Cover image for Isn't it romantic? : an entertainment
Isn't it romantic? : an entertainment
Hansen, Ron, 1947-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2003]

Physical Description:
198 pages ; 22 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.6 5.0 78291.
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X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Once again, acclaimed novelist Ron Hansen demonstrates his masterful versatility as a writer, with Isn't It Romantic?, a screwball comedy in the tradition of filmmaker Preston Sturges. In this charming entertainment, mistaken identities, botched schemes, and hilarious misunderstandings all play a part as Parisian sophistication collides with the affability and simple pleasures of the Great Plains.

Touring America was Natalie's idea. But she had not planned on being accompanied on a cross-country bus by her playboy fianc#65533;, Pierre. Nor had they anticipated being stranded in Seldom, Nebraska, population 395.

But that is exactly what happens to this French couple, and they quickly find themselves being taken in by the obliging citizens of Seldom: Natalie by Mrs. Christiansen, a retired high school teacher who runs a rooming house for women, and Pierre by Owen, a gas station owner and ambitious winemaker in an unlikely part of the world.

And here also, the separated couple become enchanted by the locals. Natalie is soon being wooed by Dick Tupper, a handsome and honest rancher with a rambling farmhouse and lots of wide open space. Pierre falls quickly for Iona, a beautiful, no-nonsense waitress in the local diner.

Soon everyone is hatching plots to get what they want: Owen needs help from Pierre's world-class wine business if he is ever going to sell his Nebraska vintage; Pierre wants Iona; Natalie thinks she wants Dick Tupper, but maybe it's Dick who wants Iona, and Natalie who wants Pierre? The fun and surprises are many in this playful romance.

Author Notes

Ron Hansen was born in Omaha Nebraska in 1947.He received a BA degree in English from Creighton University in Nebraska in 1970. He is the author of more than 20 books, stories, and anthologies. He received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for his book Nebraska, a collection of short fiction, in 1989. Some of his other works include Mariette in Ecstasy; the children's book, The Shadowmaker; Desperadoes; the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which won the John Edgar Wideman Award in 1984; and the novel Atticus, a suspenseful murder mystery detailing a father's fierce love for his son. Atticus was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1996.

Among the anthologies written by Hansen are The Sun So Hot I Froze To Death, Can I Just Sit Here For A While?, and True Romance. His short stories, with titles ranging from "His Dog" to "Playland," have appeared in the Stanford Alumni Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, the Iowa Review, Esquire, and many others.

Besides holding Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, Hansen has received a Lyndhurst Foundation Grant and is a fellow of the University of Michigan Society of Fellows. Hansen has also held the position of Gerald Manley Hopkins S.J. Professor of Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University.

