University of Chicago Magazine's Reviews > The Belles of Christiania

The Belles of Christiania by Ken Hokeness
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's review
Nov 04, 2011

bookshelves: grad-school-of-edu

Kenneth N. Hokeness, MAT'64

The Belles of Christiania is a serious but funny novel about Neal Olavson's problematic home life, his academic challenges, and his frustrating romantic relationships. Neal’s mother, Marian, holds Neal up his father’s standards and adores her other son, Phil, because of his athletic and academic achievements. Marian then rejects her alcoholic boyfriend, Al, whom Neal regards as a father figure. Since Neal is weak in math, he seeks help from his friend, Dean Carlson, a pre-med whiz. Dean leads Neal around by the nose until the two Romeos get lucky, when they find Christie and her friend Astrid in a booth at Oscar’s Deli, next to the college. They plan a romantic candle light dinner party at Neal’s home, but Marian kills Neal’s chances for a romantic relationship with Christie. Then, Phil, who has been accepted by the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, is accused of cheating on a final exam and may be expelled from Christiania just days before his graduation. Phil recently proposed to Betsy, who is deeply involved Phil’s cheating scandal. In the end, Neal’s problems are basically resolved at Phil’s graduation party, after Marian introduces Neal to Maren Markuson, a very cute friend of Betsy’s, who needs a ride home to a neighboring town.

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