Anne Ehrlich is a dedicated guidance counselor steering her high-school charges through the perils of college admission. Thirteen years ago, when she was graduating from Columbia University, her wealthy family-especially her dear grandmother Winnie-persuaded her to give up the love of her life, Ben Cutler, a penniless boy from Queens College. Anne has never married and hasn't seen Ben since-until his nephew turns up in her high school and starts applying to college.
Now Ben is a successful writer, a world traveler, and a soon-to-be married man; and Winnie's health is beginning to fail. All of these changes have Anne beginning to wonder…Can old love be rekindled, or are past mistakes too painful to forget?
With all the wit and perceptiveness of Jane Austen's Persuasion, Jane Austen in Scarsdale is a fresh and romantic new comedy from a novelist with "a knack for making modern life reflect literature in the most engaging manner" (Library Journal).
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Paula Marantz Cohen is Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is the author of two previous novels, Jane Austen in Boca and Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan, and four scholarly works of nonfiction, including Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth and The Daughter as Reader: Encounters Between Literature and Life. She lives in Moorestown, New Jersey, with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
"Great speaker last night, right?" Vince Flockhart, Fenimore's principal, looked hopefully down at Anne Ehrlich, head of guidance, as she ate her grilled cheese sandwich in the faculty cafeteria. Report had it that the parents had been impressed by the speaker--though half had left in tears and the other half had been digging in the bottom of their bags for Valium.
"He was very high energy," conceded Anne.
"You didn't like him!" declared Vince, peering more closely at Anne's face. He liked to look at that face--it had a sweetness and unconventional beauty that was undeniably appealing--but he was also attuned to its judgment, which he had learned to ignore at his peril.
"My only concern," acknowledged Anne carefully, "is that he may have upset some of our more high-strung parents."
Vince swallowed queasily. The idea of Fenimore parents, jumpy under normal circumstances, whipped into a frenzy by the speaker made him reach in his pocket for an antacid.
"Don't worry," Anne reassured him, "I'm sure they'll be no worse than usual." (This, admittedly, was small consolation--"usual" for Fenimore parents was very bad.) "Besides, we just have to get through the next few months. It's downhill after that."
Her tone was encouraging, but she was not without her own sense of dread. If Vince as principal was the last line of defense against Fenimore parents, Anne as head of guidance was the first. Soon, anxious parents would be dropping by her office to ask whether to capitalize the S in "Secretary of the French Club" and whether to use Times Roman or Courier font on their kids' college applications. Soon, she would be witness topitched battles between kids and their parents that went well beyond the scope of the curriculum ("Maybe if you and Dad had worked harder at staying married, I'd have worked harder at honors chem!"). Last year, three mothers had collapsed in her office from nervous exhaustion, and one of the fathers, an expert in international law, had confided that he hadn't been so tense since he drew a low draft number during Vietnam.
Applying to college was a big deal in Westchester County, as it was throughout much of the country. This was due, in part, to the prestige that certain colleges were assumed to confer--the decal on the car functioning in the manner of a designer logo and marking the kid as a high-end accessory. This was also due to the insecurity of parents, who sensed that their children were unformed artifacts at eighteen and were hoping that an excellent college would hand them a finished product. (What a finished product was supposed look like, of course, was open to question--although the next Steven Spielberg or Bill Gates, with a burning desire to live next door to their parents in Westchester, wouldn't be so bad.)
Fortunately, as Anne reminded Vince, the most stressful period occurred during the first few months of the school year, when the best students (often those with the pushiest parents) applied for early admission. Once that notification had been made by mid-December, things grew relatively calm until the final decisions for regular applicants arrived in April. By then, changes in the angle of light, not to mention the approach of summer vacation, moderated the tendency to hysteria.
Vince, however, did not seem comforted by the reminder that he had only three months of pure hell ahead of him. He heaved a sigh, popped the antacid into his mouth, and lumbered off.
After he left, Marcy Fineman, who taught history at Fenimore and was sitting across from Anne, looked up from scraping the mayonnaise off the top slice of her turkey sandwich.
"Was he cute?" she asked.
"Was who cute?" responded Anne, confused.