In May 2006 he was inducted into the College of Fellows at Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology. Also in that year The Assasination of Jesse James was adapted for the screen. In 2009 Mariette In Ecstasy was adapted for the stage at Lifetime Theater in Chicago.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Fans of the serious literary novelist (Atticus, 1995; Hitler's Niece, 1999) are in for a delightful surprise here. Beautiful, self-possessed Parisian Natalie Clairvaux, a lover of all things American, decides to assuage her hurt feelings over her fiance's latest infidelity by taking a trip to the U.S. Appalled at Natalie's destination choice, the local travel agent grudgingly books her on a Greyhound See America tour, whose highlights include the world's largest buffet. When her fiance, Pierre, comes after her, they end up stranded by a flat tire in Seldom, Nebraska, and are lovingly embraced by the town's eccentric citizens. Pierre is introduced to the home brew of a local wine aficionado, whose product is labeled with the complete Husker football scores for that vintage. Natalie is courted by an affable rancher, while Pierre is seduced by a very sexy waitress. Amid much door-slamming and a whirl of cultural confusion, the true romantic partners are eventually sorted out. All's well that ends well in this antic pastoral, which actually owes more to Preston Sturges' screwball films than to Shakespeare's comedies. Hansen shows the true reach of his talent, displaying a rare deft touch in an inspired comedy that will have readers laughing out loud. Completely charming. --Joanne Wilkinson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ersatz French culture and aw-shucks Americana collide in this corny romantic comedy, a flat-footed departure from form by National Book Award finalist Hansen (Mariette in Ecstasy, etc.). Natalie Clairvaux, a Paris librarian specializing in Americana at the Bibliothque Nationale, embarks on a grassroots See America bus tour of out-of-the-way U.S. landmarks in an effort to escape the unwanted attentions of her philandering fianc, Pierre Smith, scion of a family of French wine sellers. Maddened by her unexplained disappearance, Pierre tracks her down and catches up with her tour group in Omaha. The quarreling couple abandons the tour at a tiny crossroads outside of Seldom, Neb. (pop. 395), on Wednesday, agreeing that Natalie will reach a decision about their wedding by noon Saturday. In Seldom, the couple is immediately elected king and queen of an annual local festival honoring a Frenchman who founded the town, and all manner of rather predictable fun and games begins. Pierre is quartered with Owen Nelson, whose penchant for wine making is second only to his obsession with Cornhusker football. Disillusioned Natalie is soon captivated by handsome Dick Tupper, a 50-year-old rancher. And, true to form, womanizing Pierre starts hitting on Iona Christiansen, a comely waitress at the local cafe. A wine tasting for hayseeds, a bachelor party (and bridal shower) and a brace of bungled trysts are a few of the stale devices driving this perfunctory farce. The subtitle suggests that Hansen knows this is a lesser effort, and readers will concur with the analysis. (Jan. 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Literary luminary Hansen (Hitler's Niece) has written a short, funny novel not unlike what's available nowadays from good romance writers-except that it's by a man and it costs a whole lot more than a mass market or trade paperback would. (And note that it's novella size, with large margins.) In love with all things American, young Frenchwoman Natalie Clairvaux eschews an August holiday in the south of France and heads for the United States, where she journeys by bus to see la vraie Amrique ("the real America"). Boyfriend Pierre thinks that she's folle ("insane") but nonetheless follows her. An impulsive moment strands them in Seldom, NE, where a cast of zany characters reminiscent of television shows like Ed or Northern Exposure takes center stage. This entourage is led by a sexy waitress named Iona, who falls for Pierre, and Iona's heartthrob, Dick Tupper, who falls for Natalie. That staple of romance, the misunderstanding, leads to the town's preparing for Natalie's marriage to Pierreor is it Dick? Suffice it to say that true love triumphs, and all ends very well indeed. This light, charming, and humorous romp will bring a smile to the face of even the most love-jaded reader. Highly recommended for all collections.-Jo Manning, Barry Univ., Miami Shores, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Isn't It Romantic? An Entertainment Chapter One America was Natalie's idea. She'd gone to the upstairs travel agency of Madame Dubray on rue Saint-Jacques in Paris, and politely listened as Madame extolled the fresh sea oysters of Saint-Malo, the forests and glades of Perpignan where there were no longer lions, the sunstruck beaches of the Côte d'Azur where Mademoiselle could air her still-youthful breasts in innocent, unfettered freedom. Natalie shyly hid her still-youthful breasts with her forearms as she told Madame that unfortunately those were all places that Pierre would have chosen for an August vacation and she was no longer interested in accommodating her shifty fiancé. She reminded Madame that she was a librarian specializing in