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Nellcott Is My Darling [Paperback]

Golda Fried
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 11 2005

Shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction!

When she got in his tall bed and lay down it was so high that she felt like the princess and the pea only it was coins that were under the mattress. He let her spoon him but it was never the other way around. She was learning to rely on his smell. Up close, he always smelt like fresh laundry which overpowered the cigarette smell that hung in the air. When she looked down, his boots were poking out from under the sheets.

Alice Darling has just moved to Montreal to go to McGill University. She’s never had a boyfriend and doesn’t know how to do laundry. She joins the Film Society and hangs out in the library. She drifts away from boring Bethany, her best friend from high school, and starts to trail after Allegra, the caffeine-addicted, dish-throwing artist in the dorm room next to hers. And, most of all, she thinks about how she’s still a virgin and how she’ll never figure it all out.

And then she meets Nellcott Ragland, a 23-year-old who works at Basement Records and wears black eyeliner, and he asks her on a date.

Alice tries to hide out in the Film Society office. She spies on Nellcott at the record store. She gets advice from Walker, her filmmaking, womanizing friend from Toronto. But sooner or later her parents are going to visit and watch her cry. She won’t admit it to them, but Nellcott has become her darling.


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Review

There is not a lot to say about this competently written female coming of age story (except for this bit: “Allegra went to a place that specialized in tea that looked like a haunted house...”). Alice, a Toronto girl, has managed to get to first year at McGill University in Montreal without even having a boyfriend, let alone having sex. She is not sure she will ever understand the complexities of life and relationships; she is away from home for the first time, and desperately looking for her place in the world. Coming from a very sheltered middle class background, she’d like to express her passion for life, but simply doesn't know how. Her roommates are much more worldly. Allegra is an artist and a free spirit. Cricket is an athlete, rather obnoxious, and jealous of Alice for becoming friends with Allegra. Alice’s best friend from home, Bethany, is a stick in the mud.
Then Alice meets Nellcott. He is in his early twenties, works in a record store, and expresses his rebelliousness by wearing eyeliner and smoking cigarettes. As a bad influence he is pretty tame. He is sexually experienced, but folds completely when Alice denies him sex. They sleep together many times but are never intimate. Alice is pretty much a blank page. What exactly Nellcott sees in her is difficult to fathom. Nothing much happens.
Alice is a very awkward girl, trying to figure out life. She seems impossibly naive, and everyone seems way too nice for 1990s university students.
W.P. Kinsella (Books in Canada)
-- Books in Canada

From the Publisher

Nominated for a 2005 Governor General's Award for Fiction

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Excerpt
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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alice in Transition Aug. 6 2005
Format:Paperback
I am no expert in girls coming of age. If you doubt me, ask my daughter. Still we could all be better for knowing Fried's Alice. Alice is more amenable than Jane Eyre and more secure than Franny Glass. She is the emergent heroine for our era.
Golda Fried's language is economical and sincere. Her episodes ring true. Her analogies are sound. You'll laugh out loud at her metamorphisis. It is our own.
Read it.
Don
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonky, wispy, and wonderful. Aug. 6 2005
By Justin James Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Who knew that such dreamy decsriptions of love, longing, and life could be so achingly accurate. Golda Fried writes from the corners of her heart.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An edgy read Nov. 13 2005
By Dena Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love reading books like this because they make me think I'm part of some cool, hip crowd that "gets" these books. Fried writes in minimalist terms, yet that doesn't keep both the story and characters from having a whallop of an impact. I found myself thinking about Alice for weeks after I'd finished the book--replaying some of the scenes and dialogue in my mind. "Nellcott is My Darling" is up for a major book award in Canada and after reading it, it's easy to see why. This is a gifted author and I look forward to reading her next novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favorite author Aug. 6 2005
By donnadune - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Golda is so funny and deep at the same time. Her metaphors are wonderful...."'Stay away from boys, her dad said. They will only rape you and leave you with nothing.' Her parents looked back and forth at each other and then at Alice. Alice felt like running, like calling Nellcot, but he would somehow find out where they were and show up at their table like a spilt drink."

