Friday, April 20, 2007

My Latest Grievance, by Elinor Lipman

Posted by lea at 2:57 PM
Written in first person from the point of view a highly intelligent and cynical 16 year old with two psychologists for parents, this book is so sharp it could cut through ice, while at times being warm enough to melt it. Frederica Hatch has had it up to the eyeballs with her straight-laced, psych-soc PhD parents whose unconventional hippy ways include always treating her as an equal even while she’s screaming for parental normality.

The book is set in a college, where her parents are lecturers, dorm parents and grievance officers who are constantly barracking one cause or another. Feeling somewhat neglected, Frederica majors in dining in the communal hall, learns all the intricate ways of the college and occasionally claims her parent’s attention with semantic psychology with which she’s able to outwit her academic parents.

Enter Laura Lee French, her father’s ditzy, glamorous, wannabe-Rockette ex-wife. Upset at her parents’ omission to inform her of Laura-Lee’s existence and intrigued by the ‘maternal road not taken’ (in which she imagines a life of block parties, exchanged recipes and baking cookies), Frederica attaches herself to Laura Lee, using her parents’ own psychological defences in her favour to insinuate Laura Lee into their lives. The tables turn on Frederica when she discovers that Laura Lee is a self-centred cow who ends up shaking the foundations of Frederica and her parents’ lives (and in fact, the entire college) with her selfish and immature antics.

You can expect a change of heart towards her parents in the end, but this book offers far more than the usual offerings in the coming-of-age genre. It’s sharp, witty (almost painfully so) and often funny.

Rating: 8/10
Excellently written and very intelligent, but sometimes so sharp and so clever that it borders on obnoxiousness.

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