Once again, acclaimed novelist Ron Hansen demonstrates his masterful versatility as a writer, with Isn't It Romantic?, a screwball comedy in the tradition of filmmaker Preston Sturges. In this charming entertainment, mistaken identities, botched schemes, and hilarious misunderstandings all play a part as Parisian sophistication collides with the affability and simple pleasures of the Great Plains.
Touring America was Natalie's idea. But she had not planned on being accompanied on a cross-country bus by her playboy fiancÚ, Pierre. Nor had they anticipated being stranded in Seldom, Nebraska, population 395.
But that is exactly what happens to this French couple, and they quickly find themselves being taken in by the obliging citizens of Seldom: Natalie by Mrs. Christiansen, a retired high school teacher who runs a rooming house for women, and Pierre by Owen, a gas station owner and ambitious winemaker in an unlikely part of the world.
And here also, the separated couple become enchanted by the locals. Natalie is soon being wooed by Dick Tupper, a handsome and honest rancher with a rambling farmhouse and lots of wide open space. Pierre falls quickly for Iona, a beautiful, no-nonsense waitress in the local diner.
Soon everyone is hatching plots to get what they want: Owen needs help from Pierre's world-class wine business if he is ever going to sell his Nebraska vintage; Pierre wants Iona; Natalie thinks she wants Dick Tupper, but maybe it's Dick who wants Iona, and Natalie who wants Pierre? The fun and surprises are many in this playful romance.
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Ron Hansen is the author, most recently, of A Stay Against Confusion: Essays on Faith and Fiction and of the novel Hitler's Niece. His previous novel, Atticus, was a National Book Award finalist. Other highly praised works of fiction include Mariette in Ecstasy, The Assassination Of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Desperadoes, and the story collection Nebraska. With Jim Shepard, he edited the anthology You've Got to Read This: Contemporary American Writers Introduce Stories That Held Them in Awe. Ron Hansen is married to the novelist Bo Caldwell and lives in northern California, where he teaches fiction writing and literature at Santa Clara University.From Publishers Weekly:
Ersatz French culture and aw-shucks Americana collide in this corny romantic comedy, a flat-footed departure from form by National Book Award finalist Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy, etc.). Natalie Clairvaux, a Paris librarian specializing in Americana at the Bibliotheque Nationale, embarks on a grassroots See America bus tour of out-of-the-way U.S. landmarks in an effort to escape the unwanted attentions of her philandering fiance, Pierre Smith, scion of a family of French wine sellers. Maddened by her unexplained disappearance, Pierre tracks her down and catches up with her tour group in Omaha. The quarreling couple abandons the tour at a tiny crossroads outside of Seldom, Neb. (pop. 395), on Wednesday, agreeing that Natalie will reach a decision about their wedding by noon Saturday. In Seldom, the couple is immediately elected king and queen of an annual local festival honoring a Frenchman who founded the town, and all manner of rather predictable fun and games begins. Pierre is quartered with Owen Nelson, whose penchant for wine making is second only to his obsession with Cornhusker football. Disillusioned Natalie is soon captivated by handsome Dick Tupper, a 50-year-old rancher. And, true to form, womanizing Pierre starts hitting on Iona Christiansen, a comely waitress at the local cafe. A wine tasting for hayseeds, a bachelor party (and bridal shower) and a brace of bungled trysts are a few of the stale devices driving this perfunctory farce. The subtitle suggests that Hansen knows this is a lesser effort, and readers will concur with the analysis.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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