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The English Experience

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For anyone who enjoys a campus farce and a good satirical roasting of Academia, this trilogy is absolute perfection.

I wondered if the schtick of these would really hold up through three novels, but it absolutely does, right to the very end.

Schumacher has created a terrific protagonist in Jason Fitger, the cranky, jaded, and long-suffering English Department chair at Payne University. Most readers drawn to these books will see a little of themselves in Fitger,(for better and for worse).

I was so pleased to see the series tackle the rite of academic passage that is study abroad in this book, with predictably hilarious results.

Finally, I’ll forever admire what the author did with these books structurally. This is a tough format to use successfully, and it’s flawlessly done here.

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5 fun and funny stars
“Let me know if I can do extra credit for this class I know my writing needs work but I am not taking it for granite, I will work hard.”

Schumacher balances humor with the angst and passion of young college students traveling abroad. The introductory section, where students wrote their personal statements about going to England, drew me in with unique and funny characters. Subtle and unforced humor (or should I say humour?) abounds. “I have worked hard in this class and I am not just biting my time.”

The author pokes fun at everyday things. “His cell phone, recently charged, began to buzz. Fitger (the professor leading the English tour), resented the recent trend toward multiple, excess forms of communication – the need to make oneself available via email and cell and landline, text, tweet, Post-It note, and carrier pigeon.”

Astute observations and learning backgrounds about individual students balance the humor with the bittersweet. I loved how each assigned essay the students had to write for their grade reflected the individual’s personality.

Highly recommended for anyone who has traveled abroad or remembers college times with its conglomeration of adventure, worry and problem-solving. I will close this review essay with two quotes from student essays in this entertaining book. “Thanks. I have never written an essay like this before and I thought it was fun.” “You said an ending in an essay should feel like a door that swings shut – but the writer should leave a crack of light around the frame so people would wonder what might exist, on the other side.”

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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A satisfying ending to the Jason Fitger trilogy of novels -- funny, but also sweet in a way that felt earned and not treacly. As someone who many years ago spent a semester in Ireland as an undergrad English major, I loved the smart, biting-but-not-meanspirited satire of college study abroad programs..

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The English Experience is an entertaining read, both humorous and touching. Professor Jay Fitger is an older man who has zero interest in taking students abroad for a 3 week course in England, yet he ends up doing just that. It’s a quirky bunch of students who have various issues and of course many things go wrong. The students are required to write about their experiences and these essays are quite revealing.

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Smart and funny, just like Schumacher's earlier books. I appreciate that the characters are flawed but not shallow or flat. It brought back memories of my own year abroad.

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An comical, whimsical story aboard in England. If you ever did a J-Term abroad, you'll find humor in this book. Well written, interesting format with a variety of voices. Worth reading for earlier fans of Schumacher.

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In "The English Experience," Julie Schumacher wraps up her trilogy featuring sixty-three-year-old Jay Fitger, a mediocre writer and English professor who teaches at a nondescript midwestern university. He has been divorced for ten years from Janet Matthias, who grew sick and tired of his whining, ingratitude, sarcasm, and immaturity. The two still share responsibility for their dog Rogaine, who is not the easiest pet to care for, since he chews up clothing and furniture and bites people. Much to Jay's woe, the provost pressures him into taking a group of eleven students to England for twenty-one days, where they will see the sights and write about their impressions and experiences.

As those who have read the first two books in series know, Jay is hapless, luckless, and clueless. Unfortunately, his students need him as a shoulder to lean on, not just as a chaperone (a task that he frequently shirks anyway). Among the students in Jay's group are Felicity, who talks incessantly about her beloved cat, Mrs. Gray; Joseph Ballo, a claustrophobe who has spent time in juvenile detention; Elwyn Yang, a gloomy fellow who has a severe case of eczema and is obsessed with horror and the occult; and Lin Jen Snow, a future lawyer and fierce feminist who is furious about income inequality and social injustice.

