Monday, January 05, 2009

The Fiction Class

Susan Breen’s The Fiction Class is an, at times, intriguing look into a creative writing class through the eyes of its teacher, Arabella Hicks. Arabella, fast approaching 40, is herself an unpublished author and has been struggling to find an ending for her novel for the past seven years. She tries to remain optimistic that she will one day finish the book and see it published even as she finds more and more of her time and energy dedicated to her aging mother, Vera, now that Vera is confined to a nursing home.

Arabella’s father suffered from multiple sclerosis and was lovingly cared for by her mother for many years before his sudden death. Now that she is reaching the end of her own life, Vera wants and expects a little attention from her only child, something that Arabella, since the two of them have not always gotten along, finds difficult at times to offer. She finds, though, that scheduling her weekly nursing home visit for immediately after her fiction class at least gives her something new to discuss with her mother while they eat the take-out dinner Vera brings with her.

Over the period of ten classes, Vera is pleased by the special bond she forms with this particular group of adult students. Her students, almost without exception, take the class seriously and offer each other enthusiastic support and encouragement. She even manages to find romance in the form of a student some fifteen years older than her, a man who from the first class seems more interested in the teacher than the class.

The real blessing of the class, though, is that Arabella is able to share the details with her mother. They discuss the progress of the pupils, Arabella’s new boyfriend, and even the classroom topics and exercises. When Arabella’s mother is inspired to write a short story based on her own life, the truths she reveals in her fiction come as a complete surprise. More importantly, the story gives Arabella the chance to connect with her mother in a way she never dreamed might still be possible.

The Fiction Class is an inspirational story about new beginnings and the importance of resolving relationship problems while there is time. Aspiring writers will also find the tips offered in the ten fiction class segments useful - even the homework assignments are interesting enough that some are likely to use them as writing exercises of their own. At its heart, though, this is pretty much standard Chick Lit fare and, as such, it will naturally be more appreciated by female readers than by males. That, perhaps, is why I find the cast of characters to be something less than believable. How likely, for instance, is it that a transsexual shoe salesman and a man who sees all of life as a potential porn film would end up in a class of only a dozen students? How likely, too, that a fifty-something-year-old serial-womanizer would be such a stand-up guy in Arabella’s romance? Not very, guys, but the ladies may disagree.

Rated at: 3.0


  1. This sounds very similar to a book I read entitled The Creative Writing Murders by Heather Ross Miller. Despite the title, this isn't a mystery. The murders refer to the in which some of the students 'murder' the writing assignments.

  2. Sounds interesting, Lisa. I've not done well in that kind of class, so reading about a fiction class can be painful. :-)

  3. Thanks, Maggie. I finally decided to use an actual picture - to start the new year with a different look.