"The speaker last night. The one Vince just mentioned. Did he have potential?" Marcy had a way of lagging behind in conversation, her mind distracted by what she wasn't going to eat.
"Marcy, please, he wasn't a day over twenty-five!"
"And what's wrong with twenty-five? You're only thirty-four. You see thirty-four-year-old women marrying twenty-five-year old-men all the time in The New York Times wedding section."
"Really?" Anne looked unconvinced. She knew that, as a historian, Marcy felt obliged to cite evidence for her assertions, but since she often asserted what she wished to be true rather than what actually was, her evidence tended to be fabricated.
"The point is," continued Marcy, disregarding Anne's question, "age shouldn't be an issue. You know you don't look a day over twenty-five. I read in Cosmo that most women don't start to age until their late thirties."
Anne looked doubtful again, but Marcy continued unfazed. "All I'm saying is that you shouldn't rule people out. It's not that you don't attract men--I mean, they're always looking at you. But you don't encourage them. You can't know if you don't like someone until you give them a chance."
"I give people a chance," said Anne, "within reason."
"But your idea of reason isn't reasonable. Personally, I think you're too picky." Marcy paused here to wipe the mayonnaise off the lettuce in her sandwich with her napkin, then continued: "You've met some nice enough guys, but they're never good enough. There was Chris who had that great car and Steven who sent you flowers."
"Steven was sweet," Anne admitted.
"He cooked you dinner. He served you breakfast in bed. He fixed your computer. For God's sake, what did you want?"
"He didn't like to read," noted Anne.
"So he wasn't into books. Big deal."
"Marcy, how can you say that? You're a history teacher."
"Yes, well, I happen to like to read. But I wouldn't judge someone else for not liking to."
"We're talking marriage here," said Anne, "not jury selection. Shared interests are important."
Marcy sighed and looked momentarily despondent. "Rich and I used to have lots of shared interests. We once read through the Declaration of Independence and pretended we were the Founding Fathers. It was very romantic."
Anne was about to say she was sure they would do such romantic things again--but Marcy had already plunged ahead: "I think that you're comparing them all to that first one, what's his name--the one you let get away."
Anne was silent for a moment. "Ben Cutler," she finally said. It was odd how just saying his name could still move her. Marcy was right; she did, unconsciously, compare every man she met to Ben Cutler. "He was exceptional," she admitted in the detached tone she tried to adopt on this subject. She liked to think that she had gotten over Ben, though in moments of solitude his memory still haunted her. "I did let him get away. I was young, and my family thought he didn't have the right background or enough ambition. Even Winnie was against it."
"Your grandmother is a fabulous woman," said Marcy, "but she's a snob."
"Maybe," Anne said quietly. "But I think she's mellowed and would see things differently now. Not that it matters. Ben Cutler is rich and successful and proved us all wrong with a vengeance."
"You're in touch with him?"
"You Googled him?"
"Is there anyone we haven't Googled?"
Marcy agreed. "Yesterday I Googled some kid who picked his nose behind me in the fifth grade. He owns a chain of optical shops in New Jersey. So your guy, Cutler, what does he do now?"
"He writes those travel books, Cutler's Guides to Culture. Sort of a high-end version of Frommer's. They're very popular."
"No kidding," said Marcy, impressed. "Rich and I used Cutler's Guide to Sicily on our honeymoon. It had a great section on Godfather shooting sites and the best places for canneloni--not that I ate any, but it was nice to know." She drifted for a moment. "Rich and I haven't gone anywhere since that trip. They say that you can't really take time off at a top law firm until your first heart attack."
"Marcy!" exclaimed Anne, but Marcy waved her hand.
"So did you contact him? Did you write this travel mogul Ben Cutler?"
Anne shook her head. "I could never contact him now. He's probably married with kids--and it would seem like I was only interested because he's successful and I'm--well, you know--"
"And how is that situation?"
"The same," Anne said wearily. If anything, she thought to herself, things were worse. Her father had just bought a new cashmere sports jacket--she had found the bill for it in his desk drawer on top of a mountain of other bills. The only consolation was that if you were already over a million in debt, a thousand more or less hardly mattered.
