MY LATEST GRIEVANCE

Elinor Lipman

 My Latest Grievance stars the beguiling teenager Frederica Hatch, the “Eloise of Dewing College.” Born and raised in the dormitory of this small women’s college and chafing under the care of “the most annoyingly evenhanded parental team in the history of civilization,” Frederica is starting to feel that her life is stiflingly snug. That all changes with the arrival on campus of a new dorm mother, the glamorous Laura Lee French, the frenetic center of her own universe.

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 My Latest Grievance stars the beguiling teenager Frederica Hatch, the “Eloise of Dewing College.” Born and raised in the dormitory of this small women’s college and chafing under the care of “the most annoyingly evenhanded parental team in the history of civilization,” Frederica is starting to feel that her life is stiflingly snug. That all changes with the arrival on campus of a new dorm mother, the glamorous Laura Lee French, the frenetic center of her own universe.

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  • Mariner Books
  • Paperback
  • May 2007
  • 256 Pages
  • 9780618872350

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About Elinor Lipman

Elinor Lipman is the author of seven previous novels, including The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, The Inn at Lake Devine, The Ladies’ Man, Isabel’s Bed, and Then She Found Me. Four of her novels have been optioned for film and are in various stages of development. She divides her time between Northampton, Massachusetts, and New York City. In 2001 she won the New England Booksellers Award for fiction. She has taught at Simmons, Hampshire, and Smith colleges, which bear no resemblance to Dewing.

Praise

Selected as a Best Book of the Year — Washington Post

A New York Times Editor’s Choice and A Book Sense Notable

“It is very rare you get to read a book that holds you enchanted on every page, but Lipman’s latest casts just that spell.” Nigella Lawson

“Turn Lipman loose on conflicting moralities and shifting allegiances, and you always will be entertained.” — Miami Herald

So entertaining you’re sorry to see it end.” Seattle Times

Discussion Questions

The book is narrated by the adult Frederica Hatch as she looks back at a tumultuous teenage year. Does the author make the combined sensibility — age sixteen viewed through the eyes of the narrator’s present self — work?

Why do you think the author made Dewing a lackluster institution rather than a top-notch college?

Frederica asks on page 1, “Were they types, my parents-to-be? From a distance and for a long time, it appeared to be so.” Does this serve as a warning? A prediction? A wink from the author? An apology?

Laura Lee French’s ex-husband is a distant cousin. Would the story have unfolded in the same way if she had not been a relative?

Marietta Woodbury and her mother are rude to Laura Lee upon first speaking to her on campus. Did this meeting resonate with you and signal trouble ahead?

The affair between Laura Lee and President Woodbury is anything but discreet. Did their public carrying on amuse or offend you?

The professors Hatch are passionately committed to righting wrongs and to each other. In what ways do they let their daughter down?

What turning point triggers Frederica’s more sympathetic and respectful view of her parents?

One could say that the Blizzard of ’78 is a character in My Latest Grievance. Did the author succeed in conveying the power of that historic storm and effectively put you there?

Did you find any character less than fully developed? What else did you want to know about him or her?

Laura Lee French, narcissist extraordinaire: is it possible to feel sympathy for this character?

Chapter 33, “Emeriti,” the epilogue, brings the reader to the present. How well does the jump forward in time wrap up the story?