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Laura Rider's Masterpiece [Paperback]

Jane Hamilton
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 7.89 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 April 2010

Laura and Charlie Rider have been married for twelve years. They share their nursery business in rural Wisconsin, their love for their animals and their zeal for storytelling. Although Charlie's enthusiasm in the bedroom has worn Laura out, although she no longer sleeps with him, they are happy enough going along in their routine.

Jenna Faroli is the host of a popular radio show and in Laura's mind is 'the single most famous person in the Town of Dover'. When Jenna happens to cross Charlie's path one day, and they begin an e-mail correspondence, Laura cannot resist using Charlie to try out her new writing skills. Together, Laura and Charlie craft florid, strangely intimate messages that entice Jenna in an unexpected way. The 'project' quickly spins out of control. The lines between Laura's words and Charlie's feelings are blurred and complicated, Jenna is transformed in ways that deeply disturb her, and Laura is transformed in her mind's eye into an artist. The transformations are hilarious and poignant, and for Laura Rider, beyond her wildest expectations.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (1 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446538949
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446538947
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.3 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,087,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Whether read as a tongue-in-cheek parable about the creative process or a sardonic meditation on lust and matrimony - so rarely, it seems, in the same place at the same time - this confection by Jane Hamilton is a mischievous treat (BOSTON Globe)

Book Description

A funny, sexy and provocative satire about marriage...

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Irritating, implausible and silly 28 Nov 2012
I read this as it was highly recommended on the book-a-day calendar on my desk (which has suggested several good books over the last couple of years).

This was well outside my usual reading range.

Not sure how to describe it - literary romance?

Technically it was well written but the story was just too unbelievable for me.

Young middle-aged gardening business owner (Laura Rider) married to hunk decides (a) to never have sex again with said hunk and (b) to organise the friendship (and later sexual relationship) between said hunk and a peri-menopausal, intellectual radio personality who moves into their small town.


And then, to make matters worse, in some odd plot convulsion Laura wants to write a romance novel. Near the end she's actually at a writer's convention learning how to write.

I really, really dislike it when writers write about writers. Come on! Make the effort and research other occupations!!

This book was mercifully short (it's a small book and only just over 200 pages). It was irritating, silly, and a waste of time.

I admit I am probably not in the author's target audience but, even so, this was poor. I've never read anything else by her, and have no plans to do so.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.5 out of 5 stars  50 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quirky, but underwhelming 16 April 2009
By Carrie Dunham-LaGree - Published on
Laura Rider's Masterpiece is a satirical love/lust triangle of sorts mixed with a character study in novel form. The triangle involves Laura Rider, an aspiring novelist and successful garden business owner; her husband, Charlie, whom everyone in their small Wisconsin town thinks is gay, but whose main gift in life is his sexual prowess; and Jenna Faroli, a local turned syndicated public radio show host who has moved to town because it is equidistant between the radio station and her judge husband's courthouse. Laura idolizes Jenna, and is eager to start a friendship.

I love Jane Hamilton's novels, but one of my favorite things about her novels is that it's always easy to relate to the characters, regardless of their background. Laura Rider's Masterpiece started off well. I was instantly intrigued with Laura's wit and honesty as a narrator. Her description of small-town life was comedic and spot-on. As the narrative shifted to Jenna as the narrator, I again found myself mesmerized by her experiences and perspective.

