The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel BY Cathleen Schine. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardcover, 304 pages. $25.
The cover of The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel

Reading The Three Weissmanns of Westport, the new novel by Cathleen Schine, is a curious experience. Even as you turn the pages, following the genteel misadventures of the titular clan—the aging mother, Betty Weissmann, and her two middle-aged, lovelorn daughters, Annie and Miranda—the book seems literally insubstantial, as though it is about to melt or turn to smoke in your hands. This is less on account of the writing, which is undemanding but intelligent, than of the reader’s realization that the book is only a temporary incarnation of itself. Before Schine wrote it, her novel’s story belonged to Jane Austen—anyone who remembers Sense and Sensibility will recognize that Miranda and Annie are 21st-century, New York Jewish versions of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, Austen’s hot- and cold-running heroines. And Schine’s high-concept translation of Austen is surely destined for Hollywood, which has already shown a predilection for the work of both Schine (The Love Letter) and her original (examples too numerous to mention).