Schine & Weber

Just in time for Valentine’s Day –  these books both deal with women in their forties and fifties seemingly falling in love with horribly unsuitable (younger) men.

The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber

When forty-something librarian Patricia Dolan meets a distant Irish cousin, Mickey, she immediately falls in love with his youth, confidence and beauty. Their steamy, intense relationship takes a sinister turn when Mickey recruits Patricia, who has an art education and works at the Frick Museum, to help him steal a famous Dutch painting that belongs to the British queen. The novel is a diary of Patricia’s experiences as she waits for Mickey in an isolated Irish cottage with the purloined painting hidden in an upstairs cupboard. The pacing is as slow as life in an Irish village, which leaves plenty of time for Patricia to write about her life before Mickey, her feelings about their relationship and her reflections on art. The story has a melancholy tone and is laden with an air of defeat. Patricia is somewhat of a wet blanket character, but the friends she makes in Ireland are colorful and eccentric enough to keep readers engaged right up to the shocking, unexpected betrayal that ends the tale. I read this soon after finishing The Goldfinch and enjoyed its similar themes and subject matter.

The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

My book group discussed this novel at our January meeting. When Betty Weissmann’s husband leaves her for a younger colleague she moves with her two middle-aged daughters, Annie and Miranda, to a shabby house in Westport, CT that is generously provided by her extravagant Cousin Lou. Annie and Miranda have also run smack dab into financial, professional and personal setbacks so this decision to live together seems to solve many of their problems, though their temperaments severely conflict. As Betty prepares her divorce case (and becomes a Costco addict) and Annie tries to keep them financially afloat, Miranda falls crazy in love with a young actor named Kit who has a three-year-old son. This very funny book trots along at a brisk clip while the family struggles to find their footing in their strange, new (insolvent) existence. The characters are fully and charmingly drawn, though somewhat absurd, a trait I think Schine enjoys exposing. Resembling Barbara Pym’s work, the novel is a true social comedy on the surface, yet has an earnest and sad undertone. It is based rather loosely on Sense & Sensibility and my book group had fun discussing the similarities and differences in the two plots and appreciated the way Schine turns Austen’s ending on its head.

Do you have any favorite stories of love gone wrong?

10 Comments

  1. Although I haven’t read The Three Weissmann’s of Westport, I too have noticed the Pym-like quality in some of Schine’s other works. It seems like she writes about a wide variety of characters and settings in her different books, but always highlights the inner lives of her characters just like Pym did.

    • I’ve only ever read Fin & Lady by her and that one didn’t seem quite as Pym-like as this, though I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t as funny either, but more wistful and atmospheric. She is definitely an interesting writer.

  2. I tried The Three Weissmans after seeing several reviews of it, but I didn’t get too far with it. I need to try it again.

    I think my favorite “love gone wrong” stories end up with it going right in the end.

  3. I’m so sentimental – I like love to go right, and after not too many difficulties – the Anne-and-Gilbert relationship in Anne of Green Gables is about as much trauma as I can take! The Schine book does sound interesting though!

  4. Hm, I’m so torn on The Music Lesson — I love stories about ART THEFT and also stories about people who get in over their heads and really wish they could escape, but wet blanket characters exhaust and annoy me. What’s the art thieving to wet blanketing ratio?

  5. Wow, SO do not agree about The Music Lesson! It’s a lovely, subtle novel.

    • I didn’t dislike The Music Lesson, which I’m afraid didn’t quite come through in my thoughts – I did think that parts were certainly very lovely.

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