Imperfect Bliss

Imperfect Bliss
Susan Fales-Hill
Atria, 2012

Okay, I requested this on NetGalley because it's billed as "Jane Austen meets The Bachelorette", and there was no turning that down. The combination was, I admit, a little bizarre in my mind, but Fales-Hill makes it work. (Of course, I've never actually seen The Bachelorette, but from my understanding of the show, you know...) However, I also feel like I need to point out that even if you've never read Pride & Prejudice, nor seen the movie, nor have any idea what the story is -- you will still be able to enter into the full spirit of things in Imperfect Bliss. (Sidenote: If you haven't ever sampled the wonder of P&P, how on earth did you manage that? And can I suggest a quick remedy?)

Bliss is in the middle of a really horrible not-quite-midlife-crisis. Her marriage ended when she walked into her husband's office - and the middle of an extramarital liaison. In the year following, she's moved back into her parents' home - young daughter Bella in tow - and started work on her dissertation. Social life? Not a chance. Nor does she want one. Unless you count daydreaming about the dreamy Chair of the History Department (whom, you should know, Bliss has known practically her entire life). As if her own life wasn't tangled enough, Bliss is also coming face-to-face with all the drama that a family of four daughters creates. Her older sister, Victoria, cannot find a beau she wants to keep (to Mama's utter dismay!); Charlotte, the youngest, is running around with absolutely no pretense of morals; and Diana - beautiful, virginal-but-crazy-seductive Diana - has suddenly been selected to star in a reality tv drama about her quest to find Her Own True Love. Insanity. Sheer insanity.

Against the backdrop of Diana's reality show - cameras everywhere, The Public haunting their house, and arrogant womanizing producer Dario (aka: bane of Bliss's current existence, for his remarkable aesthetic similarity to her ex) - Bliss navigates the tricky, taunting waters of single parenthood and rediscovering herself. She also learns, the hard way, just how jaded and snap-judgmental she's become since the divorce. As the months spin by, Bliss begins to take a better look at people - specifically the people around her, from her own family circle to her academic idol to Dario. If you know the story of Pride & Prejudice, you can see the patterns falling into place.

Imperfect Bliss has what I consider "shades of Austen" - the story is changed just enough that I can't quite call it an exact modernization. That said, how exactly, could you bring Darcy and Elizabeth into the modern, contemporary world without making some fairly significant tweaks? Fales-Hill did a marvelous job of balancing the classic storyline with relevant contemporary thought. Bliss is a modern woman struggling to find balance, struggling to find herself. Her interactions with her sisters - each of whom is also on her own quest to find Self - are realistic and at times perfectly flawed. It's a human story, and therein lies the greatest correlation with Austen's own study of human love and judgment: We are all flawed, even the greatest of heroes and heroines. But perfectly so.

eARC provided by publisher for review.


  1. I've never heard of this book before, sounds really good. Is it out? or coming out soon?

    I would really hate if camera's invaded my house! I can't imagine living with that. Besides I would bore the public to death. Haha!

  2. I've seen The Bachelorette, but only in snatches. (As in when I see a headline on a tabloid paper in the checkout line, and I go and look up the episode on-line.) And then marvel than anyone expects to find true love that way! :)

    This sounds like a good read, Rebecca. Thanks for sharing your insights with us.

    Robin Helm, whom I blog with, had a brush with reality TV when her very lovely daughter got caught up in a beauty contest. What comes out on the screen is not quite what happened, she says. Such a setting for a novel!

  3. Yes, it's out! just got mine at B&N. It's the best book I have read in so long.