cover image The English Experience

The English Experience

Julie Schumacher. Doubleday, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-385-55012-3

Schumacher’s droll conclusion to her Fitger trilogy (after The Shakespeare Requirement) finds the blundering American professor abroad and out of his element. Jason Fitger, the curmudgeonly chair of Payne University’s English department, is tasked with teaching the school’s Experience: England class in London over winter break. Though his ex-wife, Janet Matthias, a law school administrator at Payne, is surprised by the assignment, remembering Fitger to be a bad traveler, he’s soon off on the three-week excursion with 11 undergrads. Excerpts of their writing assignments are mixed into the narrative, including one in which the students must find their own way to the British Museum and write about an object there, while Fitger nurses a twisted ankle. One student takes unauthorized side trips to mainland Europe, to Fitger’s consternation. Adding to his worries is Janet’s request to put him as a reference on a job application, since he still loves her and doesn’t want her to leave Payne. Though the passages of student writing tend to wear thin, Schumacher draws the series to a close with a satisfying arc and a surprising twist after Fitger forms an unexpected bond with his charges. Fans will delight in this winning send-off. (Aug.)