As her mind pondered the "situation," as Marcy put it, a small line formed over Anne's forehead, giving her gentle face a touch of severity. Countless Fenimore boys, summoned to the guidance office for the conventional misdemeanor, had kept to the straight and narrow in order to avoid seeing that line form again over Anne Ehrlich's forehead.
"We're going to have to sell the Scarsdale house," she explained to Marcy now. "I hate to do it; I grew up there and Winnie's lived there for so long, but I don't see another option."
"What does your father say?"
"Not much. You know my dad..."
Marcy rolled her eyes to indicate that she did.
"But it's Winnie I'm worried about. I haven't told her yet, and I really don't know what she'll do."
"Well, if you ask me, now's the time to give Harry Furman a chance," said Marcy, returning to the subject of Anne's love life. Harry Furman was a partner in Marcy's husband's law firm, who she'd been pushing Anne to go out with for weeks. "Harry's rich. He has a duplex on Park Avenue. I'm sure he'd love a weekend home in Westchester. So what if he's been married before?"
"He's been married twice before."
"OK, twice. Glamour magazine says twice-divorced men make great husbands; they don't want to strike out. So he's not perfect. I'm sure that this Cutler fellow wasn't perfect either. They're never as good as you think they are."
Anne let herself consider this. Had she idealized Ben Cutler? It was possible, given the time that had elapsed--thirteen years, after all. And even if he had been as good then, he was probably a very different person now. Perhaps her rejection had contributed to making him different: less trusting and less kind. It would be natural for such a thing to happen.
Marcy was about to expound on the advantages of Harry Furman's twice-married state and duplex on Park Avenue, when Anne interrupted. "I have to go," she said abruptly. They were over the half hour she usually took for lunch, and the mention of Ben Cutler had unnerved her, making her eager to get back to work. "I'm up to my neck in early admissions letters, and the Hopgoods have a one-fifteen that's probably going to take up the rest of the afternoon. Mr. Hopgood asked me to prepare a full strategic plan for getting Trevor into Williams. When I told him I couldn't do that, he said they were going to hire their own Ivy packager."
"It's our guidance lingo for a college consultant. Like the speaker last night. He charges two hundred fifty dollars an hour to package kids for college."
"Are you saying that parents hire people to sell their children?"
"Absolutely. They do it for toothpaste, toilet paper, and deodorant, so why not your standard-issue teenager?"
"I must have missed that one," noted Marcy, who admittedly missed a lot, since her mind, when not teaching the Louisiana Purchase, tended to be occupied with whether to have lo-cal Italian or lo-cal French dressing on her salad that day. "But come to think of it, I did have a weird thing happen with a reference letter last week." She paused, taking a sip from her unsweetened iced tea. "Tim Dougherty, one of the seniors in my second-period American history class, asked if I was 'into letter writing.' That's how he put it. Then, his mother called to ask what my 'philosophy' on reference letters was. I didn't know that I had to have a philosophy."
"They just want to know if you're trustworthy. They've all heard stories about teachers who seem supportive but then go ahead and screw the kid in the reference letter."
"How awful!" said Marcy. "Are there really teachers who do that?"
"Of course, screwing is a matter of perspective. Nowadays, saying that a student is diligent and nice can be the kiss of death for admission to a good school."
"What's wrong with 'diligent and nice?'" asked Marcy, looking worried--she had used more or less these words in her reference letter for Tim Dougherty.
"You might as well say the kid is an unassuming clod who'll add nothing to the vibrant atmosphere of the college. You have to say he's of exceptional caliber--the best you ever had, or at least the best in some particular area; it doesn't matter what. A good packager can turn 'the best at being rude and disruptive' into 'a fiercely independent spirit.'"
"Thanks for the clarification." Marcy sighed. She wondered if she should send out another reference letter saying that Tim Dougherty was the best she'd ever had in the production of flatulence during a fifty-minute period. No other exceptional quality came to mind.
"It's ridiculous how competitive things have gotten," admitted Anne, "which explains why the parents are going nuts. They want their kids to have everything for a happy, successful life, and a good college seems to be part of the equation. God knows, I'd probably be buying the prep books and hiring the tutors if I had kids of my own," she noted wistfully.