This laugh-out-loud work of fiction is witty, original, and wickedly clever. The author provides insight into the pain of college kids who often feel adrift and misunderstood. Although most of their writing is amusingly ungrammatical, rambling, and inarticulate, some of the students' comments are admirably candid, moving, and heartrending. Without lapsing into sentimentality, Schumacher demonstrates that even a curmudgeon like Jay can learn to care about someone other than himself, and that pouring one's heart out on paper can be tremendously liberating.

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Jason Fitger, an English professor, is made to take students to England. The students thought they were going with another professor in the History department.
This book is hilarious. The letters the students wrote to be entered into the program is so funny.
Thanks to Doubleday and NetGalley for the ARC.

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2.5 stars rounded up

Sadly, I liked the idea of this novel way more than I liked the novel itself.

A crusty old English professor takes a group of students to London to “Experience: England” and, despite none of them appearing to have a particularly good time, it turns out to be a life-changing experience for many of them.

The professor, Jay Fitger, is coerced into leading the trip and is pretty miserable the whole time he’s there. We get to know the students, too many of them for any to make much of a mark in my memory, through their applications and the 500-word papers they write every day about their experiences. By and large, the students are a dopey bunch and can’t string a coherent essay together which is maybe meant to be satirical or is maybe just a sad reflection of the sort of students that go to minor New England liberal arts colleges.

Jay himself does little to augment the students’ experiences but, by happy accident, many of them find their own way about and are able to seek out what interests them rather than the planned trips. As we discover from their essays, this is the first time abroad for many of them and what they want from the trip has little to do with the contents of the British museum. Such is the way of youth.

Jay’s unlikely relationship with Janet, his ex-wife, is of much more interest to him than either London or his students and their phone calls and emails provide the narrative spine for his trip abroad.

After some pretty disastrous outings, the party return to college and an epilogue from three years later reveals the inadvertent lessons they all learned. It’s honestly quite a nifty idea but I just thought the novel underdelivered - maybe because it’s the third novel about Fitger and I haven’t read either of the other two. You might find this funnier and more charming than I did if you're in the Fitger groove.

Thanks to Doubleday and Netgalley for the digital review copy.

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This book is the third in a trilogy. We meet Jason Fitger in the first book as chair of the English Department at Payne University. The first book is an epistolary novel told in the exchange of department memos - very fun. In this last book, Jason, now 63 and still department chair is informed by the provost that he will be the faculty member taking eleven students on a study abroad experience to England on the semester break. He tries to get out of the assignment and when he sees the list of faculty names, all crossed off, he realizes that he is the last name on the list. He’s going to England.

We meet the students in their Statement of Interest forms, submitted to acquaint Jason with his students, a written meet-and-greet. It would be difficult to keep all of the students straight but Schumacher uses a mnemonic device to help Jason’s poor memory to keep the students straight which also keeps the reader sorted out.

You realize this group isn’t the A-Team when you read their submissions, for instance - “I admit I messed up in the passed but I’m trying to make a mend.” Or “My writing needs work but I am not taking it for granite.” One of his students wore a t-shirt - “Payne: where education hurts.” Expect to have fun. Thanks Random House and NetGalley for the ARC. I loved this!!

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Thank you to the author Julie Schumacher, publishers Doubleday, and as always, NetGalley, for an advance digital copy of THE ENGLISH EXPERIMENT. All views are mine.

Jason Fitger is an American professor of English who is essentially bullied by his department provist to accompany several young students on the best "Experience: Abroad" programs to England. Fitger's lack of enthusiasm and general jadedness with being a writing professor to entry level college students provides ample opportunity for wit and dry humor, both of which the author handles adeptly. For my friends on Bookstagram, this book will be a fittingly hilarious read as Schumacher riffs on bad form, both in writing, and also in being bitter about writing, even the imperfect kind.

This book boasts many funny moments, but I'd like to share one of my favorites here, which is one student's letter, an assignment all the students were supposed to write to someone back home about something that happened during the trip. Check it out:

To the guy at the scholarship office. I will look up his name. 

