Saturday, March 1, 2008

20. The Fiction Class

By Susan Breen
Rated 5 Stars

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.