"Well, thank God, Rich and I don't," declared Marcy. She and her husband had made the decision not to have children, owing, in part, to a desire to remain in Manhattan (a relative impossibility once the financial albatross of a child entered the picture), and because the prospective weight gain associated with pregnancy had a way of making Marcy hyperventilate. "I've got the kids in my classes," she rationalized, "who I didn't have to carry for nine months and who, thank God, I don't have to see after three P.M. I suppose I'll be losing out on those lifetime events like the bar mitzvah and the wedding--but I don't think I'd be very good with the caterer anyway."
Anne said nothing. She secretly believed that Marcy would make an excellent mother--if only she could get herself to eat a doughnut.
Copyright © 2006 by Paula Marantz Cohen
Reading Group Guide
In Her Own Words
"Tips on Writing a First Novel at Age 47"
by Paula Marantz Cohen
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. My early experiences with writing, however, were not encouraging. I began keeping a journal in the third grade because writers were supposed to keep journals. I was conscientious for the first few days, then, inevitably, forgot to keep up. Sometimes I'd have a resurgence of energy a week or so later and fill in the missing pages, trying to fool the journal into thinking I'd written them when I should have. But I rarely went more than a few more days before petering out again.
As a result, if you visit my parents' basement today, you will find notebookslarge and small, spiraled and stitched, with Moroccan leather and tie-dyed coversall empty except for the first few pages.
In junior high school I began writing short stories and sending them off to women's magazines. It was a time when women's magazines published stories about how resourceful young women captured eligible young men in marriage (stories since replaced by feature articles entitled "How to Satisfy Him in Bed"). I recall the feeling of trepidation as I slipped the manila envelope with my name and address and the requisite return postage into its sister envelope containing my latest literary effort ("young woman snags young man on Nantucket beach"). I also remember the pall I felt when the SASE arrived back at the house a few weeks later.
But the nail in the coffin of my dream of becoming a writer occurred during college. I had submitted a story to the hot-shot novelistformer heroin addictnow Hollywood screenwriter who was teaching a special writing workshop at the school that semester. It was one of the hallmarks of the very selective college that I attended that it continued to be selective even after you had squeezed through its portals, making you compete again and again for special classes and programs. In this case, the visiting writer was given an oak-paneled office in which to peruse submissions for his special writing workshop. After reading our work, he interviewed us, one by one, for the coveted spots around the seminar table where he would chain smoke and pontificate about the moron producers in Hollywood. I got the stuff about the chain smoking and the producers secondhand, since I was rejected from the workshop. When I entered the office for my interview, he delivered his verdict succinctly: I had, he said, "a tin ear for dialogue and no sense of dramatic plotting." I had already been told something along the same lines by a nasty elderly novelist at Bread Loaf Writers' Workshop the summer before, so it didn't come as a shock. What destroyed me was that the visiting writer, known to chase anything in a skirt, hardly looked up while pronouncing on my literary incapacity. My writing was obviously too bad to rate even a leer.
Having failed all the supposed tests for the true writer, I did the logical thing: I went to graduate school and became a literary critic. That was twenty-five years ago, time enough to put the dream of fiction-writing behind me. But life, as they say, works in mysterious ways. One day, I happened to pick up Judith Krantz's memoir Sex and Shopping. I can't say that Krantz is a favorite author. My tastes run more to Jane Austen and George Eliot. But I'm not ashamed to say that I've read Judith Krantz with pleasure on beaches and on mountaintops and that she can hold her own with Robert Ludlum and Michael Crichton any day. What they do with guns and money laundering, she does with sex and shopping. If you think the former is more important than the latter, read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.
Anyway, Krantz's memoir changed my life. More than midway through Sex and Shopping, the author announces that she began writing her first novel, Scruples, at the age of forty-seven. She tried writing short stories before that, she explains, and had some success writing nonfiction pieces for the women's magazines (hers may have been the first article on "How To Satisfy Him in Bed"). But it turned out that novels, not stories or features, were her true genre, and it took her until the age of forty-seven to find this out.
