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The Fiction Class

The Fiction Class

3.7 15
by Susan Breen

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Read Susan Breen's posts on the Penguin Blog.

A witty, honest, and hugely entertaining story for anyone who loves books, or has a difficult mother. And, let’s face it, that’s practically everybody . . .

On paper, Arabella Hicks seems more than qualified to teach her fiction class on the Upper West Side: she’s a writer herself;


Read Susan Breen's posts on the Penguin Blog.

A witty, honest, and hugely entertaining story for anyone who loves books, or has a difficult mother. And, let’s face it, that’s practically everybody . . .

On paper, Arabella Hicks seems more than qualified to teach her fiction class on the Upper West Side: she’s a writer herself; she’s passionate about books; she’s even named after the heroine in a Georgette Heyer novel.

On the other hand, she’s thirty-eight, single, and has been writing the same book for the last seven years. And she has been distracted recently: on the same day that Arabella teaches her class she also visits her mother in a nursing home outside the city. And every time they argue. Arabella wants the fighting to stop, but, as her mother puts it, “Just because we’re family, doesn’t mean we have to like each other.” When her class takes a surprising turn and her lessons start to spill over into her weekly visits, she suddenly finds she might be holding the key to her mother’s love and, dare she say it, her own inspiration. After all, as a lifelong lover of books, she knows the power of a good story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The collision of truth and fiction can result in romance or even redemption-or so say the writing exercises and life lessons that make up Breen's debut novel. For years, Arabella Hicks's love life, like her writing life, has felt flat and fruitless. Still, the 38-year-old copy editor and part-time teacher can summon neither the drive to date nor the wherewithal to finish her novel, Courting Disaster, now seven years in the rewriting. She's anxious about her mother, Vera, whom she visits in a nursing home every Wednesday after teaching her writing class. Worried about Vera's Parkinson's disease-and still grieving her father's death-Arabella discovers her personal fears seeping into classroom discussions of plot, point of view and dialogue. One student, the well-spoken, well-to-do Chuck, begins a relationship with Arabella and thus installs himself into the mother-daughter drama. Breen, a writing instructor, sometimes overplays her hand, but she does inject a dose of originality into an otherwise familiar setup. (Feb.)

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Library Journal

Arabella Hicks was named after the main character in a romance novel, and this seems to lead her life in the trajectory of all things fiction. She's seven years into writing her novel, and her day job is teaching a fiction class in Manhattan. The rest of her time is taken up by her difficult mother, who's suffering from Parkinson's and living in a nursing home. Breen, a teacher at Gotham Writers' Workshop, structures her first novel as a treat for any fiction lover. Each chapter starts with Arabella's weekly fiction class and its topic, for example, "character" or "point of view." We get to sit in as she explains the subject matter and closes with an exercise for her students to work on at home. The students in the class are another set of characters, some wacky and some sweet, and one handsome older man, Chuck, flirts endlessly with Arabella. Arabella's class, her novel, a possible relationship with Chuck, and stressful visits to her mother, who might also have an interest in writing fiction, converge into a poignant, lovely read. For most fiction collections.
—Beth Gibbs

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Marisa de los Santos
The Fiction Class reminds us of what the right words in the proper order can give: pleasure, laughter, heartache, and, on rare and stunning occasions and just in the nick of time, redemption. 9Marisa de los Santos, author, Love Walked In)

Meet the Author

Susan Breen teaches fiction classes for Gotham Writers' Workshop in Manhattan. Her short stories have been published by a number of literary magazines, among them American Literary Review and North Dakota Quarterly. She is also a contributor to The Writer and Writers' Digest. She lives in Irvington, NY with her husband, children, two dogs and one cat.

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The Fiction Class 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Rachel-PSU More than 1 year ago
This was a great book to read from a teacher's point of view. It's about growth, change and acceptance. At first I criticized the main character, but then I found myself growing with her as she grew with her adult fiction class.
marianlibrarianLT More than 1 year ago
I can't believe you found the writing of The Fiction Class to be "amature"! It is beautifully and sensitively done. I read a lot of books, and I was struck right from the beginning by the style of writing. I also really don't think you should write off a book just because it's done in the present tense. The interwoven story lines between the class and the dying mother are inspired. I was immediately drawn into the plot and the well-delineated characters. Well, anyway, you readers out there, please give The Fiction Class a try. You'll be happy you did. Good for book clubs, too. By the way, I also love Arabella by Georgette Heyers as well as nearly every one of her other books. Marian the Librarian
Guest More than 1 year ago
'The Fiction Class' is a beautiful book about a troubled mother-daughter relationship. Breen manages to write towards a genuine, wise resolution avoiding cliche. Arabella, the main character, is the teacher of a fiction workshop for adults. Breen introduces us to the members of the class, a series of characters who come together to form a family over the ten weeks the novel covers. The story of the Fiction Class weaves through the story of Arabella's complex and sometimes bitter relationship with her ailing mother. Breen brings the two threads together masterfully and uses them to illuminate each other with quiet wisdom. This is a genuine, beautifully written novel that resonates long after you have finished it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book touched me, a lovely reflective journey that made me question who my own mother is, as a woman, and our relationship-a fast read
MrsO More than 1 year ago
I wanted to sign up for her writing class with its interesting and varied students and caring teacher.  A lovely book that I so enjoyed.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Let me put Valtrajay's review in perspective: would anyone accept a critical literary review from an illeterate reader? Really....."Pass tense" when it should be 'past tense', "Wendeys" when it should have read 'Wendys' ' and please find the word "Okayish" in any dictionary other than the review by Valtrajay. Readers please read this book and decide for yourself rather than make a decision about its worth from someone who is unable to write a literate review. Ingnorance is bliss, but let's hope we, and other authors, are not subjected to this type of reviewer's "bliss" again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book moved exceptionally slow and did not hold my attention at all. There was no climax and barely any conflict. A basic storyline with no twists or moments of excitement. So dull I had to force myself to finish it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
It has been awhile since I last read something so profound AND entertaining. The Fiction Class is funny, heartbreaking, suspensful, and informative.
Valtrajay More than 1 year ago
It wasn't just the present-tense layout that made me cringe, but the writing style in general seemed a bit amature. I know this is Breen's first book, and I could totally tell, because it didn't seem as developed as other novels I have read. In the book, she has little exerpts that the students write in her class, and also a short story that her mother writes and you get to read it...and it was even present tense in those stories! Not once was it pass tense or in a different format...The whole entire thing was present tense and it annoyed me like crazy. "Arabella sits down next to her mother as she gives her the Wendey's hamburger." I hated the style. However, the plot was okayish. There was a huge lack of action and it got a bit boring, but the ending was sensual and touching...it's mainly about a relationship between a mother and a daughter. A Great Mother's Day gift perhaps, but not if you're trying to learn from a "great" writer. Not the best work.