Saturday, December 14, 2013

Teaching Men Manners is No Laughing Matter?


Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys by Eric Garcia


Cassandra French is a character that any woman would envy. She's beautiful, has a lovely home and what seems to be a great job - she's a lawyer for a Hollywood studio. Mind you, she doesn't get the really big cases, being in the Business Affairs department, but what does that matter when you meet stars every day? Besides, Cassandra has a vocation. Cassandra knows exactly how all women really want to be treated. But that may not be an advantage, if she and her friends can't find men who will treat them right. So she's figured out what men need to learn. And she's began her one-woman crusade to teach at least some of those boorish men (but just the ones with some potential) how to treat women properly. That's when she "opened" her Finishing School for Boys.

Mind you, that finishing school is in the basement of her house, and the boys she's got there are hardly there of their own volition, but what difference does that make? The ends should justify the means, no? If you're not sure, perhaps you should read this book. Of course, you might not get the answer you thought you'd find, because that's what author Eric Garcia is all about. And when author of the book "The Matchstick Men" (which became a movie starring Nicolas Cage) decided to satire of the "chick-lit" genre, he knew he had to pull out all the stops. The result is one of the funniest books you'll ever come across.

First off, yes, Eric Garcia is a man, and it's not often that a man can write a believable female character. But Eric has done so, and beautifully, despite his gender. (By the way, for the UK audience Eric's publishers actually considered calling him Erica, just because they feared readers might not accept a man writing this story. They changed their minds, however, since Eric has some followers in the UK and they didn't want those fans to be put off.) In reality Eric has lived all his life in houses full of women. In fact, all of the female characters in this book are so alive and real to the reader, that you can easily picture each and every one of them. We become interested in all of them, watch them do things we don't expect them to do, and develop as the story unfolds throughout. One could even go so far as to say that the male characters are less vibrant then the women - but not by a whole lot.

That said this is the type of book that readers can really appreciate. As mentioned, it is very much character driven. And yet, the plot is fascinating and keeps the attention of the reader from beginning to end with all its unpredictability. In addition, the humor is totally hysterical - really laugh-out-loud stuff. One could expect no less from a writer who has given us such twisted plots as Matchstick Men, and totally silly stuff (with plot twists) as his Rex detective series. What's more, Cassandra is also an extremely fast read, probably because you'll get so involved you'll not want to put it down.

Speaking about the plot - admittedly there were times when Eric stepped just a touch over into the unbelievable. But Americans can be a very strange group of people, and we are talking comedy here. That's why any plot holes there may be in this book can easily be forgiven as they were there for the sake of the joke, and how many of those do you know of that are based totally in reality? Moreover, at least it's a story that hasn't been done to death - it is definitely an original idea, which we also don't see all that much of these days.

But the real artistry of this book has got to be its humor. You see, there's a talent in saying something that sounds ordinary but having it come out funny. This is where Eric shines - his dialogs are fast-paced, witty and most importantly, intelligent. What's more, he really knows how to set up a laugh so that you can't help yourself from bursting when you read the punch line. And there's hardly a page where you won't at least smile, guffaw or chuckle, if not find yourself rolling on the floor! In fact, there were times when my sides ached while reading this book, and that hasn't happened to me since I read "The Princess Bride".

So what have we got here? We have a very funny story, great characters, a plot that's never been done before that keeps our attention and overall fascination from start to finish. I can find absolutely nothing to fault it and will highly recommend it and give it a full five stars. Yes, Eric - you do spoil us, but at least Cassandra doesn't spoil her students! Or did she?




"Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys" by Eric Garcia is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), or new or used from Alibris or Better World Books. This review is adapted from my originally published article on Dooyoo under my username TheChocolateLady, and also appeared on {the now defunct} Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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