Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan
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Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan

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3.23 of 5 stars 3.23  ·  rating details  ·  159 ratings  ·  30 reviews
From the bestselling author of Jane Austen in Boca, “another witty tale that combines classic literature with contemporary social comedy.”---Hartford Courant

Carla Goodman’s life in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, is a little bit stressful these days. Her doctor husband is frazzled, her son’s teachers say he needs Ritalin, and she’s in the throes of planning her daughter’s bat mit...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 1st 2005 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published May 1st 2004)
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Karyn
Shakespeare, Jewish suburban New Jersey, and the Ghetto of Venice: three main themes in my life! I was predisposed to like the book, and so was easily won over. Marantz's satire is of the Thurber variety: fond, not biting, gently illuminating the foibles and foolishness of her characters while never losing sight of their basic goodness. The grandmother and the young high school English teacher are wonderful characters, and the plot- while far-fetched- is smart and fun. Was the Dark Lady of Shake...more
Sarah Null
I thought the Dark-Lady-in-a-former-life plot device would be interesting, but this book is mostly about planning the daughter's bat mitzvah. There is a whole chapter on choosing the bat mitzvah menu, a chapter about the bat mitzvah deejay, a chapter about the bat mitzvah photographer... you get the idea. The Shakespeare plot was secondary to the bat mitzvah, and Jessie Kaplan is a secondary character. I think this was a good concept poorly executed. But if you want to read a book about planning...more
Gwen
A fun twist, or surprising approach, to Shakespeare. Jessie's recollected former life gives her some purpose beyond "just" being a grandmother, even as she enriches the lives of those around her. Carla may worry about her mother, but her mother is reassuring her granddaughter, entrancing said granddaughter's English teacher, and perhaps even finding romance for her other daughter. This made me want to read more about the Dark Lady, the New (older) Ghetto, and take any glass that Prof. Cohen offe...more
Marci
This is the third Paula Marantz Cohen novel I've read, and I like them all, but this one the best. She is skilled at taking a literary work and infusing new life into it through transporting it to a modern Jewish setting--New York, Florida, or in this case, New Jersey. I loved the ambiguity of Jessie's memories, especially when they travel to Venice and put them to the test. I loved the counterpoint of Carla's preparations for her daughter's bat mitzvah. [One thing I should look up: what is the...more
Katie
Touting itself as the story of a grandmother (Jessie Kaplan) who begins having flashbacks of her life as the mysterious Dark Lady of Shakespeare's sonnets, this book piqued my interest as I was browsing the shelves at my favorite used book store. Having read it, I now quite agree with another reviewer; this book is much more about the planning of the granddaughter's bat mitzvah (complete with much detail about the selection of individual vendors). Like the only other book I have read by this aut...more
Nicole
The Kaplan family includes three generations of suburban Jewish American women in Cherry Hill New Jersey. How each generation finally deals with changes in close relatives is both different and the same. People grown to familiar to see any more, can appear to change overnight. This leaves the family needing to see each other with new perspective. Sisters, parents, children and beyond we see our relatives in context but when the context shifts we panic, sometimes.

Carla's mother, Jessie, is remem...more
Abbie
I only read this book because someone lent it to me. And I think the only reason it was recommended to me was because I'm Jewish. (On a related note, would it be appropriate for me to recommend a book to someone because it's about, say, churches, and I know the person is a Christian? Just checking.)
This book was awful. The characters were referred to on a first name basis which felt really impersonal and awkward - especially given three generations of women. It made it seem like they called thei...more
Megan
I enjoyed this novel a lot, and I read it in one day. It centers around a family preparing for their daughter's bat mitzvah; the mother's mother, Jessie Kaplan, lives with the family.

Life is proceeding normally in their household until one day Jessie "remembers" that she was Shakespeare's Dark Lady in Venice. For a woman who only completed tenth grade, Jessie is surprisingly knowledgeable all of a sudden, which knocks the family for a loop.

