The Dissident: Book summary and reviews of The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger

The Dissident

A Novel

By Nell Freudenberger

The Dissident
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2006,
    448 pages.

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Book Summary

From the PEN/Malamud Award-winning author of Lucky Girls comes an intricately woven novel about secrets, love, art, identity, and the shining chaos of every day American life.

Yuan Zhao, a celebrated Chinese performance artist and political dissident, has accepted a one-year artist's residency in Los Angeles. He is to be a Visiting Scholar at the St. Anselm's School for Girls, teaching advanced art, and hosted by one of the school's most devoted families: the wealthy if dysfunctional Traverses. The Traverses are too preoccupied with their own problems to pay their foreign guest too much attention, and the dissident is delighted to be left alone—his past links with radical movements give him good reason to avoid careful scrutiny. The trouble starts when he and his American hosts begin to view one another with clearer eyes.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Freudenberger sometimes missteps into humdrum Hollywood satire and uninspired relationship drama, but Zhao is distinctly fresh; it's when describing his journey that Freudenberger's novel takes flight." - Publishers Weekly

"...although the climax is less than satisfying, getting there is generally a pleasure, given Freudenberger's facile, insightful prose and strong characterizations." - Booklist

"Energetic, witty writing sparkles throughout a story with much satiric potential, but sketchy characterizations and passages of tedious exposition prevent its delivering fully on its promise." - Library Journal

"The book issignificantly flawed, by awkwardly handled exposition and several uncomfortably close echoes of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. Still, its vivid characters and page-turning plot make it a more than commendable first novel." - Kirkus Reviews

"Freudenberger demonstrates great talent for capturing the subtleties of cross-cultural and intergenerational relationships, as the dissident's struggles with his past and with his art intersect with Cece's unravelling." - The New Yorker

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Author Information

Nell Freudenberger Author Biography

David Jacobs

Nell Freudenberger (b. 1975) is the author of the novel The Dissident and the story collection Lucky Girls, winner of the PEN/Malamud Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; both books were New York Times Book Review Notables. A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Award, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship from the New York Public Library, she was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40." She lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Name Pronunciation
Nell Freudenberger: FROY-den-burger

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