Thursday, March 25, 2010
Jane Austen Kvetches
As I mentioned in my previous post, I read several Austen tribute novels for my thesis. By far, the one that stood out for me was Paula Marantz Cohen's Jane Austen in Boca. The book follows the trials and tribulations of May, Lila, and Flo, three Jewish widows living in the Boca Festa retirement community in Boca Raton, FL. Their love lives follow closely the problems poised to several of the female characters in Pride and Prejudice.
While you may think a retirement community is pretty far removed from Regency England, Cohen surprises and draws a lot of parallels. Consider this: the women of Boca Festa don't work and spend many hours cultivating their hobbies. These women live off an income, and they deal with a severe shortage of available men in their tiny community. Cohen definitely makes it work.
May falls for Norman, a successful leather goods salesman who recently lost his wife. However, Norman is friends with the pompous Stan, a retired English professor from Florida Atlantic University. He doesn't approve of any of the women at Boca Festa, as both he and Stan spend time at the more exclusive Broken Arrow community. Stan gets under the skin of Flo, a retired librarian who prefers books to men. Flo speaks her mind and isn't afraid of it. She becomes intrigued by Mel, a retired journalist who weaves tales of international travel and doing work for the CIA. Meanwhile, Lila gets engaged to Hy, a boring man who rattles on incessantly about the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. Even though no one likes him, Lila wants to marry because she is afraid her retirement income will run out. Sound familiar yet?
While mirroring Austen, the novel also tries to give you a sense of life as a retiree in Boca Raton. If you enjoy Austen, I recommend this as some great fluff for light reading. Cohen also wrote a book called Jane Austen in Scarsdale, which mirrors the plot of Persuasion. However, I think Boca is definitely the stronger piece.