The Fiction Class – Susan Breen

March 11, 2010 § 8 Comments

They are always so cheerful in screenwriting; the memoir class is always in tears, and the fiction class seems to be confused.

The Fiction Class is a story about Arabella Hicks, an author who gives weekly classes on writing fiction in New York. It so happens that the day she has her classes is also the day that she makes her weekly journey to a nursing home to visit her mother, Vera Hicks. This is not something that Arabella particularly looks forward to, as her relationship with her mother is not all that great. But as the weeks go on, Vera starts asking Arabella about her classes, and it is through this weekly ritual of sharing her lessons with her mother, they learn more about each other, their past, their expectations.

I particularly enjoyed the fiction classes that Arabella taught, taking in the things she told her students, and some of the writing exercises she gave them were really quite interesting. I also loved finding out more about her students. What is their story? What is their obsession?

~ So, my question for you is, what sets up a commotion in your mind? What do you agonize about before you got to bed?

~ … you need to try to figure out what topics obsess you. It might be something big, like war and peace, or it might be something small, such as the fact that people keep cutting you in line.

~ My point is that if you write about things that are important to you, you will find it much easier to get started. Write about the thing that sets up a commotion in your mind, and you will find that words come flowing.

These fiction classes were sandwiched in between each visit that Arabella made to her mother’s nursing home. Much as I liked Arabella (she was uncertain, she had flaws, she was real), I think I really liked her mother. It feels a little difficult to explain why I would like Vera so much, but there’s just something about her personality that I can’t quite shrug off.

For some odd reason, I didn’t like the love story. It felt a little forced, and I didn’t quite understand the dynamics between the two characters. Compared with the mother-daughter relationship, this love story felt a little less real. It didn’t quite work for me.

But the rest of the book, I quite quite enjoyed. There was just something lovely about the story as a whole. It was funny, but not hilarious; it was witty without trying to be too smart. The book was simple, easy to understand, and just had a heart.

Rating: 4

* Note: I found out about this book via Sasha’s review earlier this year.

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§ 8 Responses to The Fiction Class – Susan Breen

  • Yay mother-daughter relationship exploration! There’s not enough of those in fiction. I’ll have to check this one out. =D

  • Susan says:

    Fiction (I think) about fiction? Sounds like it works. Might even learn a thing or two. Nice review.

  • Sasha says:

    I obviously very much loved this book, haha. It was deceptively simple, I think. And man, there were so many quotables–Breen’s language is so straightforward and true.

    I mentioned in my review (and thanks for linking me ;p) that I liked the love story. It was simple, and yes, a little cinematic-y-predictable, but it served its purpose for me. ;p I suppose it helped that it wasn’t the focus of the novel–it was something Arabella could look forward to?

    Also, I’m reading Heyer’s Arabella right now because of this novel, ahaha.

    • Michelle says:

      I know you liked the love story. Just not up my alley really. Maybe I’m just not into love stories like that, I don’t know.

      But definitely, a lot of quotables.

      I picked this book up randomly from the library shelf, looked at the title and went, “Hmm, I think I’ve seen a good review of this book somewhere. Sasha’s?” I might not have borrowed it otherwise. (I’ve borrowed almost up to the maximum amount I can take out. So..)

  • Thanks for this review. It sounds fantastic, and like something I’d want to read. Every time I see a review on here, I know my TBR winces a little, with the added weight that’s bound to hit it 🙂

    • Michelle says:

      This book is really quite enjoyable, so if you do read it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

      PS: Your reviews do the same to my list, so we’re kind of even. =p

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