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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks, Ms Bank
Melissa Bank writes touchingly, beautifully and - most of all - wittily. How could anyone not love the author of words such as: "These meetings always made me feel that the clocks had stopped and all beauty had gone from the world"? Her book would be worth reading for such sparkling nuggets alone. But there is much more to it than that: her style is impeccable, her...
Published on 5 Sept. 2006 by Allegra

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Les Malheurs de Sophie
Sophie Applebaum, the heroine of Melissa Bank's second novel, is a woman who seems somehow not quite suited to life. Everything she does appears to go slightly wrong. As a teenager, she wants to please her father by learning about the family's Jewish faith at Hebrew School, but when there does no work and ends up messing around with the class rebels. She wants also to...
Published 8 months ago by Kate Hopkins


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks, Ms Bank, 5 Sept. 2006
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This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
Melissa Bank writes touchingly, beautifully and - most of all - wittily. How could anyone not love the author of words such as: "These meetings always made me feel that the clocks had stopped and all beauty had gone from the world"? Her book would be worth reading for such sparkling nuggets alone. But there is much more to it than that: her style is impeccable, her characters three-dimensional and delicately observed, and Sophie Applebaum's wanderings through the world of potential husbands gently grip the reader's attention. My only criticism is that the book seems less like a novel than a series of short stories, hastily strung together, and even more hastily brought to a shuddering and very unsatisfactory halt with the last chapter (oh yes, that and the weird title ...). Nevertheless, this is great writing and does not deserve to be linked in any way with the chick lit genre. Thanks, Ms Bank.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bank deepens and broadens her range, 14 Jun. 2005
This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Hardcover)
Melissa Bank's second book -- a novel, a book of linked stories-may disappoint some fans of A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but as a writer she has gone far deeper in her new book, The Wonder Spot. The wit is still there, the graceful prose, the deep empathy one feels for the main character, Sophie Applebaum. But in The Wonder Spot Bank shows new depths and nuances and shadows. She doesn't hide from sadness or loneliness or failure with her lightning wit-and her canvas in The Wonder Spot is broader. She deals with death and religion; with issues of class and money; with even deeper themes of identity and appearance in conflict with character and integrity that is nearly Jamesian. She is strong and smart and funny, but she is also no longer afraid to be vulnerable. Second books-especially after huge first successes-are tough, but Melissa Bank has far exceeded even our most generous expectations. She has written an important and brilliant new book. But try it for yourself. Pick up a copy! Another book I need to recommend -- very much on my mind since I purchased a copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, a funny, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Les Malheurs de Sophie, 10 Oct. 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
Sophie Applebaum, the heroine of Melissa Bank's second novel, is a woman who seems somehow not quite suited to life. Everything she does appears to go slightly wrong. As a teenager, she wants to please her father by learning about the family's Jewish faith at Hebrew School, but when there does no work and ends up messing around with the class rebels. She wants also to please her family by doing well academically, like her brothers, but (despite being intelligent) can't get good grades in any subject, and ends up at a very minor college, that she's basically too bright for. Her father dies of cancer before she's really had time to explain how much he matters to her. Her friendships are intense but rarely last, her career in publishing goes down the pan within months (sometimes she struggles to write one letter in a day) and her next career in advertising bores her, her attempts to find a hobby usually go nowhere or end in a disastrous romantic encounter, and although she dates prolifically, none of her boyfriends - including slightly pretentious poet Josh, swaggering Demetri, philandering Bobby, mysterious Chris her one-time fiance or dull, dutiful Neil - are quite right for her. Will Sophie find happiness and self-acceptance before it's too late, and can her close family help her?

