Monday, April 14, 2008

The Fiction Class - A Book Review

To begin, here's the passage from the back of the book The Fiction Class by Susan Breen:

"On paper, Arabella Hicks is more than qualified to teach a weekly fiction class on New York's Upper West Side: She's an author herself; she's passionate about books; she's even named after the herione in a Georgette Heyer novel.

So why do her students seem so difficult? And why can't she find an ending to the novel she has been working on for seven years? Arabella's beginning to suspect that it's because her mother, Vera Hicks, is driving her insane. After each class, she goes to see Vera in a nursing home outside the city. Every visit turns into an argument. Arabella can't figure out how to make peace, until one day she discovers something surprising: Her mother wants to be a writer.

Slowly, cautiously, Arabella begins to teach her, and as the lessons progress along with her class, Arabella discovers that it is she who has a lot to learn about writing, and about love."

And now for my review:

As The Fiction Class, the story of Arabella Hicks, began, I was seemingly unaffected. Susan Breen's protagonist was dull, dissatisfied. Her affect as the teacher of an uninspired class, and the friction between she and her mother, Vera, didn't create a character I was readily able to connect with.

Formatting of the novel, which jumped from writing class to visit with Vera back to writing class, felt jarring to me. And the flow of Breen's more formal prose seemed stuffy, surreal.

But then, before I knew it, I realized with surprise that Arabella had grown on me. Through Breen's turns of phrase, which eventually came to resound so poignantly within me, I'd become used to Arabella's eccentricity. She was a more relatable character than I'd expected, and I found myself invested in her story. I felt sympathy as she faced her class and visits with Vera, and just as she began to see once-hidden layers in her students, and in her mother, I saw the same in her.

All said and done, The Fiction Class was a satisfying novel. The dynamics between Arabella and the supporting characters - particularly a love interest - made for an entertaining read. And the closure reached by book's end, made the discomfort between Arabella and Vera strangely worthwhile.

Susan Breen is one whose books, should she write more, will grace my nightstand.

You can view other reviews for The Fiction Class, by visiting Blog Stop Book Tours.

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