The female characters here, unlike Emma Bovary, are all solidly sympathetic sorts: good-natured, gently perplexed, reasonable women who try not to make too much fuss about their own tumultuous hearts. "I don't like chance," Elizabeth admits. "Chance is too chancy." As with past Schine novels, the message of She Is Me is that sooner or later, even the most sensible soul must let down her guard and let passion blow through her.
Schine wrotes with the speed and punch of a seasoned comic, conveying her character in a single line of dialogue.
… She Is Me would have the makings of a pop-cultural satire no matter what. ("Madame Bovary," the producer complains. "A franchise it's not.") But as its title underscores, a deeper transformation is also at work. At heart this is a novel in which three generations of women feel twinges of that Flaubertian discontent and wind up altering their own lives. That they are grandmother, mother and daughter (Elizabeth is the youngest), and that the shadow of death influences all of their decisions make this idiosyncratic book as haunting as it is clever. Janet Maslin
Schine (The Love Letter; The Evolution of Jane) takes a refreshing and often very funny look at love, aging and loyalty in the complicated lives of three women in a tight-knit family. Assistant professor Elizabeth Bernard moves to Los Angeles with her live-in boyfriend, Brett, and their three-year-old son, Harry, after a paper she wrote on Madame Bovary ("The Way Madame Bovary Lives Now: Tragedy, Farce and Cliche in the Age of Ikea") catches the eye of a hotshot studio head, who hires her to write the screenplay for an updated version of Flaubert's classic. Also living in L.A. are her grandmother, Lotte, a sharp-talking sometime actress whose aging but still beautiful skin is now marred by a cancerous tumor, and her mother, Greta, a garden designer with a lackluster marriage and a recent diagnosis of colon cancer. Elizabeth quickly finds herself beleaguered by competing demands: her sick mother and grandmother, "now drifting just out of her reach, her grandmother toward death, her mother toward uncertainty"; her sweet, needy son; her husband Brett's insistence that she marry him; her problematic screenplay. Greta, meanwhile, develops a surprising crush on Daisy Peperino, the director with whom Elizabeth is collaborating, and Lotte tries to come to terms with her own imminent death. Schine deftly mixes humor and pathos as she explores these women's various challenges. Elizabeth, especially, grapples with adultery, passion and grief, like Flaubert's heroine, but this sweet novel has none of the French classic's darkness. Instead, it's clever, charming and even uplifting, as Elizabeth learns that love and family are "farcical only from the outside and tragic only when they ended" and that forgiveness is always possible. 6-city author tour. (Sept. 15) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The Library of Congress subject headings say it all: Adult Children of Aging Parents, Motion Picture Industry, Parent and Adult Child, Mothers and Daughters, Los Angeles (Calif.), Women Screenwriters, Women-California, Aging Parents, Grandmothers, Adultery all with the subheading Fiction. Schine (Rameau's Niece) writes of three generations of lovely, accomplished Franke-Bernard women and their men (and women): grandmother Lotte, ravaged by a particularly ugly skin cancer; mother Greta, an accomplished landscape gardener, wife to a successful doctor, captivated by a younger lesbian film director, and about to be diagnosed with her own virulent cancer; and daughter Elizabeth, professor-turned-screenwriter, mother of three-year-old Harry, partner of Brett, toying with adultery in fact and fiction, and unable to commit. Conclusion: life's a mess, no matter what the social stratum. In this lovely, gripping, if sometimes depressing read, Schine conveys exquisitely the dynamics of the mother-daughter-granddaughter relationship and doesn't flinch from the realities of severe illness. Some nice touches and surprises; readers will love Lotte, who is a grand character. Recommended for all collections.-Jo Manning, Miami Beach, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Three generations of a close-knit family-mother, daughter, and granddaughter, each supporting the other selflessly but nevertheless facing her greatest challenge alone. Best known for The Love Letter (1995), which became a movie, Schine (The Evolution of Jane, 1998, etc.) focuses this time on three women: Lotte, the matriarch of a Jewish family transplanted to California, has recently been diagnosed with facial skin cancer. Her daughter Greta, a landscape artist married to a nice if slightly abstract doctor, adores her mother and does not resent caring for Lotte. Elizabeth, Greta's daughter, is an academic in New York, but by lucky coincidence she has been hired by the movie mogul Larry Volfman, a secret intellectual, to adapt Madame Bovary for the screen. With her loving boyfriend, whom she won't commit to marry, and their excessively lovable three-year-old son Harry, she moves to LA just in time to help care for Lotte, who is, as she herself likes to repeat, "a pistol," as elegant and feisty as ever. Earthy, nurturing Greta is thrilled to have her daughter near but keeps her feelings in check. Elizabeth's life, complete with a big salary, a cottage in Venice, and an SUV, seems almost perfect. Then Greta is diagnosed with colon cancer. She keeps her own cancer a secret from Lotte, but Elizabeth must step in and help both patients more. She's exhausted, pulled by conflicting responsibilities. As Lotte very privately comes to grips with her approaching death, Elizabeth finds herself attracted both to Volfman and to her younger brother's best friend, even though Brett is the most patient and loving of romantic heroes. Meanwhile, Greta not only struggles with chemotherapy but with hergrowing, out-of-the-blue passion for Daisy Piperino, the female director with whom Elizabeth is working. There are many references to Flaubert's novel, but Schine's domestic melodrama is short on real drama, with characters all too nice and understanding to create more than a mild stir. Capable but bland.