- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 Reprint edition (Sept. 8 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060560029
- ISBN-13: 978-0060560027
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.7 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 404 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,456,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Goldengrove: A Novel Paperback – Sep 8 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In Prose's deeply touching and absorbing 15th novel, narrator Nico, 13, comes upon Gerard Manley Hopkins's Spring and Fall (which opens Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?) in her father's upstate New York bookstore, also named Goldengrove. It's the summer after her adored older sister, Margaret—possessed of beauty, a lovely singing voice and a poetic nature—casually dove from a rowboat in a nearby lake and drowned. In emotive detail, Nico relates the subsequent events of that summer. Nico was a willing confidant and decoy in Margaret's clandestine romance with a high school classmate, Aaron, and Nico now finds that she and Aaron are drawn to each other in their mutual bereavement. Unhinged by grief, Nico's parents are distracted and careless in their oversight of Nico, and Nico is deep in perilous waters before she realizes that she is out of her depth. Prose eschews her familiar satiric mode. She fluidly maintains Nico's tender insights into the human condition as Nico comes to discover her own way of growing up and moving on. (Sept.)
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“With perfect pitch and no trace of sentimentality, Prose . . . lands on the precise emotional key for this novel . . . allowing humor and compassion to seep through the cracks of an otherwise dark tale.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Ms. Prose is perceptive. . . . Her modest-sounding book turns out to be beautifully wrought.... and yields an unexpectedly rich, tart, eye-opening sense of Nico’s world.” (New York Times)
“With a dazzling mix of directness and metaphor, Prose captures the centrifugal and isolating force of grief...Prose exquisitely renders her characters’ grief and bafflement.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Arguably, “Goldengrove” is her best book yet.” (Seattle Times)
“Prose locates the life force that gives her narrator the quirky, irreverent but undeniable sound of a survivor. . . . Prose is tremendously skilled.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Francine Prose’s new novel is a quiet, clear-eyed, sun-dappled eulogy to lost youth, and a youth lost. . . . [Prose is ] a keen chronicler of human emotion.” (Elle)
“A page-turner, thanks to its wholly identifiable, and perfectly flawed, young heroine. A-” (Entertainment Weekly)
“A beautiful narrative that defines resilience as the sometimes heartbreaking act of simply living” (Redbook Magazine)
“A poignant account of growing up amid sorrow...a tender and moving story of adolescent love.” (Hartford Courant)
“Prose holds up a mirror to grief and family life we can’t look away from, revealing their truths on page after page, in beautifully crafted writing.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
“Prose’s skillful rendering of the human ability to accept hard truths and move on is a poignant lesson for us all.” (Miami Herald)
“Insightful, lyrical... “Goldengrove” is beautifully and simply written...a moving portrait of the search for identity through a landscape of pain and loss.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“Beautifully crafted...perhaps her most emotionally satisfying novel.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“An exploration of the fragility of adolescent identity and the perilous undertow of grief” (O magazine)
“Prose creates characters with real flaws that make the reader both love and hate them. It is easy to put oneself in the position of any of the players...” (Deseret Morning News)
“Deeply touching and absorbing...” (Publishers Weekly)
“...emotionally authentic...a ravishing novel of the mystery of death and life’s assertion.” (Booklist (starred review))
Top customer reviews
Thinking back their early days with Margaret, Nico, Henry and Daisy are at a loss to deal with the state of her death. Once the idol of Nico's life, Margaret and her fit together so perfectly that Nico never anticipated such an abrupt estrangement. Each family member handles her absence differently: Henry seeks comfort in Goldengove his bookstore, spending his evenings and Sundays working on a book about how people in different cultures and eras imagine the end of the world. Daisy is diagnosed with arthritis which seems to get worse and worse as the weeks go by and she finds solace in pain-killers and Prozac. Meanwhile, Nico seems to despise everyone being alive while her poor sister is dead. For a while she works at Goldengove, her own "private kingdom," but when she gets an invitation from Aaron, "one day this summer, let's got for a ride. Hang out," what was once a relative stranger becomes a new and frightening friend.
Thrilled at the prospect of spending time with Aaron, Nico lies to her parents, going on long country drives with him and on dates to the movies while fanatically talking to him about art and the ghost of Margaret and where she might be and how she might be feeling. Obsessed with Margaret's shirt, which he insists that Nico keep wearing, Aaron seems to be in a constant golden glow, burnished by exhaustion and sadness and looking wasted but always so much more attractive to Nico, like a haunted, insomniac soul: "both of us had loved Margaret easily forming a hopeless love triangle with the dead." No doubt Margaret's death has shaken these people "like three dice in a cup" spilling them out with new faces in unrecognizable combinations: "we were wall flowers left behind when Margaret waltzed away."
