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An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer
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An Uncommon Education (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Elizabeth Percer

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109None110,236 (3.27)3
Member:ablachly
Title:An Uncommon Education
Authors:Elizabeth Percer
Info:Harper (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
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An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer (2012)

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Seldom do I find myself at a loss when attempting to read a book for a review. Usually I can make myself finish the read, even if it's one that I don't particularly enjoy. However, An Uncommon Education is one that I simply could not get past the block of boredom and being unable to read!

Call it a clash in tastes, or personal preference, but this book has taken 6-months of my time, and I am nowhere near the half-way mark. That being said, I found nothing wrong with the writer's style, grammar, or story line! It just did not capture me.

I would suggest that if the story line captivates you, that you go ahead and purchase the book and see for yourself. Then, please take the time to write your own review as well!

****DISCLOSURE: This book was provided by Amazon Vine in exchange for an independent and non-biased review. ( )
  texicanwife | May 12, 2013 |
Interesting read. ( )
  bookweaver | May 1, 2013 |
For once, I actually think the books they make comparisons to in the blurb are right on the money. Of the three, An Uncommon Education had the least in common with prep, and quite a lot in common with Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Also, I like An Uncommon Education best of all of these things. This book moves at a slow, sort of drifting pace, but the slow parts were worth it to enjoy the skilled prose and clever observations about life.

Readers who like books with a fast pace are not likely to be well-pleased with Percer's debut. I do not mind a slow pace, so long as a story has other things to recommend it, especially if I can take my time with it, rather than trying to rush through for a deadline. Percer's writing is intricate and well-worth savoring slowly.

What kept me from really connecting with this book is its lack of direction combined with its pretentiousness. Taking the former, the novel does not have a cohesive plot. There's nothing really propelling the reader forward. It's just a woman looking back at her life, though primarily just her childhood and college years, in the period after her mother's death.

Naomi learns about the tenuousness of life and the dangerousness of love during her childhood. Her father has a heart attack and nearly dies in front of her right at the beginning of her story. Later on, just as she's starting on puberty and falling in love for the first time with her neighbor Teddy, his father dies, and Teddy's mom moves them away. From this point on, she avoids real close connections, a habit she cannot truly shake at college. Naomi also keeps an emotional wall up between herself and the reader, which prevented me from forming an attachment. There does come a change suddenly towards the end, and I would actually like to have seen more development of her character, so that I could wholly buy into her changed mindset.

I suppose I knew the book would be one of those intended to highlight the mighty intellect of the author, but not to this degree. As with Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the main character becomes involved in a time-eating, addictive society, one which leads to a degradation in her classwork and some out-of-character decisions. The club, while not secret, has some seriously unsavory practices, like the parties after their performances of Shakespeare plays where the girls hook up with others, some of whom are masked to preserve their identities.

While there's nothing wrong with a drifting plot or showing off, I just feel like some of the pieces of the novel were not entirely necessary. Some scenes seem to exist solely for exposition that reveals the vast swaths of knowledge of the author. Others seem to serve merely to add drama to the otherwise staid narration, like the revelation as to what exactly happened at one of those masked parties.

That all comes across rather on the negative side, but I did enjoy the book and I would read something else by Elizabeth Percer, because I do like her writing. If you like Special Topics in Calamity Physics or books that make you feel cleverer for having read them, I suspect An Uncommon Education will be right up your alley. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
The basics: An Uncommon Education, Elizabeth Percer's first novel, is a coming of age novel centered around Naomi Feinstein.

My thoughts: As An Uncommon Education opens, Naomi Feinstein is a peculiar girl with a big intellect and no friends, yet her tale isn't one of sadness. There's a matter-of-factness to Naomi and her honest narration. She writes both of the time in which she's living and with a maturity of observation:

"For entertainment I was given such things as Infamous Women coloring book; Shakespeare's plays in comic book fro; my own miniature Torah, the scroll of which was covered in wavy black lines; historically correct figures of Clara Barton and Abigail Adams; math games made pretty with glass marbles; and a jump rope with a booklet of illustrated counting rhymes to accompany it. In addition to our regular visits to the Kennedy home, every April 19th we drove to Lexington before dawn to witness the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord; every July 4th we walked the Freedom Trail."

At times, I would forget how young Naomi was in the story. As the story moves through time, I settled back into Naomi's growth. Because this novel is so character-driven, parts of Naomi's journey are unsurprising, yet these events still aren't predictable. As Naomi, an intellectual, driven child, has a road map for her life: first Wellesley, then medical school to become a cardiologist, the possibility of her choosing a new path still exists. The curiosity Naomi possesses was fascinating to watch. Percer's writing is strong and fluid, and it entranced me even when Naomi's story slowed a few times.

Favorite passage: "Sometimes that, more than anything, was what made me saddest about the little I knew about my family; it could be worked into almost any story, like a party trick."

The verdict: An Uncommon Education is an eloquent, thoughtful coming of age story. It begins as an intellectual coming of age, but Naomi's journey is as fascinating emotionally as her uncommon education. ( )
  nomadreader | Jan 10, 2013 |
I requested this book from the library because my local Wellesley club is reading it, and expected to love the Wellesley portion of the book. As it turned out, this (which was also the bulk of the book) was my least favorite part and, in fact, I found it quite boring, especially the long descriptions of the Shakespeare plays where nothing much happened. The characters didn't feel developed, especially her friend Jun, and the lesbian intrigues felt a bit trivialized and undeveloped.

The first section, however, about her friendship with the boy next door, was quite beautifully written and moving. (It almost felt like a different book, as if she'd written it for a writing group first and then added on the tedious Wellesley parts.)

And one more thing - the book felt barely fictionalized. I kept thinking I was reading a memoir, and had to remind myself it was a novel. ( )
  bobbieharv | Nov 7, 2012 |
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For my grandmother, Sheine Saks, who might have been a doctor
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On the day after my mother's death, I returned to 83 Beals Street for the first time in fifteen years.
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When a tragic event introduces her to Wellesley's mysterious Shakespeare Society, Naomi Feinstein finally finds herself among friends, but as she immerses herself in this liberating new world, a scandal calls her beliefs into question.

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