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Once Upon A Bookshelf

Where Fiction and Reality Meet

Jane Austen in Scarsdale: or Love, Death and the SATs

Author: Paula Marantz Cohen
Originally Published: 2006
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Jane Austen in ScarsdaleI read so many Jane Austen adaptations last year and the year before that I thought I was going to avoid them this year, but apparently not. (After this one, there are at least two others that I need/want to read soon!) Jane Austen in Scarsdale is a retelling of Persuasion. In this version, Anne Ehrlich is the head guidance counsellor of a high school in Scarsdale. She comes from a family that was at one point in time very wealthy, but the situation has changed drastically – she even has to sell the family home in order to cover her father’s debts. In walks Ben Cutler, Anne’s former boyfriend, who she broke up with many years ago at her grandmother’s urging. At that point in time he wasn’t wealthy, and was working at a local travel agent. Now, however, he is a best-selling travel guide author who is engaged to a beautiful Danish woman. Unfortunately for Anne, she still has feelings for him – he was the only man she ever loved, and is the only man she believes she ever will love…

I almost walked away from this book after the third chapter. I did not enjoy it at first. Thought it was too silly, a little boring, and the main characters didn’t seem very interesting… but I stuck it out, and goodness am I happy that I did. It turned out to be A LOT of fun. In fact, after the first few chapters I may have been giggling through the whole thing. I don’t know if I was supposed to, but I certainly was.

Let’s face it – I really hope that the author meant the narration to be cheesy. I really do. Because it’s hard to take it seriously when the book talks about how “the injuries of time had laid bare the beauty of their affection.” It was all quite corny, but it kept me giggling and that’s part of what made it so enjoyable. And enjoying it is what really counts, right?

The book also wasn’t without a few moments of well-placed irony, which seemed (to me) to poke a little bit of fun at the fact that this is a retelling of Persuasion:

Life isn’t a Jane Austen novel. It’s one thing to be long-suffering in a story, where the author can make it worth your while, but in real life, who’s going to make sure it ends happily?

And there were all of the secondary characters. The main ones themselves didn’t do too much for me – Anne was a tad bit boring and Ben just seemed like a faint echo of the wonderfulness that is Captain Wentworth… but the smaller bit-characters? Jonathan was a kindred spirit (in that he prefers books to the company of people that he doesn’t find interesting), Winnie was a darling grandmother, and the students that Anne works with every day provided endless entertainment. Even Anne’s father was so amusing in his ridiculousness. (I especially enjoyed his birthday speech.)

The Bottom Line: Definitely a good summer read. It’s quick, it’s fluffy, and there are some great moments to laugh over. I don’t know if I’m going to keep this or pass it on quite yet, and I don’t know if I’ll read Cohen’s other books, but I enjoyed this for what it was.

Posted by Courtney Wilson @ 7:43 pm July 5, 2009.
Category: Chick Lit
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  • Stephanie

    HA! I love the quote you picked to share from the book. I will have to read this one some day.