BOOK REVIEW: Jane Austen in Boca: A Novel
The premise of this book, written by Paula Marantz Cohen, can best be summed up this way: what if Jane Austen’s Bennett sisters were actual yentes? Yentes here meaning “older, Jewish, gossipy women who like to set people up with other people and talk about each other.” Diving in just a shade deeper, is there really a difference between Mrs. Bennett and her ilk in the insulated society of the British upperclass in Pride and Prejudice and a bunch of widows living in a gated retirement community in Boca Raton? All of them are of similar backgrounds; they want to see the people they love happy and in love; social standing means more than maybe it should; and misunderstandings based on Things Not Said abound.
The premise is more charming and clever than the book itself, however, I thought it was a fun read, and would recommend it for those times when you just need a bit of mind candy that doesn’t condescend and isn’t written on a tenth grade level. Especially if you are related to these women, or women just like them, or maybe you are one of them, as I am. There was a large level of familiarity of all the cultural references. You don’t have to be familiar with Jane Austen to appreciate some of the references, but it does add another level of cleverness that is appreciated in a world of same old same old. Thankfully, the book does not take itself too seriously. That would have spoiled the fun and the joke. The characters to devolve into stereotypes from time to time, but they are sufficiently different from each other to not be hollow. Some of the plot seemed a little forced to make it fit with Austen’s storylines, which don’t entirely translate into a world with cell phones and email, but not so horribly as to make you roll your eyes.
Looking back over this review, it seems more critical than I meant it. Just this: don’t expect great literature, but do expect fun and a clever idea that works.
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