I am angry about my scholarship money. Which you wouldn’t give. My anger is like a red hot iron or very sharp knife . You have never seen anger like this before. I would come to your office to beat the shit out of you but I am in England. loc933

In defense of his letter, the student point out that in his rewrite he had "stuck to the theme of anger" and "cut it into paragraphs. One idea at a time, like you said." loc.933

I love the narrative in this book, but this subplot and this scene really elevated my enjoyment. This student grows so much, and we don't even see it except through the changes in his writing assignment. And his impact on Fitger, which come out of the blue just a bit later, is rather profound.

Highly recommend for writers, educators, and devoted readers! So looking forward to going back and collected the earlier two books in this series. This can be read as a standalone.

Rating: 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧.5 / 5 Union Jacks
Recommend? Absolutely!
Finished: August 11 2023
Format: Advance Digital Copy, NetGalley 
Read this if you like:
✒️ Writing 
📚 Reading
✈️ Traveling
😂 Comedy
😏 Wit and dry humor

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THE ENGLISH EXPERIENCE by Julie Schumacher is a delightfully clever novel, the end to a trilogy which includes Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement. Not having read the first two, I found this title worked as a stand-alone, but I would recommend reading all three and truly enjoying Schumacher's satirical take on higher education. Professor Jay Fitger, head of the English Department at Payne University, is a key character who is drafted at the last minute to accompany eleven students on a few weeks trip to London. He is not the best at travelling and mishaps abound (subtly conveyed by the inverted umbrella on the cover). As the group visits museums and historical sights, he assigns 500-word essays and hilarious student responses are interspersed throughout the novel. Here is a favorite: "One another reason I don't like it here is they can't make a 1/2 decent sandwidge someone should teach them about the BLT (I would do it myself but that is not my roll)." Readers will also smile at the growth they see in the students, including, cat-loving Felicity, art major twins, past boyfriend and girlfriend Brent and Sonia, pre-law student Lin, claustrophobic Joe, alcohol over-imbibing Wyatt, loner Elwyn, the mysterious D. B., and Xanna who often misses events due to illness. That "wonderfully weird mix of exiles" and "often laugh-out-loud hilarious" writing are celebrated in the starred review for THE ENGLISH EXPERIENCE from Kirkus. Have fun reading!

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Jason Fitger thought maybe his years of service at Payne University meant something. He was an English professor for many years and then took on the role of department chair when no one else would. He did his best with a shoestring budget and cranky faculty, and he feels like it’s time for the school to give him something back.

Payne University doesn’t see things the same way.

When the history professor who was supposed to take a dozen students to England for a three-week intensive educational experience has to pull out, they turned to Fitger for help. Well, first they turned to every other professor on staff, but when all of them turned the job down, they turned to Fitger to take the “Experience: Abroad” in hand and make it a success. And when he tries to refuse, it’s made clear that the powers that be would be just as pleased to refuse his budget for the upcoming semester. So Fitger packed for England and read through the student applications for the trip.

All the plans had already been made, so all Fitger had to do was show up, with his revised syllabus, and get his students successfully to London. And that’s how he ends up on the other side of the pond with identical twin art students, a dude with first aid experience who thinks he’s going to the Cayman Islands, a couple recently broken up, a young woman leaving her cat for the first time, a young man obsessed with ghosts and the occult, and a law student who is quick to speak up against the patriarchy and colonialism, among others. The one thing all the students have in common, though, is that they all think Fitger’s daily writing assignments, plus a final essay at the end of the trip, is too much writing.

Through rainy weather and a sprained ankle, personal questions, vomiting at the British Museum, mediocre food, humorless tour guides, poker games, underage drinking, grammatical errors, antacids, aspirin, no sleep, a grandmother’s garnet ring, and endless texts between Fitger and his ex-wife about the care of their dog Rogaine, Fitger barely has a moment’s peace for the entire three weeks. But as the days go by and he faces more and more questions from the students that he has no answers for, he can’t help but wonder if they really are learning anything from their Experience: Abroad. Will his students go back to Payne as the same people they were, or will traveling to England transform them?

