Thursday, May 10, 2012

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

Title: An Uncommon Education
Author: Elizabeth Percer

Genre: Fiction (Boston / Jewish / Coming-of-Age / Women's College / Loss / Depression / Place As Character)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (5/1/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Okay to liked.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The story of a brilliant but lonely only child, growing up in Boston, and her education in all things at Wellesley College.

Do I like the cover?: I love the cover -- it's beautiful and striking and the images are all representative of themes in the novel.

First line: On the day after my mother's death, I returned to 83 Beals Street for the first time in fifteen years.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy.

Why did I get this book?: My wife is a Wellesley grad.

Review: I hate writing this kind of review, because honestly, I should be all over a book like this, and it's not the book's fault it didn't click for me. (So far, everyone else on the blog tour has loved it, so definitely don't consider me only!) This is a lovely, quiet book about a girl who latches onto the idea of being a cardiologist before she even understands what that is, and grows up among loss, searching for love and safety.

Set in Boston, the story follows Naomi, a girl with a photographic memory, a mother suffering depression, and a father who adores Rose Kennedy. Noami adores her father and so attends Wellesley (like Rose Kennedy should have), where she finds a community of women she connects with, eventually learning to deal a little with loss and love. She becomes involved with the Shakespeare Society, an officially unofficial club of sorts on campus.

Despite the book's length, and Percer's lovely writing style, and the first person narration, I found Naomi very hard to know. Everyone felt at a distance and I just didn't click with Naomi. That was the huge reason for me that I'm not swooning over this book, I think. I don't know if that knowing Wellesley grads has affected my reading -- I've heard differing opinions on the Shakespeare Society for one thing -- and at times the story felt too close to read authentic. Percer clearly loved her time at Wellesley and it shows in this novel -- and/but at times, it also reads a bit like promotional material.

Place as character is huge here, from the Kennedy home in Brookline that Naomi spends so much time at as a child to the Wellesley campus (a beautiful and magical college campus as unreal as it sounds -- I've seen it!).  If you want an armchair escape to a women's college that is as bucolic as you would imagine, this is your novel.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of An Uncommon Education to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/CA readers, ends 5/25.  Be sure to check out my interview with Elizabeth Percer for another chance to enter!

17 comments:

  1. Not every book clicks with every reader Audra and that's ok. I've reviewed ones like that where others have loved it and I just thought it was ok. That being said I do really want to read this one and I like the cover as well!

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    1. :) I know, but it still kills me not to have loved this one -- do give it a try as it really ought to have been a favorite. I think following The Year of the Gadfly -- which wasn't exactly the same, not at all, but had enough overlapping elements that I couldn't help but mentally compare the two. The cover is fantastic.

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  2. I have to say that I haven't read much about this book, even though it seems to be in everyone's TBR pile. I am not sure if I would like it or not, but it does sound interesting, and I want to give it a shot. Often I review a book that everyone seems to love, but that I just don't click with. It happened recently with The Sense of an Ending, and I guess it's just a case of different strokes for different folks. I enjoyed and appreciated your review, even if it wasn't a favorite.

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    1. Thanks, Heather. I have complicated feelings about novels that are centered wholly on university life since I had such a terrible experience in college and am a bit bitter, but in this case, this novel really is more about growing up with loss and wanting love and has all the elements I like in a coming-of-age story. So I'm baffled at why it didn't connect. I do think reading it on the heels of The Year of the Gadfly made it hard for me. :/

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  3. I have this one coming up in a few weeks, so I was very interested in reading your thoughts and now extremely excited to see whether I agree with you or end up gushing like so many others. I love going into a book knowing that people I respect have differing opinions and/or varying reactions. I've been hit and miss with these types of stories in the past so, we'll see! Great review!

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    1. Brooke -- I can't wait to see your review -- I do love and appreciate the varying opinions of a book -- that always helps me better appreciate/understand a novel! I totally feel like it's a failing on my part that I didn't dig this one!

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  4. It's always tricky to write a review of a book you feel like you should love but just couldn't connect with for whatever reason. I think you did a wonderful job of displaying this book's strengths as well as trying to capture your subject reaction as well. This is a book that I've heard a little bit about and I admit that it intrigues me, so I will likely give it a try.

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    1. Steph -- thanks for the kind words -- I really don't want to do an injustice to this book as it really was so lovely, the kind of fiction I would normally love. I hope you do pick it up -- and I would love to hear your thoughts if you do!

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  5. Not feeling the main character would be a huge downer for me. I don't have to like everyone but I have to connect with them on some level.

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    1. It's odd since Naomi has such a distinct voice that I felt removed -- and I don't think others felt that way. I think that disconnect was the biggest reason I didn't swoon over this one.

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  6. Its hard to click with every book, though I would have though from the description that would be the book for you. I wonder why you felt so disconnected. Hmm.

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    1. I know, Serena, this book had my name written all over it!! :/

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  7. I understand that you didn't click with Naomi, I didn't either. But I felt like I understand her and why she was the way she was considering they way her mother is and how her dad hid his past. Keeping quiet about yourself and your life and keeping secrets was something Naomi was familiar with. That just a little bit of why I felt invested in her story. The more I read, I've discovered that to love a book and it's main characters I don't necessarily have to connect with them so long as I understand them. But when neither one or the other happens, I find it hard to rave about a book.

    I think your review is great. You explain the story so well. I was tripping over my tongue in my review!

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  8. Yours isn't the first lukewarm review I've read of this book. I've been really excited about it so I'm glad to have my expectations tempered somewhat.

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    1. Will be looking forward to your review -- that always helps me as I chew over my own thoughts!

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  9. Yeah, it can be difficult to really love a book when you don't connect with the main character. Ah well, hopefully your next read will be a better fit for you!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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