The daughter's English teacher believes Jessie, however,...more
Samantha
What a ridiculous plot. I enjoyed Cohen's first novel, "Jane Austen in Boca." It was adorable. It was endearing. Much Ado About Jessie Kaplan? Not so much. While I did learn a lot about William Shakespeare and 16th Century Europe and customs that I did not know, the premise of the book that a woman could just randomly start living as though she were Shakespeare's "Dark Lady" in 2010 New Jersey and pretty much everyone goes along with it, and a psychiatrist even condones perpetuating the behavior...more
Anne
Carla is a housewife struggling with her disenchanted doctor husband, preparing for her daughter's bat mitzvah, and trying to keep her hyperactive son from destroying her home. On top of all this, her mother is having delusions that she was once William Shakespeare's girlfriend, and Carla's high-powered criminal defense attorney sister is too busy to help out. So, Carla seeks out the assistance of a local shrink and her daughter's English teacher -- to learn a little more about her family's vari...more
Holly
This book was a Hadassah Book Club pick. FYI: I don't know what Hadassah is/are. There were quite a lot of classical literature references in this book. Mostly Shakespeare and James Joyce. I honestly haven't read either since college. I think a better title for the book would be something along the lines of Everything you always wanted to know about bat mitzvahs but were fraid to ask. The novel is supposed to be about the grandma who suddenly remembers that she was Shakespeare's girlfriend in a...more
Nicky
Although this was a good book, I couldn't really get a grip on the main plot line- the grandma suddenly recalls a past life where she was Shakespeare's girlfriend. It seemed much more to me about a woman planning a bat mizvah and dealing with other challenges in her family. I wondered often if some of the characters were meant to be major or minor, and if parts were meant to parallel Much Ado About Nothing (and if so who was which character) like in her Jane Austen in Boca and JA in Scarsdale.
Bu...more
Sari Lynn
Another fun romp through classic lit in modern times from Marantz Cohen. This time, the title character, Jessie Kaplan, is a grandmother living with her daughter and son-in-law and their children, in suburban New Jersey. However, she believes herself to be the reincarnation of Shakespeare's "Dark Lady". Is she meshuggah, or was she once the Bard's great love? A trip to Venice in search of lost sonnets, a reunion with a lost love, a psychiatrist who writes popular self-help books, and the plannin...more
Barb
I admit that what drew me to this book is its setting: Cherry Hill, NJ. I really enjoy reading books set in locations I'm familiar with. But the story was pretty interesting. A Jewish grandmother is oblivious to her family's frantic preparations for her granddaughter's bat mitvah, because she is convinced that 400 years ago she had an affair with William Shakespeare. It really was an enjoyable read, and the grandmother's character was wonderful.
Andrea
Another cute, fluffy fun read. I didn't think the two plot lines had much to do with each other, but I enjoyed them both. Coming on the heels of reading "Dough," I especially appreciated the way this book portrayed a happy, boisterous Jewish family, in touch with their faith and with each other in spite of their imperfections. I would have preferred a different conclusion to the Dark Lady plot line, though what happens probably makes more sense in the end.
Dancer
I absolutely loved Jane Austen in Scarsdale, so I was a bit disappointed in this book. Ms. Cohen worked very hard in making the connections to the original Shakespeare play, but that was it. She had to "work at it," rather than to let it come naturally. The "connections" controlled the book, instead of Ms. Cohen writing a strong story.
Peg
Aug 11, 2010 Peg rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mothers, daughters
Recommended to Peg by: goodreads
This multi-generational story takes place in a home in Cherry Hill, N.J.
The narrator is the wife of a stressed MD, two difficult children, and a mother who has come to live with the family. Jessica (the widowed mother) thinks she was Shakespeare's girlfriend - the Dark Lady in a previous life.
Cjpeffer
Fun Story! I especially like the little insight into a family following their Jewish traditions. There was a nice mix of making fun of the mayhem but also touching on the history and sentiment of bat mitzvah, etc. I liked that.
Sara Abrams
This was an interesting take on Shakespeare. I thoroughly enjoyed it for it's mash up of old and new. I love this genre. It helped that it used The Merchant of Venice-my favorite Shakespearean play as the backdrop.
Sharon
I enjoyed Cohen's other riffs on Shakespeare, but this one was very light on the classical references. The focus of the plot is the daughter's bat mitvah, and the mother gets caught up in the party-planning madness.
Khuck
Entertaining. Nothing outstanding, but a nice read that incorporates Shakespeare, Italy, and a grandmother who thinks she was Shakespeare's girlfriend in a previous life!
Joyce
Nov 03, 2008 Joyce rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Shakespeare modern-remake fans
There's lots of Shakespeare in this modern love story. Actually, there are more love stories than Grandma Jessie's in this book. A fun read. :)
Tracy
I really did not like this book. It was a very slow read. I don't like to give up on a book, but after 50 pages I couldn't go on. It was that bad.
Linda
This book is a relaxing read - nothing profound. Good book to read if you want something lite.
Teresa
Very enjoyable book. I really like this author and can't wait read more.
Jessica
Good, easy read.

Interesting twist near the end.
Karen
Makes me want to read Shakespeare.
Lora
Favorite books of 2004...
Pam
Jul 10, 2008 Pam marked it as to-read
Shelves: fiction, new-jersey
07/10/08 rec via bookmooch
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Paula Marantz Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English, received her BA in English and French from Yale University and her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. She is the author of seven books and numerous essays on literature, film, and culture.

Her most recent academic book, Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth (Oxford UP), was selected as a Choice Outstanding Book for 2003. H...more
More about Paula Marantz Cohen...
Jane Austen in Scarsdale: Or Love, Death, and the SATs What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James & Jack the Ripper Jane Austen in Boca Suzanne Davis Gets a Life Silent Film and the Triumph of the American Myth

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