I first heard about Julie Schumacher back when she wrote Dear Committee Members, the story of an English professor who was attempting to focus on teaching his students but was bombarded with requests for letters of recommendation by students looking for jobs, grad schools, or anything other than an education. That novel won her the Thurber Prize for Fiction, and introduced us all to Payne University and its beloved English professor Jason Fitger. Her novel The Shakespeare Requirement saw Fitger get promoted to department chair and have to deal with all the challenges that entailed, and to round out his teaching experience, he took students to England.

I have been following Schumacher and her beleaguered character for all these years, and I have loved every moment I have gotten to spend with them. These books all have moments that have caused me to laugh until I cried, and they have all had moments of such incredible humanity that I wanted to track Schumacher down and hug her, completely overcome and unable to put into words how much these books have meant to me. As a one-time English major myself, I sometimes struggle to remember if my humanities degree is worth it. When I read these lovely novels, I remember that it’s actually incredibly valuable, even when others only see it as a reason to ask me to spell words for them.

Julie Schumacher is a national treasure, and The English Experience is just more evidence in the beautiful, amazing, healing, moving, hilarious power of words. And in case you don’t get my subtext here, read this book as soon as you can and ten read it again and again and again.

Egalleys for The English Experience were provided by Doubleday Books through NetGalley, with many thanks.

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Jason Fitger, professor of creative writing and literature is current chair of the English Department at Payne University. Payne is a B grade Midwestern liberal arts college that attracts interesting, but not always academically prepared students.
In this third delightful tale of Fitger's adventures, he is commandeered into chaperoning the summer abroad course in London. His eleven charges are made up of a young woman who has never been separated from her cat, a claustrophobic former juvenile offender, twins who dress alike, a student who thought he was going to the Caribbean and other assorted "i'd rather be anywhere but here" characters. All of them are appalled that they are expected to write a short essay daily(the essays are hysterica) and a final longer essay. It's through the essays that each student comes alive, sharing their fears, ambitions and lives with Fitger. Fitger is experiencing is own crisis - his long-divorced wife may be moving away and taking the shared dog! When an unexpected emergency occurs the students show their true mettle.
This is at once a laugh-out- loud romp and a poignant story of youth, aging and how the two share the same insecurities and need to belong. A funny, touching satirical tour de force!

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I was uncertain (but curious) whether the travails of Jay Fitger - professor of English, divorced misanthrope, and misery-prone everyman - could withstand a third airing. I'm glad I gave it a chance, because The English Experience is more compelling than (and almost as funny as) its predecessors.

The story begins with Fitger temporarily exiled from his crumbling English department at his second-rate university to take up temporary residence in a crumbling English dorm with a dozen second-rate students. Fitger's third-person narration is interspersed with the students' essays during their three-week course abroad.

And... it works. I found the fully epistolary nature of the first Fitger novel (Dear Committee Members) wearing, but alternating students' voices with Fitger's provided just the right mix of styles and perspectives. Even better, the brief time frame and isolated characters intensified the story beyond Fitger's usual desultory unhappiness. In addition to the acerbic humor I expected, I found compassion for the human condition, begrudging self-awareness, and even growth. By the end of the novel, Fitger had transcended his own genre, and I loved it.

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It's light, it's chuckle-worthy, and it's a fine reminder of how college students are well, self centered. Jay Fitger finds himself more or less drafted to take a group of Payne University students on a six week trip to the UK. He's not a nurturing type, per his ex-wife, with whom he shares a dog but he's determined to make the best of it. Each student is supposed to turn in a 500 word essay every day on a topic he assigns but best laid plans go awry early on when he trips on the stairs and sprains his ankle. The students' essays (and you don't have all of them in this relatively slim volume) reveal more about them than about the topic. Their bus tours to Oxford and Salisbury, in particular, might bring back memories to readers who have been to, for example, the Pitt Rivers (love that place). It's satire, everyone is quirky, but it's got a good heart. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Nice read.

