Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Wit's End” as Want to Read:
Wit's End
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Wit's End

2.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,631 ratings  ·  357 reviews
The author of The Jane Austen Book Club presents another highly inventive novel--one that ensnares readers in cunning deceptions, challenging them to separate the truth from fiction.
Hardcover, 324 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Putnam Adult (first published 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Wit's End, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 2.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,631 ratings  ·  357 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Wit's End
Jul 03, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: NO ONE!!!
What the heck is this book about? It reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld's description of his sitcom. This is a book about nothing. When you are finished with this book, you don't know any more about the characters that you did before you started it.

I read this book on a bus trip to Milwaukee. If I had not been trapped on the bus with it, I would have quit half-way through. I would not recommed this book to anyone.

I have not read Fowler's "The Jane Austen Book Club" and am not likely to after reading
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars
I think, unfortunately, that this book is misreprented by the tag line on the cover and the publisher description; both those seem to promise an overarching mystery, a sinister encroachment of the both the past and of an author's fans.

What it actually is - and succeeds quite well at - is the first person narrative of a woman without roots trying to find some purpose. Rima struggles with grief, tries to figure out the puzzle of her father's life, tries both to connect and to avoid connec
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Now this is a really fun book for the modern, Net-savvy reader. I don't think I've ever heard fanfiction discussed more accurately in a book before (or ever discussed period!), and I love the varying attitudes on it from the author to the rabid fangirl to the innocent net surfer who accidentally stumbles onto a slashy one--SO much fun!

I read in a professional review somewhere that this book feels "up to the minute fresh," and that is really an excellent way to put it. Blogging, forums, Dubbya's
May 12, 2008 rated it did not like it
Preface: I won this through a contest. I have read The Jane Austen Book Club, which was also set in the Norcal area, so I'm right at home with that.

Update: Just because you get a book for free does not mean you should read it. There was no point or direction to this book. The storyline was very scattered, none of the characters were developed enough to like or emphathize with them, and it was peppered with unnecessary profanity and moral issues that came from left field. T
Dec 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
What a letdown! The description sounded so interesting - A young woman, Rima, who is suffering after the deaths, one after another, of her immediate family members, is invited to move in with her godmother who happens to be a world famous mystery writer. The writer lives in a beachfront estate in Santa Cruz, California, called "Wit's End" which was built years ago by a surviving member of the Donner party who is said to haunt the grounds. The writer is a little eccentric - she builds dioramas of ...more
The best part of this novel is the author's wit. Fowler, as many reviewers note, really does have a wonderful voice. Her character insights, asides, ruminations--all are engaging and interesting. The whole of Wit's End, however, is not as good as the sum of its parts. With so many odd and fascinating side stories: grief, loss, obsessive fan adoration, theft of artistic ownership, cults, mystery novels, mysterious letters, mysteries within mysteries... not to mention complicated and fascinating c ...more
May 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
The author of The Jane Austen Book Club has struck again--delightfully. This book is not a mystery but it IS about a mystery writer, her goddaughter, and some mysterious past events. There are multiple story lines in this book,
including highly imaginative plots for the books written by Addison (though, despite attempts throughout the book by many, not a clue about what the new book is about until the very, very, very end). It's a tad confusing at times
since Addison has a tendency to use "real" p
Cheryl Klein
Feb 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mysteries
Reading this book made me wonder why Jonathan Lethem, Junot Diaz and the other fan boys get all the credit for playing with genre. Karen Joy Fowler's meta-mystery, about a woman trying to decipher the relationships between her family and a famous murder mystery writer, has just as many layers and asks just as many big philosophical questions. Set in a Santa Cruz populated by cults and clowns and 12-stepper housekeepers, the book is as colorful as any traditional mystery. By adding plot lines tha ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book in the UK; I prefer the US title, "Wit's End," as it is a more accurate indication of the book's themes and content.

The UK jacket copy made the book sound like a lighthearted romp with a fictional detective come to life to help the heroine.