If this has a familiar ring to it, it's because Sophie is basically a more fully realized version of Jane, the quite appealing but also (to me anyway) very annoying heroine of Bank's first novel, 'The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing'. A great deal of the story (bar the older lover) is remarkably similar: the wealthy, kind suburban parents, the bad grades and bad college experience, the traumas of a job in publishing and work in advertising, the father's early death, the unfortunate love life and multiple dates (though thank heavens Bank doesn't have another go at an unfunny etiquette guide). Sophie is, it is true, a wittier, more complex and more interesting character than Jane, and Bank is notably better in this novel on family relationships, describing Sophie's feelings for her mother, father, brothers and two difficult grandmothers in vivid and interesting detail (the scenes where Sophie cares for her dying grandmother Steenie are particularly fine, as are the descriptions of her feelings about her mother's extraordinary late romantic adventure). She also addresses the issue of Sophie's Jewish background far more interestingly than she did with Jane, and the cast of characters in the novel is bigger, and much more compelling (I particularly liked playwright Adam, Francine the almost-silent editor and the Applebaum family). For this, I nearly gave the novel four stars.

However, I did have one problem with it - Bank seems to have a fairly limited range of expression and only a very limited number of topics she's interested in exploring. While she's great on family relationships, I got tired very quickly of Sophie's reiterations that she was no good at anything (was this intended to make her the friend of Everywoman, or something?), her limited interests (she did try a couple of hobbies but predictably felt she was 'no good' at them and gave up), her defeatist attitude to anything to do with work (she never seemed to explore what she really might like doing, or explain her problems with her jobs to her superiors) and the endless string of failed relationships. It didn't help that some of Sophie's most important relationships (with Chris, for example) were never shown, but just referred to in passing. As, every chapter, we got yet more references to how Sophie's dates had gone wrong, more long monologues from Sophie about her lack of motivation and her lack of talent, and a growing sense of time ticking on I found myself getting more and more depressed. It didn't help that Sophie seemed so incredibly inwardly-focussed - we never saw her concerned about politics, really addressing religious issues, or enthusing much over pictures, books, music, or anything much except dogs. What began as an interesting examination of an American girl growing up began to turn for long stretches into navel-gazing. And the happy ending just felt tacked on - it didn't evolve at all easily from the rest of the book.

This being said, Bank certainly can write well - she's great at capturing atmosphere (the stifling camaraderie of an office, the boredom of big family gatherings, the concentration of an art class, the intimacy of small family dinners) and can also be witty, and there is something about Sophie that made me like her, despite my frustrations. But I feel that she may have exhausted her main topic of 'middle class East Coast American girl looking for a man' with this book. Still, if she was to write something on a different topic, I'd definitely be interested in reading it.

Three and a half stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Honey," he said, "Those aren't real people.", 8 Mar. 2014
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
A strong-character based story, based on the life of a well-heeled, highly intelligent New York family. Their trials, triumphs and disasters provide a lively and eventful tale encompassing all the generations. The narrator is Sophie Applebaum, at the beginning of the novel she is at a Bar Mitzvah for one of her cousins, already feeling the discomfort of rebellion, but too polite to express it. She is good at the shorthand of their language, the deftness of Sophie’s outsider persona. Sophie is a fascinating character, as are her brothers Jack and Robert, and one of the pleasures of this book is that a whole section of New York life is about to open up – with Sophie as our guide. After college, Sophie gets a job in a publishing company – a very lowly job. She is intrigued by the personality of one of her co-workers, and one of the pleasures of this book is it’s recurring characters as Sophie ranges further and wider, then shrinks to moments when we learn a little more about, say, someone she worked with some time ago. New York is a big town, but not everyone gets lost in the subways and offices that make up her Metropolitan life.

