MORE Magazine (March 2008 issue, page 30) named The Fiction Class a “Don’t Miss Book.” They wrote, “In this poignant, funny novel, a writing teacher, nearly 40 and single, is concerned not with romance or writing, but with her difficult, dying mother—until she teaches her mother to write.”
WESTCHESTER Magazine (March 2008 issue, page 40) picked The Fiction Class as one of five “Westchester reads,” (along with Cynthia Ozick’s new book, which is pretty impressive company to be in.)
VIRTUAL WORDSMITH BLOG (Feb. 27, 2008) “Susan Breen has written a beautiful and inspiring story with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Read it! There are so many layers to this book, you'll find something that touches you or inspires you.” There is also an interview with me on this site. Click here to see blog.
DESERET MORNING NEWS (Salt Lake City, Utah) Feb. 24, 2008 In a review, Dennis Lythgoe wrote, “This is a delightful first novel written with genuine wit and personality.” There is also a nice article about me you can access HERE.
From Booklist (September, 2007)
With a name that conjures up windswept romance novels, you would expect Arabella Hicks' life to be as enchanted as that of a happily-after-heroine. Instead she's a middle-aged writer, teaching a fiction writing class, flirting with one of her students, and taking care of her ailing mother, Vera. As the semester wears on, Arabella and her students slowly reveal more of their private lives to one another, while Vera admits that she has written a story. Unfortunately, she can't think of the perfect ending and wants Arabella and her students to help her. But how can Arabella when she can't even think of an ending for her own unfinished story? Peppered with literary references and Arabella's class assignments, Breen's novel is surprisingly touching. Although Arabella's students resemble stock characters—the wacky old lady, the beautiful girl hiding a terrible secret—this is a poignant yet amusing tale of family relationships rendered even more satisfying by Breen's dispensing of Strunk & White–like advice. Hatton, Hilary
“The Fiction Class reminds us of what the right words in the proper order can give: pleasure, laughter, heartache, and, on rare and stunning occasions and just in the nick of time, redemption.”
—Marisa de los Santos, author, Love Walked In
Beth Gibbs - Library Journal (November 1, 2007)
Arabella Hicks was named after the main character in a romance novel, and this seems to lead her life in the trajectory of all things fiction. She's seven years into writing her novel, and her day job is teaching a fiction class in Manhattan. The rest of her time is taken up by her difficult mother, who's suffering from Parkinson's and living in a nursing home. Breen, a teacher at Gotham Writers' Workshop, structures her first novel as a treat for any fiction lover. Each chapter starts with Arabella's weekly fiction class and its topic, for example, "character" or "point of view." We get to sit in as she explains the subject matter and closes with an exercise for her students to work on at home. The students in the class are another set of characters, some wacky and some sweet, and one handsome older man, Chuck, flirts endlessly with Arabella. Arabella's class, her novel, a possible relationship with Chuck, and stressful visits to her mother, who might also have an interest in writing fiction, converge into a poignant, lovely read. For most fiction collections.
During the month of April, I went on a virtual book blog tour (organized by Mary “Lynn” Lewis of Blog Stop Book Tours http://blogstopbooktours.wordpress.com) and here are some excerpts from the reviews:
I don’t normally review works of fiction on this blog — I tend to stick to business books. But, occasionally, a work of fiction makes some good points about writing. Susan Breen’s new book, The Fiction Class, falls into that category.
The premise is simple: author Arabella Hicks is teaching a fiction class. Our first introduction to her is her first few moments with her class, in which Arabella describes a phenomenon I encounter over and over when talking to writers — both aspiring and professional.
“Ever since the third grade,” she goes on, because for some reason it always is the third grade, “ever since the teacher chose your story to read aloud on Parents’ Day. She was so excited by your facility with words. Facility! She even used that word in the letter she sent home to your parents inviting them to be guests of honor at the reading…”
It truly always is the third grade — I wrote my first short story in the third grade — even for those people who only want to have written, rather than write. Everyone who swears that they have a novel
If you are an aspiring writer, you’ll enjoy The Fiction Class. It’s as if you’ve pulled up a chair and are free to join in on the discussion and take home assignments. And learn a thing or two about writing and life along the way.
I walked away from this novel not wanting to leave it alone, but rather wanting to pick it up and read it again. Not because I did not absorb the story enough the first time, but because I want to absorb it again. Rarely do I get lost in plots and forget about time, but that happened when reading Breen's novel. It has left me craving another from her and I hope to see it on the horizon.
Have you ever heard that saying about observational comedy, “It’s funny because it’s real,”? That is exactly how I felt about the characters in The Fiction Class. Susan Breen teaches fiction classes for Gotham Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan, and her experience shines through in this book! Not only are Arabella and her mother heartbreakingly vivid and believable, the students of the fiction class are unique and endearing. I found myself rooting for all the characters in Arabella’s class, hoping they would succeed (even the pervert and the guy who is constantly asking stupid questions).
The thing that makes The Fiction Class stand apart from every other fiction book I’ve come across is the inclusion of writing exercises. Sprinkled throughout the book are pages that contain the actual assignments that Arabella hands out to her students at the end of each class.
All said and done, The Fiction Class was a satisfying novel. The dynamics between Arabella and the supporting characters - particularly a love interest - made for an entertaining read. And the closure reached by book's end, made the discomfort between Arabella and Vera strangely worthwhile.
Susan Breen is one whose books, should she write more, will grace my nightstand.
I appreciated the new ways Ms. Breen offered for looking at things, from writing, to the relationships in my life. I think that marks an excellent book, when I enjoy it and learn a new perspective at the same time. This book will be on my shelf to reread many times in the future.
Would I read it again? Sure. Will I read it again? Probably. It will be interesting to see what Breen has for us next.
This blogger listed FIVE reasons why she loved TFC and this was reason number four:
The Fiction Class is real. Without giving much away - because you must read this book - I'm glad to read a book where there is an honest mother-daughter struggle, and a story about how difficult it is to take care of a terminally ill parent or spouse.
So many of the mommy and chick lit books I come across are so cliched and ridiculous. You know, the cute single gal who gets the guy of her dreams - and struggles with her weight or credit card bills. Or the unhappy SAHM who has an affair with the stay-at-home dad. Or the career woman struggling with work/life balance who turns in her high pressure career to stay home with her adorable kids and sexy husband. Yeah, right.
I enjoyed the book. Arabella’s teaching and her relations with her students deepened as she brought more of herself and her life into the class. I looked forward to each new class topic and the insight that the author gave.
(There’s a tenth review, but I can’t figure out which it is, and if I spend any more time updating my site we’ll never get anywhere.)