Instead, the book is a rumination on grief, the creative process, and just who "owns" a creative work once it is accessible by the public. Does it belong to the author? To the fan? To the real life people & events on whom the fictional char
Kara Babcock
Aug 12, 2015 rated it did not like it
I like meta-books, books about books and writers and readers and how stories influence our lives. As someone who spends what, I admit, is probably an inordinate amount of time reading, reading about books is important and informative. Wit’s End is metafiction about mystery. Rima’s godmother, Addison Early, is a successful Agatha Christie—like mystery writer. Rima comes to stay with Addison at Wit’s End, Addison’s little refuge from the world in Santa Cruz. Cut off from the rest of the world by t ...more
Kristen McBee
Jun 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015-prose
I barely know what happened in this book. It's haphazard and directionless. I was unsure of what mystery we were trying to solve, and the resolution didn't clear it up. There were baffling extraneous stories and details that made me wonder if this book ever made it into the hands of an editor. Disappointing because I really enjoyed her novel "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves". ...more
Aug 09, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
People really seem to hate this one. I'm feeling daring, adding this to my TBR shelf. Good luck, future me. ...more
I'm giving this one three stars, although 2 1/2 would be more accurate. Though Fowler is tremendously good at setting and details, as well as introducing quirky characters, that didn't make up for the "plot", such that there is.
We start with the protagonist, Rima Lanisell, arriving at the Santa Cruz, CA home of her godmother Addison Early, famous (think: Stephen King famous) author of a serious of mystery/thrillers featuring the character Maxwell Lane, and antagonist Bim Lanisell (Bin Laden?), s
Lynn Pribus
Sep 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I rated this a 5 as a reaction to all the low ratings, I think It's witty, fey and clever with two dachshunds -- Berkeley and Stanford -- that almost had me laughing out loud.

I think the low ratings came from people who were expecting a standard cookie-cutter whodunit instead of charm. I'd heard of Holy City near Santa Cruz before -- when we lived in California -- and had spent time along the coast so appreciate descriptions of fog and the seaside.

Our heroine, Rima, is thrice bereaved and visits
Jun 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked it... yet there is no discernible reason that I did. There is no concrete aspect that I loved. I didn't love the characters, I didn't love the beginning, middle and end of the story (oh, because there wasn't one!) But I loved it as a whole all the same.

It was very... current. In a way that I've never experienced in a novel. There were constant cultural references that were very now... polar bears on LOST for example, crazy fan-fic and website forums of fans.

I never understood the
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
3.5 stars. Very funny, very engrossing, very meta. Maybe a little bit underdeveloped? Or maybe I will have to re-read to get it all.
Kara Passey
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked this book but either it thought it was more deep than it was or I am an idiot. equally likely scenarios if I’m honest.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
First of all, this was the paperback edition, which is important because the protagonist's name is different in this edition. And this is her correct name. (Be careful when you sell naming rights.)
Your mind needs to be relaxed and receptive while reading this book because the narration shifts back and forth in time as well as in the matter of factual happenings. There is also the matter of fictional vs real people.
Rima Lansill has had both her parents and her beloved brother Oliver die, all at
May 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobooks
Too much Wikipedia, not enough story. I thought that all of the "themes" were a great set-up: the dollhouses, the Maxwell Lane stories, etc. "Ice City" the mental place with an imagined geography, inside a fictional world, was the best thing I got out of it. But Ice City was a very small part. Did I miss something bigger because I listened to it?

Also, I just have something against people spending too much time on their computers in novels (unless its SF). I asked myself about this, and telephon
Kiri Lucas
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After Rima Lanisell's father dies, she goes to stay with her godmother, Addison Early. Addison is a hugely successful crime fiction writer and was a close friend of Rima's father. However, she is very private and Rima struggles to understand the history of Addison and her father while she figures out her place and purpose in the world.

Fowler's books are fun and the characters are quirky. This was an easy and engaging read.
May 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
I found this book wandering, confusing, and lacking in purpose and cohesiveness. It seems like it is trying to be clever but it does this by obscuring things and making them intentionally confusing. Rather than unfolding like an onion or even being revealed like a jigsaw puzzle, it makes things muddy then stirs them and eventually replaces them with something clearer. Very unsatisfying.
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ruth by: Sundry (thanks, Sundry!)
Shelves: recently-read
This book is fun. I think it succeeds on the fun level more than on the serious level--even though it takes up some VERY serious themes in the lives of characters at times, I stayed detached from them overall. Or they stayed detached from me.

It's the concept that's really fun & fascinating.
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just love Karen Joy Fowler's writing so, so much. ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was only short but it took me ages. I really had to force myself to finish. I felt very confused for most of this book. I didn’t really understand the story.