Now sister less and forced to fumble through her teenage life, Nico must find a way to overcome the tragedy of Margaret's death while also trying to heal her fractured family, and that of Aaron's confusing needs. Clearly Henry and Daisy are the innocent victims of tragedy, the distractions of their own problems, and their separate solutions, keeping their attentions diverted safely away from Nico's secret life with Aaron. Certainly Aaron can't seem to rise above the grief, maybe her death has unhinged him, further loosening his screw. Meanwhile, Margaret always seems to be pulling the strings from beyond while Nico's grief over Margaret is "the hard little acorn she clutched to her chest." With the famous Gerard Manley Hopkins poem echoing throughout, the current lack of communication between the parties is surprising for such a previously close-knit family: "I'd imagined that Margaret's death had drawn our family closer, but now I understood that it had blown us apart." It is in part Margaret's death that puts it all in perspective and trumps everything that might seem huge to a normal person. In a beautifully meticulous narrative that characterizes a family in crisis, Francine Prose utilizes the themes of fleeting youth, mortality, time, age and innocence and death, and where what's going to happen is going to happen whether we like it or not. Meanwhile, Nico clashes with her family in a sticky net that seems to trap them all. The message might be bleak, but it is also one infused with great beauty, and surprisingly, a blank slate of possibilities. Margaret is gone, but over the course of the novel, it becomes clear that Nico must wake up from the long fever dream in which her sister has tried to send her messages for her boyfriend. Only then can Nico and her parents come back from the brink and perhaps finally navigate the rocky road of healing and forgiveness. Mike Leonard November 08.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
"Goldengrove" is the kind of book that I can see many picking up eagerly. It makes sense. The subject matter is dark, mournful, and intriguing - dangerous boys and death. What could be better for some readers? Well, premise is fine and all, but a book needs to live up to it. And "Goldengrove" simply does not. While tastily written (in that Prose's prose is elegant, swift, and descriptive), the plot (surprisingly reminiscent to teen counterpart "Saving Zoe", minus the murder) is bland. Almost all the characters sound the same. Another reviewer blasts the "fantasy" in that the teens like old movies. That part is fine. It's the unconvincing tone of 13-year old Nico that disappoints (even I didn't speak like that then). It's the way every character sounds the same, how no character other than Nico ever gets even slightly fleshed out.
"Goldengrove"'s premise rang false with me too. This is the umpteenth book with this premise I've read, where the glamorous beloved older sister dies and the simpler younger one deals by trying to live her sister's life. The teen (+murder) version of "Goldengrove" is "Saving Zoe" by Alison Noel. And while that book too had its flaws, it at least felt vaguely real to me. "Goldengrove" felt overdramatized, with that gasping incompleteness at the end. It didn't touch me emotionally (as one would expect) and it simply failed to convince. The one thing it had going for it was the clear, lucid writing. Beautiful, yes. Meaningless? Yes.
Ultimately, "Goldengrove" is lacking in a number of regions. It's not a horrible book, it was not painful to read. All it was was a bland, repetitive, cliched novel that felt like an adult trying to sound like a teen (and failing). Yes, moments were "poignant" and had "clarity", but on the whole, it failed to live up to expectations. Yes, it's a beautifully written novel and yes, the idea might have been nice (once upon a time when it wasn't amazingly old), but combined with an unrealistic main character and bland writing, it comes off wrong.
Some readers may enjoy the quiet emptiness to "Goldengrove", especially if they don't mind Nico's unrealistic voice. And yes, Prose's writing is lovely. But this book is not recommendable.
Thirteen year old Nico plans to spend the summer with her sister before Margaret leaves for college. But Margaret drowns quietly in the lake and Nico is left stunned and devastated. She is unable to deal with anything that reminds her of Margaret until her sister's boyfriend, Aaron, suggests an experiment, that they together do the things that Margaret loved. Margaret, who could sing "My Funny Valentine" and bring people to tears, who loved jazz, poetry, and old movies. Nico's parents never approved of Aaron, so Nico has to sneak behind their backs. But her mother is busy self-medicating and her father, who owns a bookstore, is writing a book about how cultures imagine the end of the world. But Nico starts to get in over her head with Aaron, and is torn between her sister's identity and her own.
Goldengrove is a beautifully written novel dealing with family grief and coming of age. While the plot suggests a depressing read, it isn't in the hands of Prose. It is moving and touching and hopeful. While her parents have their own issues, they are not neglectful and Nico has a very close relationship with her dad. Though their world has been shattered, they do attempt family normalcy. Nico and her dad eat lunch daily, before she goes to work afternoons in Goldengrove, the family bookstore and he discussed his book with her. Margaret had a heart problem and Nico is convinced she does, too and reads medical books while her dad writes, trying to diagnose herself, convinced she is dying. The only thing she looks forward to is spending time with Aaron, reminiscing about Margaret. But Aaron is looking for Nico to be Margaret.
Nico is an interesting, sympathetic character, wise beyond her years, coping with a horrible loss. There are no real dramatic moments in this novel, but it is not a slow read. The words are lyrical and poetic. "When I think of that time, I picture the four of us wading in the shallows, admiring our reflections in the glassy, motionless lake. Then something -a pebble, a raindrop- breaks the surface and shatters the mirror. A ripple reaches the distant bank. Our years of bad luck begin."
I have never read anything by Francine Prose before and discovered that she has written several novels. I plan to read more works by her in the future. I highly recommend this touching story.
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