I was forty-seven. A day or so after reading Krantz's memoir, I was coming home from the mall where (in true Krantzian fashion) I had been shopping for the right shoes to go with a new top, when I had a revelation. I would call it a Joycean epiphany, only I wouldn't put myself in such august literary company. Let me call it a Krantzian epiphany. I would write a novel.
I had been carrying around a cartload of ideas for years, filing them in my memory under the heading: "That would make a good novel." Now I took them out and examined them. The most promising was one that derived from a visit to my in-laws in Boca Raton, Florida, a few years back. I was struck at the time by the similarity of their retirement communitya very sociable one inhabited by Jewish seniorsto the closed world of the Jane Austen novel. Here too was a plethora of gossip, visiting, meals, and romance (given the number of widows and widowers seeking new partners). Jane's "three or four families in a country village" could easily be translated, I believed, into "four or five seniors in a Boca Raton Club." And so Jane Austen in Boca was born. That day of the Krantzian epiphany I began to write it. Three months later, it was done. I found an agent (using a reference book from the local library), and she, bless her, placed the book with a wonderful editor at St. Martin's Press. The dream of my childhood had been realized.
What have I learned from this experience that I can impart to other aspiring writers? Several things:
Don't believe what they say constitutes the requisite behavior of the developing writer. Some writers, I'm sure, keep journals assiduously, write good short stories, and receive positive critiques from dissipated visiting writers at their colleges. But not doing/having these things is not a certain sign of incapacity.
Just because you can't do something at one point in your life doesn't mean you can't do it at another. The elderly nasty writer at Bread Loaf had told me that if you're not a writer by thirty, you'll never be one. Don't believe it. The dissipated visiting writer at my college told me I had a tin ear for dialogue. He happened to be rightthen. But I later learned to write dialogue, probably through watching movies. Ergo: it is possible to learn to do things that you couldn't do before.
Don't try to write a great novel or even, dare I say it, a good one. Simply try to write something that amuses or moves you. I take great pride in the Kirkus review of my first novel. It ends with the line: "A silly triflebut clever and fun." No Tolstoy or Eliot here, I readily admit, but so what? What's wrong with a silly trifle, especially if it's clever and fun?
Austen Characters are Much Like Us by Paula Marantz Cohen
Lionel Trilling once wrote that Jane Austen possessed two sorts of admirers: those who read her for her keen insight into human nature and those who read her for a cozy image of old England. The recent film of Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, clearly embraces the latter virtue. A great deal of time and money has been lavished on the details of English country life, down to the pigs in the Bennet yard and the hectic press of flesh at the local balls.
Many reviewers will commend a Jane Austen adaptation if it looks authenticwhich seems to translate into containing a lot of mud, having characters with bad teeth, and showing the plight of the servant class. But just because country balls in Regency England were headache-inducing affairs, does that mean that we have to experience them that way?
When there is too much scenery, costume, and décor to look athowever accurately and interestingly these things are portrayedthe singular human interaction inevitably recedes into the background. Austen's novels are not historical documents but novels of manners. The visits, dinners, and balls are important insofar as they are conduits for relaying essential character. Only the fools and villains in Austen's novels pay too much attention to surface detail.
It is my contention that Austen adaptations work best when they direct us to the present, not the pastwhen we are led to see how much the wayward Lydia Bennet resembles our flaky cousin, who ran off with the aspiring rock star and now lives with him in her parents' basement. Or how the pragmatic Charlotte Lucas reminds us of our college roommate, who finally succumbed to the nerdy guy who had been chasing her since high school and now has a very nice family and a house in the suburbs. Needless to say, we reserve the role of the charming, discriminating, if not conventionally beautiful, Elizabeth Bennet for ourselves.
In this vein, Clueless and Bridget Jones's Diary, both based on Austen fictions, strike me as inspired. They satirize societies very different from Austen's, while capturing the spirit of the originals. The rites and rituals of an American suburban high school and of the single life in middle-class Britain are, ultimately, not so different from those of the English country gentry in Austen's day. Or, rather, human nature, whether in a Beverly Hills high school or a London bedsit, isn't very different.
