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A Perfect Arrangement Paperback – 1 Aug 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Aug. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141003677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141003672
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.1 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 807,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

The set up for Suzanne Berne's second novel sounds positively Gothic: Mirella and Howard--she a lawyer, he an architect--desperately need a nanny to care for their two small children. Without carefully checking her references, they welcome the cozy-seeming Randi into their creaky Colonial saltbox. At first the arrangement does seem perfect: Randi cooks, cleans and works wonders with the heretofore recalcitrant children. But it becomes slowly clear that her sunny, reliable temperament might be cloaking a darker past. In elegant, sometimes quite funny prose, Berne cleverly readies the reader for domestic atrocities in the gruesome tradition of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Then she subverts our expectations by showing that Mirella and Howard have their secrets, too--quiet compromises they've made to achieve their ideal home. The reader keeps waiting for the Nanny Horror Show to begin, and meanwhile Berne shows a family falling apart under the pressure of trying to appear perfect. "Disaster could be small and dull and corrosive," she writes. "It might already have come."

To up the ante, Berne has installed her domestic melange in a charming New England town, where Main Street is populated by quaint shops and unsightly necessities (such as, say, the grocery store) are relegated to the hinterlands. Inhabiting the equivalent of a Norman Rockwell painting, each character is further pressed to idealise the notion of family; each has a distinctive mental of what a home should look like. Anger and frustration and failure are suppressed until they surface in horrible, comic eruptions. Thus do Berne's characters ultimately learn to appreciate the "terrible, desirable, exhausting plenitude" of life. Admirers of Joanna Trollope's domestic dramas--by turns witty and harrowing--should find much to love in A Perfect Arrangement. --Claire Dederer, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Praise for 'A Prefect Arrangement' by Suzanne Berne: ‘Compelling’ - Cosmopolitan. ‘Berne's spare, concise prose reflects the growing detachment of the couple. The story is one many will recognise all too well’ - Womans Journal. ‘Acute observations of family life … a hugely readable and unsettling novel, destined to garner her yet more fans’ - Red. ‘ A compelling and original novel. Her observation is precise and perfect’ - The Times ‘An intriguing read’ - Family Circle. ‘Berne induces in the reader the same heavy sense of foreboding that made her first novel such a success’ - The New Statesman. ‘Berne deftly questions the myth of a smooth as clockwork domestic life’ - She. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kermit 333 VINE VOICE on 26 Oct. 2007
Format: Paperback
I had great hopes of this book - dual income family needing nanny for their kids. It started well; the children were interesting; the daughter emotionally disturbed which is why she was a bit of a brat and the son obviously having special needs (a fact both parents ignored for differing reasons) Berne ups the ante when the wife becomes unexpectedly pregnant and delays telling her husband as she knows he doesn't want any more children. The nanny becomes a treasure - cooking lovely meals and succeeding to get through to both kids. But surprise, surprise the wife feels threatened by this. So all the ingredients are there for a cracking good thriller. Hints are given about the nanny - she has lied about most of her former life - she seems unstable.... hints are given about her relationship with the boy; she feels neither parent understands him like she does. BUT the ending was just disappointing - I was expecting more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bizgen on 16 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
Suzanne Berne, who won the 1999 Orange Prize for Fiction for her first novel `A Crime in the Neighbourhood', tells the story of two parents juggling their family commitments with their professional careers. A tale of our times, with a difference, for Randi, the new nanny, enters their lives. She specialises in home cooking, gives quality time to the children, surely this is an ideal arrangement? The clues are there as we see the marriage begin to flounder and the children turn increasingly to this new, not entirely benign influence in their lives.

This is not a cosy Mrs Doubtfire book, it made me think deeply about the influences on the lives of children when their formative years are shaped by other than their parents. The stress of modern life in New England is not so different from any British suburb and we can empathise with the dilemmas facing a couple who must sacrifice some of their dreams for a not-so-perfect reality. The writing is reminiscent of Anne Tyler and shows perspicacity and a touch of humour. Parts of it were a little tedious, I found that the amount of trivia of everyday life with its accompanying stress made this less than a wholeheartedly good read for me. It would possibly interest a reading group although, in my opinion, it is not a book which would appeal to many men.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By booksdingle on 24 Aug. 2010
Format: Hardcover
Was really looking forward to reading this, after reading the back of the book was expecting 'hand that rocks the cradle' type thriller but unfortunately after reading it didn't feel like it had delivered that. It was well written in that the author set out the scene and developed the plot so that you were waiting for something major to happen but never progressed beyond that and it never took on a real menacing turn though there was always an undercurrent that it might be possible. It was more a story of a family in choas and how taking on a nanny affected the mothers relationship with her children and her own self-belief as a mother. I felt that the author stopped short of getting to the real nitty gritty which was a shame. I wanted to know alot more about the nanny and for her to show her true colours much more clearly - the ending was a bit disturbing but it felt like a bit of a cop-out of a story which could have had a real shock ending or a huge twist. I gave it 3 stars because I did enjoy reading it and wanted to carry on reading and it would be a decent enough holiday read but if you are expecting page turning thrills and spills you will be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
I picked this book out in a charity shop purely on the basis of the cover - I also thought the blurb on the back cover sounded promising. It turned out to be a good choice - the characters were well written, even the children and Martha the dog were convincing, and the plot was pretty good. Above all, I loved the New England setting. Well worth a read, just don't expect too much of a Hand That Rocks The Crade style thriller.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Colhoun on 23 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
Like other reviews i found the writing superb and the detailed analysis about family life and pressures well reflected. One of the best paragraphs i have ever read comes on the last page, where the character Mirella has a moment of intense reality- excellent captivating prose.
I wasnt expecting a thriller or a horror, repeating the hand rocks the cradle theme would have been crass, but i did expect a more shocking or twisting in the ending in line with the characters individual wake up calls to their lives and their position in the world. For me the ending came sooner when the father Howard has his moment of career and reputation assassination in public and the family has effectively fallen apart at the seams.
At that very point the novel could have concluded with a far more surprising twist. Sadly the author decided to limp on rather indecisively to an ending that seemed rather uninspiring, almost as though she had lost interest in her own plot.

Nevertheless a good drama and a good read.
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