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The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel
by Cathleen Schine

Published: 2010-02-02
Hardcover : 304 pages
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Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility has moved to Westport, Connecticut, in this enchanting modern-day homage to the classic novel When Joseph Weissmann divorced his wife, he was seventy eight years old and she was seventy-five . . . He said the words “Irreconcilable ...
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Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility has moved to Westport, Connecticut, in this enchanting modern-day homage to the classic novel
When Joseph Weissmann divorced his wife, he was seventy eight years old and she was seventy-five . . . He said the words “Irreconcilable differences,” and saw real confusion in his wife’s eyes.
“Irreconcilable differences?” she said. “Of course there are irreconcilable differences. What on earth does that have to do with divorce?”
Thus begins The Three Weissmanns of Westport, a sparkling contemporary adaptation of Sense and Sensibility from the always winning Cathleen Schine, who has already been crowned “a modern-day Jewish Jane Austen” by People’s Leah Rozen.
In Schine’s story, sisters Miranda, an impulsive but successful literary agent, and Annie, a pragmatic library director, quite unexpectedly find themselves the middle-aged products of a broken home. Dumped by her husband of nearly fifty years and then exiled from their elegant New York apartment by his mistress, Betty is forced to move to a small, run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. Joining her are Miranda and Annie, who dutifully comes along to keep an eye on her capricious mother and sister. As the sisters mingle with the suburban aristocracy, love starts to blossom for both of them, and they find themselves struggling with the dueling demands of reason and romance.

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. How do Betty and her daughters relate to men? Do the three women have the same expectations about love and relationships? 2. How do the Weissmann women define “home”? What does the Manhattan apartment mean to them? What do their reactions to the Westport cottage say about their personalities? Would you have enjoyed living there? 3. In Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood does her best to help her family thrive despite dwindling fortunes. What challenges do women still face in such situations, even with the cultural changes that have taken place since Jane Austen was writing? 4. Which cad is worse: Schine’s Kit Maybank or Austen’s John Willoughby? If Miranda could meet Marianne, what advice would the two characters give each other? 5. The fact that Miranda and Annie are not Joseph’s biological children also mirrors Austen’s plot. Would Joseph have handled the divorce differently if the girls had been his biological daughters? 6. Is Frederick a good father to Gwen and Evan? What stokes Annie’s attraction to him throughout the novel? 7. Is Betty very much like her relatives? Which of your family members would you turn to if you were in her situation? 8. What accounts for the similarities and differences between Annie and Miranda? Are both women simply driven by their temperaments, or have they shaped each other’s personalities throughout their lives? How does their relationship compare to yours with your own siblings? 9. Schine’s work often blends humor with misfortune, such as Miranda’s undoing by authors who turn out to be plagiarists and extreme fabricators. What other aspects of the novel capture the tragicomic way life unfolds?
10. Why is it so hard for Joseph to understand why his stepdaughters are mad at him? Why does he prefer Felicity to Betty? Discuss the revelations about Amber. In what way is her romantic situation similar to Felicity’s? 11. Ultimately, how do the Weissmanns reconcile sense with sensibility? Who are the book’s most rational characters? Who is the most emotional? 12. What makes Roberts remarkable (eventually)? Who are the overlooked “characters” in your life story? 13. What aspects of the ending surprised you the most? What had you predicted for Betty, and for Leanne? Do the novel’s closing scenes reflect an Austen ending? 14. Does the storytelling style in The Three Weissmanns of Westport remind you of Schine’s other portraits of love? What makes the Weissmanns’ story unique?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub


“Schine’s homage to Jane Austen has it all…A sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious, and deeply affecting new novel, her best yet.”—Dominique Browning, The New York Times Book Review

“A clever, frothy novel…Schine playfully probes the lies, self-deceptions, and honorable hearts of her characters.”—The New Yorker

“A success…Sharp-edged satire.”—Marion Winik, The Miami Herald

“Schine sets the Austen machinery in perfect forward motion, and then works some lovely modern changes…But the greater pleasure comes from Schine’s own clever [characters] and their awkward attempts to find happiness.”—Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe

“No Cathleen Schine book is without wit and sharply observed moments.”

—Joanne Kaufman, The Wall Street Journal

“There is so much zest for life in this novel that you can only imagine how much fun Cathleen Schine had writing it.”—Carol Memmott, USA Today

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Three Weismans"by Tracy E. (see profile) 02/10/12

This book had such potential but the characters were not fully developed. The author could have done so much more with the mother. And the daughters were never really "connected". I just kept thinking... (read more)

  "Good mother/daughter book"by Lisa H. (see profile) 05/03/11

Different views from the different generations. Believable.

  "UGH!!!"by Laura D. (see profile) 04/02/11

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