Americana at the Bibliothèque nationale, so touring the United States seemed a more intriguing and practical choice than staying with the French in France for the August vacances as she'd done all her life. Sighing, Madame agreed, in the grudging way of one who thought some people would garden in basements if you let them. "You would prefer what, Mademoiselle Clairvaux? Shopping in New York? Mickey Mouse in Orlando?" She shook her head and said she would like to tour America on an overland route from the East Coast to the West. Madame Dubray held her face carefully fixed as she asked, "How?" Natalie felt unfairly tested. "Railway?" Madame smirked. "Railway," she said. "In America." "Or perhaps I could rent an automobile." Madame scoffed, "Aren't you the audacious one? Motoring through all the forty states." "There are fifty." "Well, not worth seeing ," said Madame. Natalie told the travel agent that she wasn't confident there was a good way to do what she wanted, that's why she'd thought it necessary to visit Madame. But she very much wanted to see some of the attractions and natural wonders in the American interior that Europeans frequently missed. She lifted from the floor beside her a coffee-table book and turned its pages to show photographs of children on candy-striped swings below a car chase on a drive-in movie screen, snow falling on the just-alike homes of Levittown, hot sunlight and green machinery baling yellow hay in Iowa, an ominous rainstorm over a trailer park in Kansas, a girl in cowboy boots selling yard gnomes at a flea market, a giant bingo parlor with hundreds hunching over their game cards. "Like these," Natalie said, "not the typical places." Madame Dubray gave it some thought and said, "We have one possibility." Natalie said in English, "Oh goody!" Chapter Two Mademoiselle Clairvaux was a gorgeous woman of twenty-six with an oval face, caramel-colored eyes, and a luxuriance of coffee-brown hair, and she sometimes wore serious eyeglasses she didn't need in order to intimidate men who seemed to think she needed touching. But she forgot those glasses in her hurried packing in Paris and she was so wearied with unsolicited attentions on the flight from Orly to New York City that she purchased heavy black spectacles like those Buddy Holly favored before she got on the Sunday morning shuttle to the Port Authority terminal. There she found the See America bus hulking in a side alley like a venerable but malfunctioning machine that had been cannibalized for auto parts or just plain meanness, its metal surfaces wildly paisleyed with left-over housepaints. Luggage of Samsonite, canvas, grocery box, and gunnysack was waiting to be stowed in its craw. Waiting, too, were its forlorn passengers: a crazy old coot with binoculars, some Japanese children sullenly playing with Gameboys, some Canadians for whom cordiality was not a priority, a husband and wife in matching safari jackets, a crewcut man who tiptoed wherever he went, a hugely overweight woman continually folding chocolate eclairs into her mouth, three teenaged girls from Scotland who seemed near panic over a spree that had gone lame many days ago and now considered Natalie Clairvaux with desperate affection. She nearly walked away, but she knew such delicacy about transportation and companionship would make her a tourist, not a traveler. She'd lack moxie. And so she joined the See America tour as she'd planned. The first stop was Hoboken and the boyhood home of Frank Sinatra, though there was no sign on the house and the owner looked worriedly at them from a chink in the venetian blinds. They then saw the world's largest buffet; the location for a 1940s movie that starred either Peter Lorre or Adolphe Menjou; a café where a waitress succeeded in juggling four out of five coffee cups; Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania, where on February second a woodchuck seeing or not seeing its shadow would somehow predict the climate; a hideous motel near Lake Erie where the tour group was put up that night, and where Mademoiselle Clairvaux hesitated at her room's threshold for many minutes, skeptically staring in. In eastern Ohio, Natalie woke up from a morning nap in a truckstop where idling semis throbbed and percolated outside the bus windows. Huddling like a waif, she walked down a long line of them, considering with puzzlement the opportunities that a number of truckers offered, and found her tour group inside a cafeteria. She herded along behind them, skating a tray on aluminum rails, and choosing from among the appalling alternatives some crusty chicken pieces. A cook then plopped a softball of mashed potatoes on Natalie's dish and flooded the plate with Crayola-yellow gravy. The husband in the safari jacket confided, "We're packing beef jerky if you need it." She had no idea what that was. The husband was about to show her when his wife began hitting him with a spoon. The next stop was the House of Bottles, and then Heine's Place where they all glumly peered at an orange ten-ton wheel of cheese in a refrigerated glass case. A sign on the wall said CHEDDAR . In Akron they tentatively entered an exhibit hall ... Isn't It Romantic? An Entertainment . Copyright © by Ron Hansen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Isn't It Romantic?: An Entertainment by Ron Hansen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.