With their meticulous research into the customs of the lesser gentry in provincial English towns at the turn of the nineteenth century, many recent adaptations are attached to an image of Jane Austen that is mired in the past. In their compulsion to re-create the minutiae of her age, they miss the forest for the trees. They forget that Austen endures because the people she depicted were just like us.
© 2006 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Recommended Reading from the desk of Anne Ehrlich
PERSUASION by Jane Austenof course!
HOWARD'S END, E. M. Forster
MIDDLEMARCH, George Eliot
PORTRAIT OF A LADY, Henry James
HEARTBURN, Nora Ephron
THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM, Rebecca Goldstein
INTUITION, Allegra Goodman
ON BEAUTY, Zadie Smith
Reading Group Questions
1. Discuss whether the book is a realistic rendering of the college admissions process or a farcical exaggeration (this may well depend upon your own experiences with the process).
2. To what extent does the book achieve a balance between poking fun at the parents and treating them with understanding and sympathy?
3. How do you personally account for the kind of excesses that the book describes? Is it a matter of a particular community (an affluent suburb like Scarsdale) or of a larger social trend in parenting?
4. Do you understand why Anne gave up Ben at her grandmother's urging when she was twenty- one? Does this seem realistic to you or does it make you think less of Anne?
5. What is your opinion of Winnie? Do you think she genuinely changes in the course of the novel?
6. Do you believe in the idea that there is one person who is right for us in life and that if we miss our chance to connect with that person, we lose something invaluable and irreplaceable?
7. The novel is loosely modeled on Jane Austen's Persuasion. Anne is overly persuaded to give up Ben when she was young. How does this theme of over-persuasion fit with the students she deals with in her capacity as guidance counselor? Discuss the degree to which the parents in the novel see their children as accessories: signs of status and upward mobility.
8. Discuss the degree to which the frenzy over college admission is a genuine expression of the love, concern, and fear that parents have about their children. Do you feel that parents are now more fearful than they used to be about their children's future? If so, why?
9. If you have read Austen's Persuasion, discuss the likenesses and similarities between its plot and the story of this novel. Why do you think the author chose to diverge where she did?
10. Some people have said that the book, while poking fun at the college admissions process, also supplies some helpful tips on what to do in guiding one's child's application process. Discuss some of these tips.
11. Where does helpful coaching end and immoral manipulation begin in helping students present the best possible profile to a college?
12. Do you believe that early admission and early action should be discontinued?
13. Discuss the sample college essays that are given in the book and say why they are amusing (if you find them so). How do you think Anne will handle the college admissions process when (or if) she has children of her own?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is part of a series of modern novels based on Jane Austen works, in this case "Persuasion." I saw and barely remember the movie, but still enjoyed the story of a Scarsdale college counselor dealing with her competitive charges, once-rich family, and former lover newly back in town (now attached, oh NO!).
In a modern day take on Jane Austen's Persuasion, Jane Austen In Scarsdale tells the story of guidance counselor Anne Ehrlich who hails from rich blood and is generally happy with her life with the exception of one major regret. As a young woman, at the advice of her family, she broke off a relationship with Ben Cutler, a man she was very much in love with. Anne's current life consists of helping students - and their neurotic parents - make the best decisions about college. True to Austen, Cutler reappears in Anne's life as his nephew is one of her newest charges. Anne's feelings for Ben are reignited, however, he has changed from the young boy that her family deemed not good enough for her. She fears that she has missed her chance at true love and made a huge mistake now that he is a successful world traveler with a new life and a fiancee of his own. This book is a sweet and adorable love story. It has all the charm of Austen's classic infused with modern humor and a fresh telling. It is a lighthearted and enjoyable novel for those that have long loved Austen and those that are new to her tales as well!
The plot is based off of Jane Austen's 'Persuasion.' Anne is a high school guidance councilor who's job it is to get her students accepted at the desired college. The nephew of her former flame moves into the school which paves the way to all sorts of drama. Some cute parts, but overall I thought it was kind of boring.
Some of the best and most intellegent writing in this century. More chick lit authors should be like Cohen. Women like intelligent romance!
Charming heroine and engaging story. Easy to read, perfect for vacation.
