What She Saw...

Lucinda Rosenfeld, Author
Lucinda Rosenfeld, Author Random House (NY) $23.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-50375-7
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-307-43018-2
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Both breaking up and growing up are hard to do, learns Phoebe Fine, the protagonist of Rosenfeld's engaging, nostalgic and sometimes frustrating first novel. Each chapter is devoted to a man who has captured Phoebe's attention, affection and occasionally her heart, between the ages of 10 and 25, starting with ""Robert Mancuso, or 'The Stink Bomb King of Fifth Grade.'"" Young Phoebe, the intellectually--if not socially--precocious daughter of two professional classical musicians, is sassy and sympathetic in the amusing early chapters. But once she enters college, romance shows its darker sides, and Phoebe's desire to be loved takes its toll on her self-esteem. She develops eating disorders and suffers lapses of judgment in her amorous encounters; she has an affair with a married professor, and succumbs emotionally to a number of cads. ""At the age of 20,"" Rosenfeld writes, ""men had become the centerpiece of her life."" After graduation, Phoebe moves to New York and dabbles in promiscuity to prove the power of her beauty, only to learn that ""being beautiful wasn't nearly enough."" Her search for self, fulfillment and true love goes on, though she's far too cynical to find anything but moments of clarity and fleeting bliss. Rosenfeld's style is direct and often witty, and the plot device is intriguing. The reader gets to know Phoebe as she interacts with her love interests; as she tests her mettle, she learns who she is, even if she doesn't quite like who she's become. But it's exasperating to watch Phoebe the wise, funny girl grows into Phoebe the insecure woman who mistrusts her own heart. First serial to the New Yorker. (Sept.)
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