REVIEW: Beowulf for Cretins: A Love Story by Ann McMan

If you don’t know Ann McMan, you’re really missing out, my friends. She’s a rather lovely woman. Intelligent. Kind. Funny. An all-around great broad. (And I use the term “broad” in the very best sense of the word.)

If you are an avid fan of lesbian literature – like I am – then you’ve seen her work. 

Now the question is…have you read her work? If you haven’t, you need to do so quickly! Beowulf for Cretins: A Love Story is a great place to start!

Beowulf for Cretins (hereafter referred to as BfC) was released by Bywater books in mid-summer. I attended the book launch at the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in Las Vegas, where McMan read from the book. That 10-minute reading had me convinced – I had to read this book! As it turns out, I ended up listening to the audio-book because my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, and I hadn’t gotten to the optometrist in a while. This isn’t ideal for me since I prefer reading since I can get through a book quicker when I read. But Christine Williams did such a fantastic job of narrating that I didn’t mind listening.

Here’s the thing about BfC …it’s a romance. But it’s a romance unlike others you’ve read before. Oh, it has the formula – all of the important ingredients are there. It’s what McMan does with the ingredients – how she measures them and mixes them together – that makes BfC different. This book is 1 part love story, 1 part historical reference, 2 parts literary analysis, 4 parts humor – and all parts excellent writing. 

Peppered throughout the book are wonderful literary and historical references. You may not get them all. And that’s okay. It’s not necessary to understand each reference to enjoy the novel. The most obscure are either explained or understood via the action in the story.  (I was pretty happy that I got about 85-90% of them.) What they do is add a layer of richness and texture. The dialogue is intelligent. The narrative is interesting. BfC is complex without being confusing. It’s detailed without being boring. It’s a delight to read.

Most novels I read have chuckle-worthy moments strewn throughout. Every now and then, a character will come along who adds that touch of comic relief. Or the protagonist finds herself in an embarrassing or humorous situation. But it’s rare that a book will make me laugh my ass off. BfC made me laugh my ass off! Repeatedly. That’s the trouble with an audio-book – having to hit “pause” and back up because your laughter caused you to miss the next minute or so of the book. 

I love all of the characters. Grace and Abbie are likable, witty, intelligent. What’s fantastic about them is that they are women in my age range. In a sense, they are contemporaries. Most of the time, I’m reading about characters who are 20-25 years younger than I am. While I enjoy those books and those characters, sometimes it’s a little difficult to relate. But in Grace and Abbie, I have access to characters with life experience that I can understand more fully. In my mind, I picture Laurie Metcalf and Meryl Streep (ala The Devil Wears Prada) having conversations, drinking tea, and falling in love.

I could blather on and on about Beowulf for Cretins, but I’ll leave something for you to experience, dear readers. Here is a book for stalwart lovers of the romance genre…and a book for those who like their romance a little less, well, romanc-y. If you’re looking for a book full of bedroom activities, you won’t find it here. But you will find a sweet, intelligent love story that will capture your heart, challenge your mind, and tickle your funny bone. 

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