Friday, May 01, 2009

Book: Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld had a pretty good year with the popular and critical acclaim of American Wife. I read it and haven't posted about it yet (but I will get to it eventually). In the meantime, I have now read her earlier book Prep, set in a New England boarding school. Sittenfeld certainly attacks different subject matter in these two books. Here is what I though of Prep.

The basic story is this: Lee Fiora is a Midwestern, lower middle-class girl who decides one day she wants to go to boarding school. She works to get scholarships and gets accepted to a prestigious school in the northwest called Ault. But when she arrives at Ault for her freshman year of high school, she finds that the glamorous boarding school life she imagined and reality are two very different things. She closes herself off, struggles to make friends, do well in school, attract the boy she likes, and generally fit in.

I read this book in just a few days and I think I was sucked into the whole "boarding school" concept immediately. Reading it, I thought back to my college days because I went to a small private college with many similarities to Ault. It was easy to imagine and Sittenfeld writes very well. It isn't over-contemplative but is also not just all conversation without any thoughts.

The bad part was that I just wasn't feeling Lee. I was frustrated with her and I felt like she consistently sabotaged her own happiness and comfort. While I am sure those people exist, I couldn't relate very well to that part of her (I could, however, relate to her feeling like the outsider and not being the "popular" girl). Also, there wasn't a whole lot going on plot-wise. It was written out in sections, divided by school term (fall, winter, spring), and, if I hadn't been told that was how the time was advancing, I would never have realized it covered a full four years of someone's life.

I think American Wife was a better book, and probably just a better all around read. But Prep was a fun few hundred pages and not too shabby for Sittenfeld's first novel.


Hollie Nell said...

I agree. I hated that character. She was such a victim, you kinda knew why no one liked her. It wasn't because she was a scholarship kid. It was because she was miserable.

I liked the first half of American Wife a lot. The second half fizzled for me. I'll be interested to see what you think.

Esther said...

As you know, I really enjoyed American Wife, although I understand what Hollie means. I just got Prep and I'm looking forward to reading it.