Paula Marantz Cohen

"Jane Austen in Boca"

(Reviewed by Jenny Dressel JAN 20, 2005)

“Take it from me. A nice widower with a comfortable living can be nudged into settling down by a not-so-young woman who plays her cards right." --Lila Katz to Flo Kliman and May Newman

Jane Austen in Boca

Welcome to Boca Resta Retirement Community, the setting of Paula Marantz Cohen’s debut novel, Jane Austen in Boca. If you are like me, and you’re stuck in portions of the country where the weatherman is saying, “Bundle up! There is a windchill advisory today!” for the umpteenth time, this is the perfect novel for you.

May Newman, Lila Katz, and Flo Kliman are mature Jewish widows who have migrated to Florida to spend their retirement years. Their children are grown and married; and are living in New York and New Jersey suburbs. The elders have moved to Boca Raton to enjoy their retirement, and soak up the wonderful Florida sunshine. They spend their days playing tennis and golf; eating meals at the community center and socializing with their friends. They worked hard to have this opportunity, raising children and running companies and they deserve this leisurely time during their “golden years.”

When this story begins, Alan and Carol Newman, May’s son and daughter-in-law are sitting in their New Jersey kitchen. Carol has read in her New Jersey newspaper that there is a new widower residing in Boca. Norman Grafstein’s wife has recently passed away. Carol has decided that Norman would be a perfect companion for May, and she has assumed the responsibility of “fixing the two up.”

“We need to go down,” Carol announced one day to her husband soon after the newspaper had drawn her attention to a widowed Norman Grafstein. “We need to visit your mother and get things going.”

“We were just there in December, and we’ll go again in June,” said Alan wearily, for he detected the fateful note of determination in his wife’s voice.

“June is too far away,” pronounced Carol. “This is the plan” -- for, of course, she had one. “I’ll go down with the kids next week; you can meet us for a long weekend. I’ve already reserved the tickets. But you’ll have to call Mark Grafstein before we go. Tell him we’ll stop in on his father, to pay our respects, when you arrive.”

Alan knew it would all be done.

Jane Austen in Boca could have easily been called “A Golden Girl’s Pride and Prejudice. ”Cohen has basically re-told Austen’s masterpiece, using modern day Florida as the setting, and the “over 60 set” as characters. While the events have been moved to the 21st century, the plot is the same.

As an homage to Jane Austen, this novel is fantastic. It shows how timeless the classic tale of Pride and Prejudice is. Cohen has cleverly used Jane Austen’s satire and turned it around to describe Jewish retirement communities, which are popping up all over the Sunshine State.

I was hoping that Cohen would unleash her imagination and make some of the plot her own, but that didn’t happen. This is a modern day Pride and Prejudice -- nothing more and nothing less. I don’t know why I was so set on at least a little twist of the original plot; somehow I think I felt let down that it was exactly the same.

I am interested in seeing how Cohen will do in a novel where she does unleash her imagination and writes her own original story, as her voice is really, very funny.

I definitely recommend this to those who love Jane Austen, with the caveat that this novelist is NOT Jane Austen. Those who live in Florida, and those with parents and grandparents enjoying their retirement in some warmer climate will also enjoy this novel.

And those of us who are stuck sleeping with extra blankets, and shoveling snow from walks will also enjoy this wonderfully light and funny tale. If you’re like me, here’s a hint: slather on some suntan lotion on your winter chapped hands, turn up the thermostat, and snuggle in for a laugh-out-loud funny book.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 37 reviews


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About the Author:

Paula Marantz CohenPaula Marantz Cohen is a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the Yale Review, the Times Literary Supplement, and The American Scholar, among others. She is the host of the Drexel InterView, a cable talk show that features prominent personalities in the arts and sciences.

She lives in Moorestown, New Jersey, with her husband and two children.

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