The episodic structure, where we come upon Sophie in a different situation in each of the chapters shouldn’t really work. But it works perfectly in this case, taking us through several incarnations and mistakes of the relationship kind and not forgetting the employment hassles. This is a busy, enjoyable story, skilfully told with a great deal of insight into this fascinating milieu. These people are smart, fallible, witty and charming. It is much warmer and more enjoyable than I’ve made it sound and I would thoroughly recommend this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be prepared to want to read all day, 5 July 2006
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This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
The wonder spot is another great book from Melissa Bank. Sophie, the main character is interesting and witty, so much so that you're compelled to read on and on to find out more about her life. Much of the book is focused on Sophie's search for Mr Right which leads to why I gave this book 4 stars and not 5. At one stage in her life she finds a guy who comes close to being the one but the reader only finds out about this as an aside, which I found slightly irksome. My other gripe is that the ending doesn't really give any closure to the character or the story-line, it feels like there could be a sequel which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing! However on the whole the book is thoroughly enjoyable, one that you'll want to keep reading and won't want to end.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars give me the next 20 years, 19 Aug. 2006
By 
Bett Demby "Bett from Finchley" (Finchley, London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
this wonderful novel gave me a warm feeling all over! I just finished it on holiday and so had the benfit of reading it all almost in one go which always is a bonus. Sophie is such a well drawn character, her constant asides to the reader really struck a chord with me each time she made them, and they made me laugh outloud. I don't often feel moved to contact an author after I have finished reading a novel but in this case I wanted to send a mail immediately to Melissa Bank and tell her how much ejoyment she had afforded me. The story is excellent but for me its all about characterisation and this cast all felt completely real to me. Take a chance, buy it and you'll not be sorry.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bank deepens and broadens her range, 1 Jun. 2005
This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Hardcover)
Melissa Bank's second book-a novel, a book of linked stories-may disappoint some fans of A Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but as a writer she has gone far deeper in her new book, The Wonder Spot. The wit is still there, the graceful prose, the deep empathy one feels for the main character, Sophie Applebaum. But in The Wonder Spot Bank shows new depths and nuances and shadows. She doesn't hide from sadness or loneliness or failure with her lightning wit-and her canvas in The Wonder Spot is broader. She deals with death and religion; with issues of class and money; with even deeper themes of identity and appearance in conflict with character and integrity that is nearly Jamesian. She is strong and smart and funny, but she is also no longer afraid to be vulnerable. Second books-especially after huge first successes-are tough, but Melissa Bank has far exceeded even our most generous expectations. She has written an important and brilliant new book. But try it for yourself. Pick up a copy! Another book I need to recommend -- very much on my mind since I purchased a copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition," a funny, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved It, 28 Feb. 2007
By 
This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
Don't be fooled by the pastel cover, this book deserves better. I really liked the sense of family in this book, the serious brother and the bitchy grandmother and the grounded father.

I think that Sophie feels she has failed to find the perfect man, home and career, and continously compares herself with others. Only finally does she realise that the thing that she really wants is the here and now, ordering everything off the menu and going to bed.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to score, 19 July 2006
By 
L. Brakspear "Loubra" (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
We join Sophie at age 12 and leave her at about 34, when she finally seems to have found the right man for her.

In between, we meet a fair few of her other boyfriends, her family, and friends. It's refreshing to read a book for women where the main character doesn't constantly obsess about her looks. Sophie is also unable to find the right job and, more than that, it felt like she never quite fit in with whatever situation she found herself in. I often feel like that.

It's difficult to know how to score this novel. It's well written, keeps your interest, and has a sense of humour, but I kept expecting it to have a point. After all her 'Sex and the City' style affairs, where she would meet a man she liked and then found something to dislike about him after a while, I was expecting (and hoping for) more than a few pages when Sophie did finally find her match. So, I was a bit disappointed with the end.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wonder Stuff, 2 Aug. 2006
By 
Ms. C. J. Malcolmson "rinibop" (Cheltenham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Wonder Spot (Paperback)
I'd like to give this book 3 1/2 stars if possible. It wasn't quite a four star, as I lost interest a little half way through.

I liked the idea of a girl who didn't quite know her place in society and tried hard to fit in but couldn't quite manage it.

I enjoyed Melissa Bank's first book (now being made into a film with Sarah Michelle Geller) and when I read the first chapter I thought this would be very similar. It wasn't, and as a result we got to know much more about the character and her family.

Some of the characterisations were excellent, and as the writer is very sparse with her writing, never saying anything unless it absolutely has to be said, things tend to sink in a little more.

Unlike another reviewer, I found the ending great. She had met another guy, who could be the one, but in reality probably won't be. But he's fun and she's still having fun so why stress!

Definitely recommended for something a little deeper and more substantial than the usual chick lit.
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