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Summary

Jane Smiley brings her extraordinary gifts, comic timing, empathy, emotional wisdom, an ability to deliver slyly on big themes and capture the American spirit, to the seductive, wishful, wistful world of real estate, in which the sport of choice is the mind game. Her funny and moving new novel is about what happens when the American Dream morphs into a seven-figure American Fantasy.

Joe Stratford is someone you like at once. He makes an honest living helping nice people buy and sell nice houses. His not-very-amicable divorce is finally settled, and he's ready to begin again. It's 1982. He is pretty happy, pretty satisfied. But a different era has dawned; Joe's new friend, Marcus Burns from New York, seems to be suggesting that the old rules are ready to be repealed, that now is the time you can get rich quick. Really rich. And Marcus not only knows that everyone is going to get rich, he knows how. Because Marcus just quit a job with the IRS.

But is Joe ready for the kind of success Marcus promises he can deliver? And what's the real scoop on Salt Key Farm? Is this really the development opportunity of a lifetime?

And then there's Felicity Ornquist, the lovely, feisty, winning (and married) daughter of Joe's mentor and business partner. She has finally owned up to her feelings for Joe: she's just been waiting for him to be available.

The question Joe asks himself, over and over, is: Does he have the gumption? Does he have the smarts and the imagination and the staying power to pay attention, to Marcus and to Felicity, and reap the rewards?

©2003 Jane Smiley (P)2003 Recorded Books, LLC

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Impressive but hard work

You have to admire Smiley's understanding of the way the property market works and how wealth is created. She is strong on the way people can be manipulated and fantasies made to become infectious (or not). Then there is the handling of an affair, the risk, the double life thing. Some people may like the way her story grinds small and slow - it is not necessarily a failing - but there is a deliberate blandness to it. I found it reminiscent of Richard York's 'Sportswriter' in this respect. It's one of those books you invest in, so might as well finish, but there was a point half way through when I regretted it. By the end I admired the huge expanse of the work, not least in the way fate plays out in a whole family. It reminded me slightly of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks. It made me curious to read more of her work, as she clearly has a wonderful ear for dialogue.

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  • Lisa
  • 23-11-05

Not worth reading.

Jane Smiley writes decently, so I considered rating this book with two stars simply based on the presence of a few artistically phrased passages. But the book had no substance, and her attempts at character development were not worth the effort. Maybe I could have lived with the disappointing predictability if I could have found a single character in the book to care about. Smiley fails miserably in a seeming attempt to emulate Ayn Rand (but without the big vision).

7 people found this helpful

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  • RBC
  • 08-12-13

tedious

Would you ever listen to anything by Jane Smiley again?

I love Jane Smiley and have read many of her books. Clearly this wasn't one of her best, and the slow narration didn't help.

What didn’t you like about Ruth Ann Phimister’s performance?

This wasn't Ruth Ann Phimester. This is narrated by a man.

Any additional comments?

I tried to get into it. I started over several times today. In addition to having a mystery narrator, the pacing was slow and I couldn't stay interested.

1 person found this helpful