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Test Pattern [Hardcover]

Marjorie Klein

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for Baby Boomers and Retro! 20 July 2000
By Quaker Annie - Published on Amazon.com
A few steps above most light summer reading, this book is almost on the same rung as "She's Come Undone," which I enjoyed long before it became an Oprah selection. These days, I don't often finish reading fiction, unless I plan to write a review; often I drag myself reluctantly to the end, yawning all the way.
But this book was a fast, fun, witty 2 hour joy. I read it as I sipped my caffe latte in a local bookstore, where I often explore books before making a purchase. I read the whole thing. The only reason I didn't buy this book was -- the price (full price in that particular store).
It is wonderful, and if it had been in paperback, I would have snapped it up. If I was buying it for a gift, I would have invested in it, for it is sure to please the reader who enjoys nostalgia, good writing, and humor, all rolled into one!
The story begins with the arrival, in the early 50's, of a black and white television set at the Palmer residence. With the tv comes the beginning of some major changes not just in that household, but in the lives of most of us.
The talented Marjorie Klein demonstrates that by telling the story from dual viewpoints - mother and daughter. Lorena's view is written in third-person - she is a self-centered, talent-free mother and wife, who will do anything to be a star.
Cassie, the 10-year old daughter of Lorena and her frustrated husband, Pete, speaks to us in first person, sharing her embarassment over her mother's behavior and her deepening understanding about what is happening.
If you grew up in the 50's, you'll remember the television shows and stars that are woven through-out the novel. Lorena's disappointment of her life as a housewife and her twisted vision of herself as a star is fed by the shows she watches. As she changes hairstyles (never quite getting the right perm), practices her ticket to fame - a tap dancing rendition of Chattanooga Choo Choo - and seduces the mailman who's cousin "is in television," Cassie watches her mother and her *own* television shows.
No one believes her when she describes what she sees, for everyone else sees only the familiar test pattern (for those of us who remember when television went off the air late at night!). Cassie sees funny dances called odd things like the twist and the monkey. She sees a movie star who is a president, and watches another president die, the Simpson family and war, right there on tv. She sees in to the future.
To tell you this doesn't reveal the plot at all, for the real story is the entertwining of Lorena's fantasy, the unraveling of the Palmer marriage, and Cassie's vision of what the future can be.
One of her friend's parents starts to believe her, and asks her gently, "is there anything you can do to change what happens?"
For the most part, there is nothing she can do until one night, she sees something horrible about to happen in her own life -- can she do anything to change it?
You'll have to read it for yourself and find out. This book is good -- very good. It very well may be this author will be famous someday. Wish I had a test pattern so I could see. A winner!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rod Serling meets Beaver Cleaver 11 April 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
They say a good book jacket catches the eye, even if the story doesn't. Well, I say because of the very unique cover they suckered me into picking this up, and boy am I glad I did. The novel that lies within this cover is not your typical Americana novel, but a highly charged realistic and fun look into teh typical family of the 50's. Then throw in the Twilight Zone.
It is really interesting how the author tackles this tale. First off, all we know is that it takes place in the 50's with a simple cast of characters who delude themselves in believing that life portrayed on television is real and utopian. They all long to be like Ozzie & Harriet or the Nelson's, and quite simply their strive for this perfection only causes more problems in any nuclear family.
Second, and refreshing, is that the chapters alternate (but overlap) between the perspectives of Cassie, age 11, and her star struck mother, Lorena. We see the motivation of Lorena's antics in one chapeter, then Cassie's take on the same event in the next. The chapters are relatively short, which makes this for easy reading and captures your attention much more readily.
Third, without giving the 'magic' of the book away, Cassie has the ability to see snipets of the future through their new television. It's amusing to read an eleven year old girls takes on events that we think are the norm today, but totally outlandish back in the 50's, and God forbid she try to explain it to adults back then. They think she's a loon! But we know otherwise.
Highly recommend this, and look forward to future titles from this author.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Fiction 13 Mar 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Klein's writing style is very visual and entertaining. Her subject, however, is a little distrubing. I agree that television was the beginning of the demise of the American family, but Klein takes it several steps further. The introduction of television into the middle-class '50's family is like the unleashing of Satan. Very sad.
Still - I'm glad I read it. I recommend it. Don't be fooled by the innocent, cartoon-like cover. Some of the subject matter is on the adult level.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Klein skillfully controls transmission in delightful novel 6 Mar 2001
By Bruce J. Wasser - Published on Amazon.com
Part satire, part social commentary, part coming-of-age, Marjorie Klein's captivating debut novel, "Test Pattern," is a terrific book. Told in chapters which alternate between a mother and daughter's point of view, the novel focuses on a disintegrating marriage between a deeply frustrated housewife and her increasingly embittered husband and an engaging, creative daughter who, incidentially, perceives the future through images gleaned from staring at a test pattern on her family's new television. Set in 1954, the novel captures the extraordinary (and subterranean) influence television exerts on American culture; Klein is at her very best in the numerous instances where she describes how television alters and redefines personal expectations, perceptions and, most alarmingly, identity. The grace of "Test Pattern" is its ability to treat very serious issues with extraordinary humor, delightful dialogue and a pitch-perfect sense of what blue-collar American was like in the so-called golden age of television.
Klein has created two compelling characters in the repressed Lorena Palmer and her fascinating, sensitive daughter Cassie. It is clear the author carries considerable compassion for both: the mother, locked in a loveless marriage she initially believed was the embodiment of the American Dream, and the daughter, terribly conflicted over her family's disintegration and her "gift" of perception no-one else, less a bohemian artist, seems to respect, much less understand. Lorena is a fully-rendered character. She "weeps for lost dreams, repressed ambitions, for time rolling on without her. For her depressing past, her dismal present, and the possibility...of a future slapped down by the hand of fate." In circumstances as zany as any to which Lucille Ball gave comedic expression, Lorena's marriage and life spiral crazily out of control. Klein's treatment of female discontent, the evolving frustrations of housewife life, sexuality, friendships and marital infidelity are astoundingly right on key.
The novel, however, belongs to Cassie, and it is through the child's eyes that we fully recognize the author's talents. The fissures, ultimately growing into yawning chasms, which lay bare the dissolution of her family weigh heavily on Cassie. She questions herself constantly, wondering if her gift of perception is really hereditary nuttiness, pondering why her friend's "weird" family is cohesive and loving while her "normal" family is painfully distorted, probing presciently into her father's morose loss of purpose and her mother's near infantile self-absorption. Cassie's introduction to sex, whether it be from her test-pattern visions of the late twentieth-century's blatant use (and abuse) of sexuality to her anguishing over her first bra are done with incredible wit and compassion. How Cassie introduces Michael Jackson's moonwalk to her Chattanooga Choo-Choo bound mother is literally sidesplitting.
I hope "Test Pattern" finds the widest reading audience, although readers over the age of 45 will gain particular pleasure savoring the author's recreation of the impact tv had on our lives in the 1950s. This skilled, probing and kind novel will undoubtedly be translated into a film, one in which the essential truths will reveal themsleves even without the aid of a test pattern.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A light, truly enjoyable book! 3 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this novel. It is quite funny, yet not ridiculous, and holds the reader's interest chapter after chapter. The great cover was my reason for picking it up, and I have been encouraging friends to read it since I finished!
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