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Rameau's Niece
Cover of Rameau's Niece
Rameau's Niece
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In this delightful novel from an author who "has been favored in so many ways by the muse of comedy,"

  • we meet Margaret Nathan, the brilliant but forgetful author of an unlikely bestseller. Happily married to a benevolently egotistical, slightly dull but sexy professor, Margaret seems blessed—until she finds herself seduced by an eighteenth-century novel she discovers in the library.

    Wrapped in its lascivious world, Margaret begins to imitate its protagonist, embarking on a hilarious jaunt around Manhattan in search of renewed passion. Will she find fulfillment through her escapades or settle for her husband? Part romantic comedy, part intellectual parody, Rameau's Niece is wise, affecting, and thoroughly entertaining.

  • New York Review of Books
  • In this delightful novel from an author who "has been favored in so many ways by the muse of comedy,"

  • we meet Margaret Nathan, the brilliant but forgetful author of an unlikely bestseller. Happily married to a benevolently egotistical, slightly dull but sexy professor, Margaret seems blessed—until she finds herself seduced by an eighteenth-century novel she discovers in the library.

    Wrapped in its lascivious world, Margaret begins to imitate its protagonist, embarking on a hilarious jaunt around Manhattan in search of renewed passion. Will she find fulfillment through her escapades or settle for her husband? Part romantic comedy, part intellectual parody, Rameau's Niece is wise, affecting, and thoroughly entertaining.

  • New York Review of Books
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    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      March 29, 1993
      In this gem of a novel, Schine ( To the Birdhouse ) combines a lucid, witty sendup of academia with an artfully contrived love story. At age 28, Margaret Nathan is famous: her book, The Anatomy of Madame de Montigny , has become a surprise bestseller, adopted by feminists, deconstructionists and even the French. But Margaret is ill-prepared for the resulting press of admirers: forgetful and socially maladroit, she depends on her husband, the patient, sociable, pedagogical Edward, to guide her. Margaret would rather be working on her next project, an analysis of an 18th-century manuscript entitled Rameau's Niece . Schine has woven throughout her text an admirable pastiche of a ``philosophic'' (in the parlance of the time, synonymous with pornographic ) dialogue by an anonymous hack who owes whole passages to Helvetius, Condorcet, Locke and Kant--and, of course, Diderot's Rameau's Nephew and Les Bijoux indiscrets . As in A. S. Byatt's Possession , too close study of her subject leads Margaret to imitation. After a solo trip to Prague, she begins a ``philosophical'' investigation of her love of Edward, questioning how she can be sure of her judgment in the absence of points of comparison. The plot proceeds with the same dizzy abstractedness that marks Margaret's erotic perambulations, but the book's greatest charm is Schine's smart and very funny observations of a postmodern ``cultural elite,'' made up of those who toast ``. . . the liberation of the signifier,'' and of 40-year-olds still boasting about their SAT scores.

    • Publisher's Weekly

      April 4, 1994
      A bestselling author grows infatuated with a lascivious 18th century novel in Schine's gem-like, comic novel.

    • Library Journal

      March 15, 1993
      Although she considers herself happily married to a gregarious Englishman who teaches at Columbia University and is an inveterate quoter of poetry, Margaret Nathan, author of a best-selling scholarly biography, finds that her equilibrium is thrown when she chances upon Rameau's Niece, the manuscript of an 18th-century French erotic novel. Haunted by the sensual images that passages from Rameau's Niece have triggered, Margaret finds herself sexually attracted to a woman friend, a gay male friend, her dentist, and several other acquaintances, and she begins to question the viability of her marriage. Schine controls her quirky plot line with the same wit and style demonstrated in her earlier novels, Alice in Bed (o.p.) and To the Birdhouse ( LJ 5/15/90). She satirizes marriage, philosophy, intellectuals, sexuality, and the relentless search for self-knowledge through Margaret's efforts at fulfillment and liberal quotes from Rameau's Niece . Brainy but forgetful and shy, despite her accomplishments, Margaret is a refreshing character. Recommended for most collections.-- Harriet Gottfried, NYPL

      Copyright 1993 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

    • Booklist

      Starred review from May 1, 1993
      This is a clever and screamingly funny novel set in New York's contemporary academic / literary / cultural scene. It is a world notoriously vulnerable to satire and caricature, but Schine's portrayal has a playful quality arising from its having been written by someone who is clearly on friendly terms with the people she is teasing. The heroine is Margaret Nathan, a young but chronically forgetful Renaissance scholar of unwitting celebrity (she's just written a best-seller), who is completely inept at cocktail parties. The plot is framed by Margaret's discovery of a manuscript of a French novel forgotten in a library, a novel in which a male teacher explores the connections between scholarly and erotic knowledge with a female pupil. As Margaret busies herself translating it, her life begins to reenact its contents with some hilarious and touching twists. ((Reviewed May 1, 1993))(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 1993, American Library Association.)

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      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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