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Jane Austen in Boca    by Paula Marantz Cohen order for
Jane Austen in Boca
by Paula Marantz Cohen
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Jane Austen in Boca is a refreshing breeze of a book - a look at septuagenarian love through a work of fiction. Its characters (set in an authentic Florida locale) feel like they must have been drawn from real life. Jane Austen organized her novels around 'two or three families in a country village'. Paula Cohen has done essentially the same, using Florida's Jewish retirement complexes to bring to the reader a soupcon of personalities. How these characters deal with everyday life as they wait to 'pass on' forms the meat of a delightful novel.

Widows May, Lila and Flo are living lives that satisfy them, even if they do not match their children's ideas of how they should be spending their time. When four eligible and charming (or perhaps not so charming) men sweep onto the scene, emotions long put to bed are awakened with a loud bang. Can new love at seventy-something be trusted? Is it a chance simply for companionship, or possibly financial security? Jane Austen in Boca takes these three women on an emotional ride, letting the reader share in the behind the scenes fun.

Mel, a suitor of Flo's, profoundly quotes a poet, 'And at my back I always hear time's winged chariot hurrying near. I hear it all right and it's starting to make quite a racket. Time's running out for us. We need to use what we have left ...' The scene in Lohman's discount store (where May and Flo look at bridal attendant gowns) is worth any amount of time spent reading and re-reading.

As Flo says to her great-niece Amy, who would like to make a documentary in Boca Festa, 'It's Jane Austen's "two or three families in a country setting" updated and up-aged. And, yes, it could be damned funny.' And it is. Damned funny - but also thought provoking, sensitive, nostalgic and uplifting. I can identify with these women. I don't live in a Florida retirement complex, but I am a widow in my seventies with a significant other, and have had to rework my whole line of thinking.

Though this book is about the elderly, it is not an old ladies' book. Readers of any age will benefit from the lessons learned, and enjoy doing it. These women are rising above the tag put on older people. They are courageous, steadfast, loyal, generous, determined to put the best face they can on their lives, and able to laugh at themselves. Enjoy.

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