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Beowulf for Cretins: A Love Story Paperback – 26 Jun 2018
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From the Back Cover
Aspiring novelist Grace Warner is a burned-out English professor who spends her days teaching four sections of "Beowulf for Cretins" to bored and disinterested students at one of New England's "hidden ivy" colleges. Not long after she is unceremoniously dumped by her longtime girlfriend, Grace meets the engaging and mysterious Abbie on a cross-country flight to attend a friend's 60th birthday party. Sparks fly on and off the plane as the two strangers give in to a reckless impulse, with no strings attached and no information exchanged. Back home at St. Alban's the college rocks Grace's world when it announces the appointment of a new president, the first woman in its 150-year history. Cue Abbie--and cue Grace's collision course with fate, a neurotic dog named Grendel, an increasingly fractious and suspicious tenure review committee, and what very well might be her last shot a real happiness.
About the Author
ANN McMAN is the author of eight novels and two short story collections. She is a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, a two-time Independent Publisher (IPPY) medalist, and a five-time winner of Golden Crown Literary Society Awards. In 2017 she was awarded the Alice B. Medal for Outstanding Body of Work. Ann lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
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Don’t worry if you haven’t read “Sidecar” (although if not why not?) as the slightly amended story is repeated as chapter one of the full-length version. And once Grace and Abbie go their separate ways the morning after the party, with no contact details, not even last names shared, then surely it will take an act of fate, or possibly an act of God, to make their paths cross a second time.
Roll forward and, of course, The Fates intervene; Abbie turns up as the new President of Grace’s college, throwing them together, bringing turmoil, romance, angst and trellis climbing adventure. The conversation gets even more sarcastic and convoluted, the humour more literary, and the passion more overwhelming, as these two amazing women try to find a way forward without threatening Grace’s tenure run, alienating the college board, or making a mockery of Abbie’s professional standing.
Ann McMan has this amazing ability to combine intellectual wordplay with the portrayal of sympathetic characters, charming romances and genuinely wonderful friendships. While our focus must be on the erudite and entertaining main characters and their somewhat tortuous path through the brambles of professional integrity, the ensemble is filled out with absolutely adorable secondary characters and relationships.
There is an extensive cast from the 9 o’clock dog to challenging but foul-mouthed brain of CK, who compares relationships to quantum physics; Grace’s Neanderthal, but heart of gold brother, Dean; the master of the fates Rizzo and the powerful presence of the judgemental mothers for whom these amazing women have never been good enough. And we can’t forget to mention Sister Merry Larry, scourge of the catholic girl’s sexual education, now literally “fallen from grace” and finding fun without any slapping. Add in more complexity by CK making hay with Dean, Rizzo having studied with Abbie, and the whole intricate situation having been already resolved, and you have a glimpse of how much fun this story really is.
Is hard to know where to stop with the praise. The writing is immaculate, the use of language and references to the arts and literature make for extremely scholarly characters, well apart from Dean and Grendel, although Grendel has some great lines, and any author who can use “floccinaucinihilipilification“ in a sensible sentence deserves genuine genuflection.
“Beowulf for Cretins” is not a laugh out loud comedy, more a comedy of errors; producing a constant deep-belly rumble with occasional eruptions of uncontrollable chuckles. I have already read it twice and will happily read it again and again, finding something new to see, some new witticism to understand, and some new empathy for the characters in this superb work.
College professor, Grace Warner, is on a flight to San Francisco and finds herself instantly attracted to fellow passenger, Abbie. When the two later meet at a fancy-dress party, they share a memorable night of passion. Resigned to the fact that it was just a one-night stand, Grace returns to her teaching post expecting never to encounter Abbie again. However, when Abbie is appointed President of the college, Grace’s emotions set-off on a roller-coaster ride that doesn’t look as though it’s going to quit anytime soon.
I’ve read several of Ann McMan’s books, and this is certainly one that will keep me returning for more. This is a heart-warming romance that has engaging, intelligent characters whose antics are often laugh-out-loud funny. Much of the storyline is told from Grace’s point-of-view, and she is one of those characters that you root for from the very beginning.
Refreshingly, this is a romance without a huge dose of angst. Yes, there is the potential for problems with the developing relationship, not least, that Abbie hasn’t been romantically involved with a woman before, or, that having a lesbian relationship with one of the college tutors could well threaten Abbie’s position as President. But, rather than petulance and self-loathing, these issues are dealt with in a positive way by intelligent, mature characters, thus treating the reader to a more than generous amount of humour instead of anguish or sorrow.
Beowulf for Cretins is well written and thoroughly entertaining. I have no hesitation in giving it a 5-star rating, and, I have no doubt that it is a book I’ll want to re-read in the future. Fabulous!
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
There is a love-in-the-making story here and a good one, a plausible one that has a few minefields for the characters to finesse themselves through, and they do it with lots of humor a few surprises and mutual respect and love for each other.
A professor falls for a woman who, unbeknownst to her, becomes the president of the college where she teaches. This is a story that we've seen before, but never written like this. There is some angst, but nothing that isn't handled with a clear mind and a lot of comedy.
I love that I had to look up several words, and in particular "Tannerite", which is used in a most unusual and hysterical fashion. I don't laugh out loud too often when reading books that are billed as "laugh-out-loud funny", but this one, this book made me laugh out loud several times.
Sometimes, when I must be delusional, I think myself capable of writing a book. Then I read masterfully constructed books by superbly talented authors like Ann McMan and realize how foolish I am.
This is Masterclass level storytelling. Brava.