This book wasn’t for me
Ron Charles
Dec 09, 2013 rated it liked it
The Jane Austen Book Club could not have been better designed or timed. Karen Joy Fowler's fourth novel appeared in 2004 at the intersection of two massive forces in American publishing: women's book clubs and the Austen revival. With its sharp wit and clever allusions to Emma et al., the story rotated through a year's worth of meetings involving six members of a book club in California. If the plot was a little slow and tenuous, well, nobody minded because Fowler's portrayal of reading-group dy ...more
Jacquie South
2 ⭐️ is generous for this book.
I forced myself to finish reading it, thinking that SURELY something was going to happen. Something was going to make it worthwhile. Unfortunately nothing did happen and it wasn’t worthwhile. The ‘big reveal’ at the end was definitely not worth the rest of the book and was a whimper rather than a bang.
Characters uninteresting and rather unlikeable.
Just a book full of nothing. Don’t waste your time.
Cara M
Oct 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A lovely weird little story about the intersection of fiction and reality.
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
It's hard to say exactly what kept me reading this. I did like the main character, Rima, a lonely and emotionally fragile woman who visits her grandmother the house of her godmother, named "Wit's End," in Santa Cruz California. The godmother, Addison, is a famous mystery writer.

I admired the book's intent, which was to blend the fictional and the real by bringing Addison's characters into the present-day action. Ultimately, however, I found all the twists and turns of the plot too difficult to
Bookmarks Magazine

Critical reception of Wit's End ran the full gamut. Like The Jane Austen Book Club, the novel should appeal to lovers of mystery books and to readers who enjoy pondering the relationship between characters, their creators, and their fan bases. Yet while these critics couldn't put the book down, others panned it. Pop culture references, such as the Internet Wiki-wars (where fans analyze Maxwell Lane's life), perhaps make up for what some critics described as relatively insipid characters and myst

Mary C
Jun 13, 2011 rated it it was ok
It wasn't bad. But I didn't get it at all. There seemed to be no point to the story. The ending just left me scratching my head wondering what I had just read. Not in a good thought provoking way. But in a what was the point, kind of way. The whole point of the book seemed to be the main character trying to prove that her father couldn't have been the murderer in a work of fiction. Her godmother, a famous mystery writer in the book, used her father as the basis of a vilain in one of her books. W ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler 1 3 Jul 07, 2013 09:31AM  
NYTtimes review -1 22 May 17, 2008 05:48AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • I Will Miss You Tomorrow (Thorkild Aske, #1)
  • How It All Blew Up
  • Winterkeep (Graceling Realm, #4)
  • Bettyville
  • Bears in the Streets: Three Journeys Across a Changing Russia
  • Agency (Jackpot #2)
  • A Room Made of Leaves
  • Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern
  • The Lost Lights of St Kilda
  • The Roaring '20s
  • The Liar's Dictionary
  • Hid from Our Eyes (Rev. Clare Fergusson & Russ Van Alstyne Mysteries, #9)
  • Navigate Your Stars
  • Winter Grave (Embla Nyström, #2)
  • Take a Look at the Five and Ten
  • The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls
  • The Widower's Tale
  • Jess Castle and the Eyeballs of Death: A Jess Castle Investigation, for fans of The Thursday Murder Club
See similar books…
I was born in Bloomington, Indiana. I was due on Valentine's Day but arrived a week early; my mother blamed this on a really exciting IU basketball game. My father was a psychologist at the University, but not that kind of psychologist. He studied animal behavior, and especially learning. He ran rats through mazes. My mother was a polio survivor, a schoolteacher, and a pioneer in the co-operative ...more

Related Articles

If you're a fan of the mystery and thriller genre and young adult books, recent months have brought a bevy of great reads to your shelves! We...
140 likes · 21 comments
“The dogs came racing up the stairs. They danced at Rima's feet, frantic with the need to communicate something to her. Little Timmy's down the well! Feed us ice cream and potato chips! Sometimes there's a benefit to not sharing a language.” 0 likes
“Besides, it was a high bed. The dogs could never have gotten into it without help. Maybe one could have stood with its front paws on the bed frame while the other scaled its back in some unlikely dachshund Cirque de Soleil, but even then there would be only one dog in her bed, not two.” 0 likes
More quotes…