About Families

  1. Le Divorce
    by Diane Johnson

    A film-school dropout travels to Paris to aid her stepsister, who is going through a divorce.  Cross-cultural collisions ensue.   Opening paragraph:  I think of life as being like film because of what I learned at the film school at USC.  Film, with its fitful changefulness, its arbitrary notions of coherence, contrasting with the static solemnity of painting, might also be a more appropriate medium for rendering what seems to be happening, and emblematic too perhaps of our natures, Roxy’s

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  2. Love in a Cold Climate
    by Nancy Mitford

    Polly Hampton, the greatest beauty and the greatest heiress of the London season, harbors a secret love in a lost world of English upper-class elegance and endearing eccentricity. Opening lines:  I am obliged to begin this story with a brief account of the Hampton family, because it is necessary to emhasise the fact once and for all that the Hamptons were very grand as well as very rich.  A short session with Burke or with Debrett would be quite enough to

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  3. Where’d You Go Bernadette
    by Maria Semple

    Laugh-out-loud, hilarious story of a dysfunctional but loving family in Seattle— recounted by weaving together emails, invoices, school memos, etc. Opening paragraph:  Galen Street School is a place where compassion, academics, and global connectitude join together to create civic-minded citizens of a sustainable and diverse planet. Quotes from critics:  “Sheer bliss.  A riotous comedy of bad manners . . . divinely funny” (New York Times); “Semple’s epistolary novel satirizes Seattle, Microsoft, helicopter parents, the elite, and the overeducated—while revealing the truth

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  4. In a Summer Season
    by Elizabeth Taylor

    Kate Heron, a wealthy, charming woman marries an attractive man ten years her junior.   Opening paragraph: “After all, I am not a young girl to be intimidated by her,” Kate decided, as she waited outside her mother-in-law’s house.  When she had reached the stage of thinking that if there were any intimidating to be done she might even do it herself, one of Edwina’s foreign girls opened the door. . . .Facing her, as she turned the stairs, was

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  5. This Is Where I Leave You
    by Jonathan Tropper

    A seriously dysfunctional family is forced to spend seven days together. Opening paragraphs: “Dad’s dead,” Wendy says offhandedly, like it’s happened before, like it happens every day.  It can be grating, this act of hers, to be utterly unfazed at all times, even in the face of tragedy.  “He died two hours ago.” “How’s Mom doing?” “She’s Mom, you know?  She wanted to know how much to tip the coroner.” Quotes by critics:  “compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud funny novel . .

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  6. The Position
    by Meg Wolitzer

    Family complications arise when the children discover their parents have written a best-selling sex manual. Opening paragraph:  The book was placed on a high self in the den, as though it were the only copy in the world and if the children didn’t find it they would be forever unaware of the sexual lives of their parents, forever ignorant of the press of hot skin, the overlapping voices, the stir and scrape of the brass headboard as it lightly battered

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