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All Souls


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About the Author

CHRISTINE SCHUTT is the author of the short-story collection Nightwork. Her work, which has garnered an O. Henry Prize and a Pushcart Prize, is published widely in literary journals. Schutt lives and teaches in New York City.


In this latest novel by Schutt (Florida,), the angst of very rich girls undergoing the stress of senior year in a Manhattan prep school is leavened by their reactions to a classmate who is ill in the hospital with a rare form of cancer. Astra Dell, who lost her own mother a few years ago in a violent accident, haunts her classmates: she becomes a rationalization for their bulimia and a reason to blame themselves for caring so deeply about their college applications. Her best friends rarely visit, or they resort to sending her thoughtless letters, but Marlene, a scholarship student, finds herself more comfortable on the neutral ground of the hospital room than in school. She regularly brings Astra her homework and becomes her most devoted visitor. Schutt's spare and artful prose strikes a balance between poignancy and cynicism in illustrating the interconnections of classmates, parents, and teachers. Some chapters are mere brief impressions, but these snippets cohere into a picture of the school's community and its sharp divisions of class and wealth. Recommended for popular fiction collections.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Set in a girls' school on Manhattan's Upper East Side, this book is a wonderfully written, touching story. Popular Astra Dell spends much of her senior year in the hospital with a rare form of tissue cancer. A young teacher visits Astra and considers her own brother who died young, while doubting her role as teacher and her potential relationship with a colleague who loves being unattached almost as much as he enjoys the students' crushes on him. Astra's friend Car is too busy with a multitude of issues to visit, but sends angst-filled letters that are sometimes stolen by Marlene, the unpopular girl who visits every day and considers Astra her new best friend. Astra's widowed father finds it hard to speak with his own daughter. Like E. R. Frank's Life Is Funny (Puffin, 2002), All Souls is written from the perspectives of several characters. Schutt, who herself teaches at a New York girls' school, mines those hallways for an extraordinarily captivating take on the teachers', parents', and teens' troubled worlds. At times she evokes Virginia Woolf's style in the immediacy of her characters' thoughts. All Souls may at first remind teens of formulaic novels such as Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" series (Little, Brown), but they will quickly discover a style and depth to the writing that is refreshing for this genre.-Jennifer Waters, Red Deer Public Library, Alberta, Canada Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

The brutal, materialistic and dysfunctional underbelly of prep schools and the females who live in it create the foundation for Schutt's beautifully written but light-on-substance novel (following 2004's National Book Award finalist Florida). In the midst of 1997 Manhattan, all-girl prep school Siddons churns out ladies with a wide spectrum of academic skills, mental problems and severe insecurities, all of whom have been touched in some way by the novel's saintly lynchpin, Astra Dell, who leaves her studies behind to fight her rare cancer. Schutt introduces a large cast of characters who are dealing with Astra's absence and their own personal problems: Astra's best friend, anorexic Car; "dirty girl" Marlene; the inseparable and insensitive Alex and Suki; lesbian outcast Lisa; and their beloved instructors, the awkward Anna Mazur and Tim Weeks, the handsome colleague Anna's in love with. Unfortunately, Schutt shoehorns too many characters into a relatively thin book, and though there isn't a boring sentence in here, Schutt doesn't do enough with the familiar prep school setting to make the story resonate. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.


Haunting and original, Florida is a beautiful book.--Claire Messud, author of The Emperor's Children

In Florida, Christine Schutt conveys, through an odd, beautiful, and original language, real truths about childhood and longing. She is a truly gifted writer.--George Saunders, author of Pastoralia

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