As the novel wore on (and it's hard to say it wore on at all, given it's only 214 pages), it became more satirical, which made the characters less accessible. I was torn between feeling sorry for them and not caring about how things turned out. For such a great start, I did not enjoy the second half of the book. The setup was more enjoyable than the fulfillment. I really wanted to like this novel, and I loved the first half of it, but ultimately, it was underwhelming.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is comedy? 10 Sep 2009
By Jody Latini - Published on
Laura Rider's Masterpiece is the story of Laura, an aspiring writer, her affable and henpecked husband, Charlie, and the object of their affection, local radio personality Janna Faroli. The book is described as a "full-blown comedy", but the humor is of the driest, darkest variety. The story reads like a doomed love affair, in that we meet the three main characters and see them as shining with potential, but as they are revealed in their entirety, we see that they are in fact boring, tawdry, clueless, pretentious and just plain thoughtless individuals. At the end, there is none of the initial infatuation and plenty of "I can't wait to be done with you" disgust. I didn't find the comedy in watching these three idiots (yes, I said it) tear apart their lives, but I don't laugh when I drive by a train wreck either. I appreciated Jane Hamilton's writing style much more in The Book of Ruth; Ruth is at least noble in her suffering. I picked this one up on a whim at the library, and had hopes that it would combine Jane Hamilton's beautiful writing with a good laugh- not so.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time 3 Jun 2009
By Nanmade - Published on
How can a good author even bother to publish such drivel? This is in no way comparable to any previous Jane Hamilton books. Although the premise is amusing, the book ultimately goes nowhere and lacks the depth and story line of her previous works. I really hate to see an author start publishing just to publish. It irks me to pick up a book by an author I've read before and find myself let down so completely.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of a Psychopathic Gardener/Romance Novelist 1 April 2009
By Literate Housewife - Published on
Laura Rider leads an ordinary Midwestern life. She and her husband Charlie own and run a thriving nursery and neither one of them have ever strayed far from their hometowns, let alone Wisconsin. Laura is gifted at designing beautiful gardens and Charlie does the heavy lifting and is gifted at making love. She enjoys gardening, but she harbors a secret desire to write a romance novel. She sees no irony in the fact that she wants to write romance novels when she refuses to sleep with Charlie because he wears her out. When Jenna Faroli, a Wisconsin NPR host whom Laura idolizes, moves to Hartley, Laura sees and seizes the opportunity to make her dreams come true.

All is not what it seems in Laura Rider's Masterpiece. Laura Rider is a deliciously unreliable narrator. My first clue that something was not quite right took place at the Garden Club meeting. She was thinking about how badly a relationship with one of the member's brothers ended. Two traumatic things happened as a result that caused her to leave town for a year, but they are mentioned almost as an after thought. I stopped and re-read that section to make sure that I read it correctly. Time and distance diminishes pain, but there was something unsettling about how removed she was from her own past.

After Laura returned to town, she did all that she could to ensure that she remained in control. She didn't marry Charlie so much because she loved him as that she could make him heel. He wasn't one to create waves when she what was best for their business and made plans for its future. He simply provided the muscle needed to get the job done. Despite the fact that she was no longer sleeping with him, allowing her to be in control enabled him to stay young at heart. When she encourages Charlie to develop a friendship with Jenna, it's as if she is throwing him a bone for being such a loyal companion. Laura is a psychopathic gardener, planting and fertilizing her seeds to suit her own designs, then ruthlessly ripping the plants out of the ground when she finds that they've borne fruit. It is difficult to say whether it would be best to be on her bad side or her good side. Laura doesn't make a distinction.

Laura Rider's Masterpiece is an unusual novel. When Jenna was introduced, her almost condescending world view seemed as much out of place in Hartley as it was with the novel. Laura saw Jenna as her every woman, but to me she stuck out like a sore thumb. However, from the moment I caught a glimpse of what Jane Hamilton was be doing with the story, I couldn't and didn't want to turn back. I was hooked. With the exception of Charlie, a character I adored from the beginning, my opinions and attitudes about Laura and Jenna radically shifted from the beginning to the end. All of these elements combined for a refreshing read. If you enjoy novels with untrustworthy and perhaps antisocial narrators, this is a book you should pick up. The lingering chill from Laura's icy heart will help keep you cool this summer.

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Puzzling responses to a giddy wonderful literary ride 23 May 2009
By Skye - Published on
I am puzzled by some of the responses here to the LOL funny and smart Laura Rider's Masterpiece. I think the ratings vary so because Jane Hamilton has always straddled two audiences--- the "juicy Oprah novel" crew and her literary following. This book is openly sophisticated and is really about adultery (think John Updike on helium) and the craft of writing--- subjects that appeal more to the Wink wink knowing (and probing and wondering) crowd of writers and critical readers. This book had me snorting with its satirical humor and insights into art and marriage and culture and, yes, class. Essentially, it rocked! I don't usually write reviews, but it bothered me to see this unique book misunderstood.
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