Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fiction Review: The Three Weissmanns of Westport

After hearing multiple positive reviews of Catherine Schine’s novel, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, I was intrigued.  So, when I saw the audio book sitting on my library’s new releases shelf, I checked it out, figuring I might not ever get around to reading this book, but I might find time to listen to it.  I’m glad I did.  This is the sort of book that grew on me; the longer I listened, the more I liked it.

It’s the story of a mother, Betty Weissmann, and her two grown daughters, Miranda and Annie.  Betty’s husband – and the girls’ beloved stepfather – has left her after almost 50 years of marriage for the clich├ęd younger woman (though Betty doesn’t know about Felicity yet).  Miranda, who runs a successful literary agency, finds herself in dire straits when one of her memoirists turns out to be more of a novelist and is exposed on national television (sound familiar?).  Annie, who is divorced, lives a quiet, monotonous life working in a library.

When Betty is turned out of her fancy Manhattan apartment and Miranda can no longer pay her own lease, all three women take up a cousin’s offer to move into his beach cottage in Westport, CT.  The girls are, in part, trying to be supportive during their mother’s crisis, but all three are in need of a place to hide out and lick their wounds.

At this point, it sounds like a pretty depressing book, right?  That’s how I felt at the beginning, and though I felt sorry for Betty, her daughters seemed a bit whiny to me.  But I stuck with it, and I began to appreciate the subtle bits of humor and irony in the story, sometimes laughing out loud.  I also began to care about all three of the main characters, as they each struggled with loves past and potential and with trying to put their lives back together.  The novel also brought me to tears with its surprising warmth.

All of the reviews explain that Schine’s novel is a clever modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, but I can’t really comment on that, as I’ve never read the famous novel…or for that matter, anything by Jane Austen (I know, I know…it’s on my list.)  Perhaps The Three Weissmanns of Westport will serve as the impetus to finally drive me to read an Austen novel, just so I will be able to see the parallels.  In any case, I enjoyed the novel very much, without benefit of this background, so I imagine it will be even more satisfying to fans of Sense and Sensibility.

Where Are You Reading 2011:   Finally, an easy book location to figure out - it's right in the title!  This novel takes place in NYC and, primarily, in Westport, CT.



  1. I keep seeing this one pop up, too. The literary and library connections are of special interest to me! And you're not alone in not having read any Austen (gasp!), but it is on my list of things to do this year.

  2. I've been wondering whether I'd like this one. Maybe I'll try the audio book sometime.