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Thank you to Net Galley for providing an early copy of The English Experience by Julie Schumacher

Professor Jay Fitger of Payne University is unable to excuse himself from chaperoning eleven college students on a three-week travel experience in England during a campus break. Jay certainly tries to get out of the assignment, but the administration pretty much forces the trip on him.

Fitger learns about his students through their applications, and he is not impressed by the young adults he will be responsible for. Through their essay assignments over the course of the trip, readers will be sympathetic toward Fitger when he simply cannot connect with these fellow travelers. Readers will have similar reactions while learning some things about England's history and culture.
Throughout the trip, Jay is in contact with his ex-wife who is in need of a letter of recommendation from him as part of a career move. It seems the couple has many unresolved issues.
Often funny and always entertaining, author Julie Schumacher creates the quintessential bad trip experience until a serious health issue puts the young people in the forefront and highlights what they are really made of.

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All abroad!

A reluctant faculty member, hoping for an uninspiring break at home, finds himself chaperoning Payne University’s Experience Abroad program to England.
His students appear to be just as reluctant especially the one who thought he was going to Jamaica.
Jason Fitger designs his program around the written word desiring a 500 word essay each night about the student’s perceptions of the institutions visited. All very ho hum, although their responses often made me hold my head in my hands, unsure as to whether laugh or sigh.
Talk about Reluctanter meeting Reluctantees!
Hilarious at times and poignant at others, this is what happens when these particular two R’s meet.
I wasn’t sure, if given a choice between the two, Fitger or his students, which I felt more sympathy for.
Some absolute language usage gems and wonderful turns of phrases abound.

A Doubleday ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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4 stars

As someone who works in academia, the Jason Fitger series is a painfully funny satire of everything that I deal with on a daily basis. The English Experience is a double punch since I myself was one of the Experience: Abroad students in London that Schumacher so hilariously lampoons.

At just under 300 pages, Schumacher keeps the laughs coming and the satire biting as curmudgeonly professor Jason Fitger spends three weeks in London with the most dysfunctional group of students imaginable. The addition of the students' response papers in the text is a helpful tool to both move us from episode to episode and to start unraveling the real people behind what could be classified as caricatures. As with every other installment in this series, The English Requirement is a light, witty, and escapist delight that I would not hesitate to recommend to one and all!

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday for an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review!

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This is the third book in the engaging Shumacher’s Jason Fitger series. In this installment Professor Fitger has been corralled into leading a group of college students on a three-week trip to England. This is not a group of literature or history buffs. Instead, it’s a hodge-podge of students with diverse interests and perspectives. One is a former resident of juvenile detention, another is a future litigator who is quick to point out inequalities and historic misdeeds, one deals with depression, another is claustrophobic, others are into basketball, the occult, their cat and there’s even a set of twins who love art.

The assorted group of students are presented with their flaws and quirkiness on full display. Fitger himself is not above showing his own peccadilloes. Schumacher writes with a soft touch, letting her disparate characters reveal their insecurities and anxieties. There’s a subtle humor to the book that will warm readers to the antics and bizarre situations that occur.

While some might think the book exaggerates the comical group of misfits, it actually shows how we all have our own little quirks and oddities. Not every college student is a great writer, nor are they all deeply committed to their studies and anyone who has attended college can attest to having come in contact with a strange yet erudite professor.

Reading this brings to mind the multifaceted cast of characters that Dickens would assemble in his novels. Many are odd, yet they are lovable. It takes a gifted writer to put together this lovely tale of a woebegone academic who is devoted to the written word. He attempts to make his charges aware of the places they visit and to document their personal responses. Schumacher includes samples of the students’ writing as part of the novel. This gives even greater insight into the characters and their aspirations. This is a warm, witty, fascinating tale that is impressive in its writing and in the unveiling of humanity with all its quirkiness displayed.

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