Wednesday, February 02, 2011
The book is a retelling of Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, transferred to Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Westport, Connecticut, in the present day. Schine has transformed nearly every plot point and character into a modern version, some more successfully than others. For example, Marianne, from S&S, is a delightfully free spirit, romantic and impetuous. Her 21st century analog, Miranda, is a spoiled drama queen and not nearly as appealing as Marianne. Fanny, from S&S, who schemes to cheat Marianne and her mother and sister out of their rightful portions, is recreated as Felicity, a more fully developed character in Schine’s version, and more sympathetic too (though I confess, it’s been a long time since I read S&S). It’s fun to play the match-up game, though the book certainly works even if you don’t know the origin of the plot and the characters (as a few book club members sheepishly confessed).
I find Schine to be an erratic writer. Years ago I read Alice in Bed, her first book, and really liked it, but I’ve had more trouble with her later offerings. Sometimes she is sloppy and takes the easy way out (telling and not showing, for example). But sometimes she is really ironic and sharp-witted and I like that. I can’t decide if updating a classic like S&S is brave (oh, the challenge of writing as well as Ms. Austen!) or lazy (don’t have to waste time coming up with a plot!). Maybe it’s both.
(Book 3, 2011)