As I read the book, I felt each scene as if I were in it myself...."Allegra yanked Alice to the women's bathroom. Their trips to the bathroom were becoming familiar. Allegra spent ten minutes putting on her deep raspberry-bruise lipstick and then kissed Alice on the cheek, making Alice feel like a substitute tissue."

The truth about how confusing relationships can be is easily understood in this charming story....

"'Why don't you ever call me?' he asked her.

'You usually call me. You don't even have an answering machine if I did call you.'

'You could call me at work.'

'But you're working.'

'French girls are much more aggressive.'

'What does that mean?'

'It means, I guess we're going to have to practice this. I'm going to go home now and you're going back to your dorm and you are going to call me.'

'Will you answer?'

"We'll have to see.' He went home.

And I have felt just like this many times...but Golda Fried put it in such original terms......

"'I don't need another guy or anyone else telling me what to do. What do you tell people about me? Does he know I'm a virgin too?'

'Um'.

'God, Nellcot, Lovers should not bring their love to the light.'

'We aren't lovers.'

Ouch. A pigeon flew into a sordid cloud and her hair was violent on her face and if she had been chewing gum, it would have gotten caught in her hair."

The fact that I just want to quote the book in this review makes me realize it's like me saying...." Listen to this!....Isn't this great?" I read the book right through to find out how it ended. I was surprised in the end though and want to read the book again, this time savoring the very unique creative writing style of Golda Fried, my new favorite author. I hope she is working on her next book. I hope you who are reading this will have the rare pleasure of reading this book too.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nellcott May Be Her Darling, But Alice Is My Hero Nov. 18 2005
By D. Pratt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Golda Fried takes us deep inside of Alice Charles, her incredibly fresh and naïve character who takes our heart and makes us remember every awkward moment of the path toward womanhood. Alice, our hero, is unsure of herself and awkwardly waiting to have her first real love. When she finally finds him, she has just one problem: her virginity. Nellcott, Alice's first love, is really no darling at all. The sweet Alice is instantly drawn to his "bad-boy" appeal; he is drawn to her naiveté and sweetness, like dark to light. To his credit, though, the eyeliner- wearing aspiring rocker does not take Alice's virginity lightly. He is surprisingly patient, despite his shock at her virginity.

" What were you doing all of high school?" he asks upon her confession, which occurs just moments before he is poised to make love with his boots still on.

Despite her attempts to be a bohemian Montreal girl, Alice is still very much her parent's daughter, the same loving parents, who, after replacing Alice with a dog, lovingly attempt to find out if their daughter is still a virgin during their Thanksgiving meal by asking outright: " Everyone at this table who's had sex before, raise your hand." A mortified Alice freezes as their hands shoot straight up in the air.

In an era where children grow up entirely too fast, and middle-schoolers "do it" routinely and without pause, it is nice to know Alices do exist, as rare as they may be. Like Alice, they too struggle their sexuality and their need to define themselves as women, and not just as daughters.

Thank you, Golda Fried, for giving us a wonderland in Alice, who is both our darling and our hero.
2.0 out of 5 stars Blah March 31 2013
By Jessica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Other reviewers call this book artsy, beautiful, and simple. This may be one of those novels where I "just don't get it." Told in a broken, jumpy style that was not for me, this novel follows Alice as she goes off to college and gets her first boyfriend, Nellcott. It's obvious to the reader and everyone around Alice that he's no good for her, yet she continues to see him.

Alice is a spineless, pathetic girl with no original thoughts except for the occasional whining. Her inner monologues are trite and boring, just like Alice. I am all for the introverted, unlikely heroine, but this was just painful for me to read. And Nellcott was hardly fleshed out at all. I couldn't ever really see where he was coming from. I'm all for simplicity, but for me, this book was beyond simple. It was flat.

The only redeeming parts of this novel were the ones with Alice's parents. They were hilarious, and I wish they had been more prevalent in the novel. Ha, like when Alice's dad tells her that her mom got a dog to replace her. Or when he asks everyone at the table who has had sex to raise their hands and Alice's parents both raise their hands. Haha, those two scenes were awesome.

I wouldn't honestly recommend this book to anyone. Maybe it would bring some comfort to readers who are lonely or homesick in college, but probably not.

This book was sent to me for review by First Reads.
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