This book was extremely entertaining. Even though I thought it was a little shallow and could have gone a little deeper, it was still able to suck me in and keep me hooked until the very end. I loved every single character and was sad to see it end. Reading this book has now inspired me to read Jane Austen's Persuasion, since this novel was based off of it. A great read!
A close examination of life in one of the most competitive, accomplished and educated communities in America, Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs (April 2006 St. Martin's Press ISBN 0.312.32502.9 $23.95 hardcover) chronicles contemporary life as seen through the the eyes of young, middle-aged, and older Scarsdalians in a manner not unlike that used by Helen Fielding in Bridget Jones' Diary and Jane Austen in Persuasion. Cohen's characters could just as easily been residents of Chappaqua, NY or Greenwich, CT, or any other high-achieving communities which share common values such as high expectations for their children, demanding the very best in everything, especially their children's educations. With crystal clarity, Cohen has described exactly what life is like for Scarsdale students, their teachers, staff and parents, especially at the middle and high school level. Whole scenes seem to have been lifted from articles in The Scarsdale Inquirer, Journal News or other local newspapers. There is an uncanny accuracy in the scene showing the college consultant who advocates pushing and packaging students. The college admissions personnel, guidance counselors, teachers, staff and parents are the mirror image of real people. It is as if the author sifted through the thoughts of this reviewer and her contemporaries as they and their progeny navigated the halls of the ivy-covered educational edifices. Every observation and detail, from the private college admissions coaches, to the tutors hired to boost GPAs, to the selection of volunteer and after-school activities for their prospective value on college applications, is a bull's eye.
In Scarsdale, New York, thirty-four years old single high school guidance counselor Anne Ehrlich has to sell her once affluent patrician family home as they no longer have the resources to maintain it to pay off the debts her spendthrift father accumulated. The sole pragmatist she is the one stuck with completing the logistics of the sale.------- Travel book writer Ben Cutler moves to Scarsdale so that his nephew Jonathan can attend a top high school in the states after they lived overseas for years together along with his single mom. Ben is stunned to learn the love of his life Annie works there. Thirteen years ago when she attended Columbia and he worked as a travel agent in Queens they fell in love. However, her snooty family rejected the working class Ben and she did not have the fortitude to defy them. Seeing him now Anne knows sadly what she truly lost and how unhappy she has been since she said no to her beloved Ben.----- The second Paula Marantz Cohen¿s modernizing of the works of Jane Austen (see JANE AUSTEN IN BOCA based on Pride and Prejudice) is a fine tale that updates Persuasion. The story line is obvious how it will end from the moment the counselor meets Jonathan¿s Uncle Ben, but the audience will not care as the insight into the college admissions process is fascinating and the denial of the lead pair that they both desire a second chance make for high tension in spite of at times each seems like a loser. What holds the tale together besides the best admissions review since How I Got Into College is the support cast which seems genuine with no evil souls including his likable fiancée.----- Harriet Klausner
A close examination of life in one of the most competitive, accomplished and educated communities in America, Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs chronicles contemporary life as seen through the the eyes of young, middle-aged, and older Scarsdalians in a manner not unlike that used by Helen Fielding in Bridget Jones' Diary and Jane Austen in Persuasion. Cohen's characters could just as easily been residents of Chappaqua, NY or Greenwich, CT, or any other high-achieving communities which share common values such as high expectations for their children, demanding the very best in everything, especially their children's educations. With crystal clarity, Cohen has described exactly what life is like for Scarsdale students, their teachers, staff and parents, especially at the middle and high school level. Whole scenes seem to have been lifted from articles in The Scarsdale Inquirer, Journal News or other local newspapers. There is an uncanny accuracy in the scene showing the college consultant who advocates pushing and packaging students. The college admissions personnel, guidance counselors, teachers, staff and parents are the mirror image of real people. It is as if the author sifted through the thoughts of this reviewer and her contemporaries as they and their progeny navigated the halls of the icy-covered educational edifices. Every observation and detail, from the private college admissions coaches, to the tutors hired to boost GPAs, to the selection of volunteer and after-school activities for their prospective value on college applications, is a bull's eye.