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious and deeply affecting…her best yet…Schine's homage has it all: stinging social satire, mordant wit, delicate charm, lilting language and cosseting materialistic detail.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Drawing on Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Schine (The New Yorkers) has written a witty update in which a late-life divorce exiles Betty Weissmann and her adult daughters, Annie and Miranda, from a luxurious life in New York to a shabby beach cottage in Westport, CT. Annie is the serious daughter and Miranda the drama queen. Both women find unexpected love, while Betty, a sweet, frivolous spendthrift, struggles with her newly impoverished state. What comfort the Weissmanns enjoy is owing to the generosity of Cousin Lou, a Holocaust survivor and real-estate mogul, whose goal in life is to rescue everyone, whether or not rescue is needed. While beautifully preserving the essence of the plot, Schine skillfully manages to parallel the original novel in clever 21st-century ways—the trip to London becomes a holiday in Palm Springs; the scoundrel Willoughby becomes a wannabe actor. VERDICT Austen lovers and those who enjoyed updates like Paula Marantz Cohen's Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale should appreciate this novel. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09.]—Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Kirkus Reviews
Already recognized for her own witty romantic comedies of manners, Schine (The New Yorkers, 2008, etc.) joins the onslaught of Austen imitators. Upper-middle-class, mostly Jewish New Yorkers take the place of British gentry in this Sense and Sensibility riff. After 48 years of marriage, 78-year-old Joseph Weissman leaves his 75-year-old wife Betty for Felicity Barrow, a younger woman with whom he works. Although Josie (as his stepdaughters call him) repeatedly swears he wants to be generous to Betty, Felicity manipulates him into closing Betty's credit-card accounts and forcing her out of the Weissmans' Upper West Side apartment she herself paid for decades ago. Fortunately, kindly Cousin Lou lends Betty his abandoned cottage in Westport, Conn., and Betty's daughters, outraged on their mother's behalf although they don't stop loving Josie, move in with her. Romantic, never married but often in love, 49-year-old Miranda is in dire financial straits herself, as scandals concerning the memoirists she represents threaten to bankrupt her literary agency. Sensible Annie, briefly married and long divorced, has successfully raised two sons while working at a privately endowed library. Now living in stoic loneliness, she has begun to fall in love with famous author Frederick Barrow, who happens to be Felicity's brother and whose grown offspring jealously guard his affections. In Westport, Annie is hurt when Frederick practically ignores her at a gathering at Cousin Lou's. Meanwhile, Miranda has an affair with the handsome young actor next door and falls seriously in love with his two-year-old son. Feisty Betty begins to refer to herself as a widow. In true Austen fashion, love and money conquerall, although Schine adds some modern sorrow and a slightly off-putting disdain for her male characters, who range from narcissistically foolish to, in what passes for the romantic hero, pragmatic and unoffending. Infectious fun, but the tweaked version never quite lives up to the original.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429936378
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
02/15/2010
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
178,632
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt


     When Joseph Weissmann divorced his wife, he was seventy-eight years old and she was seventy-five. He announced his decision in the kitchen of their apartment on the tenth floor of a large, graceful Central Park West building built at the turn of the last century, the original white tiles of the kitchen still gleaming on the walls around them. Joseph, known as Joe to his colleagues at work but always called Joseph by his wife, said the words “irreconcilable differences,” and saw real confusion in his wife’s eyes.
     Irreconcilable differences? she said. Of course there are irreconcilable differences. What on earth does that have to do with divorce?
     In Joe’s case it had very little to do with divorce. In Joe’s case, as is so often the case, the reason for the divorce was a woman. But a woman was not, unsurprisingly, the reason he gave his wife.
     Irreconcilable differences?
     Betty was surprised. They had been married for forty-eight years. She was used to Joseph, and she was sure Joseph was used to her. But he would not be dissuaded. Their history was history to him.
     Joseph had once been a handsome man. Even now, he was straight, unstooped; his bald head was somehow distinguished rather than lacking, as if men, important men, aspired to a smooth shining pate. His nose was narrow and protruded importantly. His eyes were also narrow and, as he aged, increasingly protected by folds of skin, as if they were secrets.Women liked him. Betty had certainly liked him, once. He was quiet and unobtrusive, requiring only a large breakfast before he went to work, a large glass of Scotch when he arrived home, and a small, light dinner at 7:30 sharp.
     Over the years, Betty began to forget that she liked Joseph. The large breakfast seemed grotesque, the drink obsessive, the light supper an affectation. This happened in their third decade together and lasted until their fourth. Then, Betty noticed, Joseph’s routines somehow began to take on a comforting rhythm, like the heartbeat of a mother to a newborn baby. Betty was once again content, in love, even. They traveled to Tuscany and stood in the Chianti hills watching the swallows and the swift clouds of slate-gray rain approaching. They took a boat through the fjords of Norway and another through the Galápagos Islands. They took a train through India from one palace to the next, imagining the vanished Raj and eating fragrant delicate curries. They did all these things together. And then, all these things stopped.
     “Irreconcilable differences,” Joe said.
     “Oh, Joseph. What does that have to do with divorce?”
     “I want to be generous,” Joe said.
     Generous? she thought. It was as if she were the maid and she was being fired. Would he offer her two months’ salary?
     “You cannot be generous with what is mine,” she said.
     And the divorce, like horses in a muddy race, their sides frothing, was off and running.

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