Funkyfacecat’s #CBR4 Review #23: The Three Weissmans of Westport by Cathleen Schine
Joseph and Betty are in their late seventies when Joseph asks for a divorce; his new – much younger – wife persuades him that the honourable thing to do would be to minimise alimony and marital asset division. Betty and her two middle-aged daughters Miranda (a flamboyant and failed literary agent) and Annie (a practical and frustrated librarian) move to a beach house owned by a nebulous cousin in Westport, where they are drawn in to the web of polite lies and secrets of the leisured classes.
While it’s nice to read a book in which the protagonists are older, with lives behind them as well as ahead, I found it hard to enjoy – the “sensible” characters were annoyingly childish and impractical for grown women and the character with “sense” lacks clear-sightedness and tact.
The other book I’ve read by Cathleen Schine, The Love Letter, is fluffy but nice, with something of the same lucidity that characterises Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. The Three Weissmans of Westport is in the same vein with regard to plot and setting, a story of middle-aged love affairs and seaside houses. It is also an update of Sense and Sensibility, which is its downfall – Schine tries so hard to make her characters, plot-lines and themes of cross-class romance and family drama fit the schemata of the Austen novel, while maintaining an element of surprise, that the novel creaks at the joins, lacking the engaging breeziness of The Love Letter and highlighting Sense and Sensibility as a far superior novel.