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An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

An Uncommon Education (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Elizabeth Percer

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1411285,024 (3.31)4
Title:An Uncommon Education
Authors:Elizabeth Percer
Info:Harper (2012), Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer (2012)



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As an area resident very familiar with the two main settings in this novel, Brookline, MA and Wellesley College, I very much enjoyed the trauma and joys the main character found in each. The young Naomi wrestles with her mother's pushing her away, her father's smothering, and the loss of her next door neighbor and best friend Teddy. The teenaged Naomi finds herself isolated in the rarified towers of Hillary Clinton's alma mater until she is invited to join a campus Shakespeare theatrical troupe and finds a close friend in Jun, daughter of a wealthy Japanese industrialist. Her two worlds collide repeatedly as Naomi shakily survives and blossoms into a remarkable adult. This is a wonderfully written story, worthy of rereading.

"It was almost liberating to think that it was possible to love and discard in the same, swift act." ( )
  froxgirl | Mar 10, 2016 |
This started out so promisingly, with sweetly tender descriptions of a girl's childhood intentions (to become a doctor and make artificial hearts to help people who, like her dad, had weak ones) and first love (an adopted Jewish boy with a predilection for sketching yellow birds). But once the boy moved away and the girl went off to Wellesley, I just sortof got lost. Too many indistinguishable female characters in the Shakespearean club and a roommate who faded out of the story contributed to a general sense of aimlessness in the narrative. I actually kept half-expecting the girl to have a lesbian love affair at her all-girls college, but apparently her only undergrad tryst was a one-night stand with a masked, and apparently rather unattractive, visiting professor-- an encounter that felt more than a little squicky, but for all its oddness doesn't seem to have much importance to the story. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
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 |
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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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