cover image Elizabeth the First Wife

Elizabeth the First Wife

Lian Dolan. Prospect Park (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-938849-05-3

The breezy style of Dolan's Helen of Pasadena here carries over to Elizabeth Lancaster, a Shakespeare teacher at Pasadena Community College. Although her father is a Nobel Prize winner, her mother is an obsessive organizer, one sister is married to a California gubernatorial candidate, and another sister is a physician, Elizabeth is content with her life%E2%80%94until her ex-husband, now a famous movie star, walks into her classroom. FX Fahey, hired to do live theater at the Ashland Oregon Shakespeare Festival, wants to hire Elizabeth as his literary advisor. She accepts the offer and takes her teenaged niece along as her intern. The Ashland scene clearly shows the rift between classical Shakespeare and Hollywood when the director wants full nudity in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Elizabeth, desperate to save face, manages some modification in the production which, unfortunately, isn't enough to prevent her entire family from entering the fray. Dolan, a Pasadena resident, knows her territory as she writes of gifted children, obsessions with clothing, food, and public image. But Elizabeth comes off more like Bridget Jones than an adult Shakespearean professor. In spite of the snarky style the pace lags, and the one-dimensional characters and feel-good Hollywood ending make this standard airport fare. (May)