Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blog Tour and Book Review #21: GOLDENGROVE by Francine Prose

Pub. Date: September 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback, 275pp
Sales Rank: 11,533
ISBN-13: 978006056002
ISBN: 0060560029

Synopsis (from the publisher):
At the center of Francine Prose's profoundly moving new novel is a young girl facing the consequences of sudden loss after the death of her sister. As her parents drift toward their own risky consolations, thirteen-year-old Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's enigmatic boyfriend.

Over one haunted summer, Nico must face that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them. She learns about the power of art, of time and place, the mystery of loss and recovery. But for all the darkness at the novel's heart, the narrative itself is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of teenage life.

Goldengrove takes its place among the great novels of adolescence, beside Henry James's The Awkward Age and L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between.

My Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Francine Prose has written a beautifully sad and compelling coming of age story centered around the accidental death of a beloved older sister. I was immediately drawn into the story of how Nico comes to terms with this unimaginable loss while at the same time coping with the stress and confusion of early adolescence.

In late spring, Nico is barely 13 when the talented and beautiful Margaret drowns while they are out together on the lake by their home. The sisters have always had a close and loving relationship, with Nico’s affection bordering on adoration. Nico and her parents become isolated from each other in their grief. I completely sympathized when Nico remarked that she kept wanting to tell Margaret about how “goofy” their parents were acting until she remembers why they’re acting that way – and therefore she can’t tell Margaret.

The family descends into grief, but the novel is not heavy or torturous. Rather, it is luminous - a word I usually avoid because of its overuse, but is clearly the mot juste in this instance. The author’s writing is beautifully descriptive and evocative.

“Margaret’s death had shaken us, like three dice in a cup, and spilled us out with new faces in unrecognizable combinations. We forgot how we used to live in our house, how we’d passed the time when we lived there. We could have been sea creatures stranded on the beach, puzzling over an empty shell that reminded us of the ocean.” (Page 51)
As the story progresses, Nico becomes involved with Margaret’s slightly unbalanced boyfriend, Aaron. Nico wants to understand and know Margaret better. Aaron wants Nico to be Margaret.

Over the course of the summer, Nico learns how to deal with her grief and not only how, but that she must, move past it.

“I came to understand that Margaret’s death was an entity, separate from Margaret. My sister would always love me. But her death was a monster that would rip me apart, if it could. Time passed; the monster aged and lost some, but not all, of its power to ambush and wound me.” (Page 272)
GOLDENGROVE by Francine Prose is a lovely novel. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes coming of age stories or simply enjoys beautiful writing.

Click here to connect to other stops on the Blog Tour and read more reviews of Goldengrove.

Click here to listen to the Book Club Girl On Air Show with Francine Prose.

About the author (from the publisher):
Known as much for her wit as she is for her eclecticism, Francine Prose is a true renaissance woman of the literary set. She has written essays, art and literary reviews, translations, children’s books, novellas, and short stories -- not to mention bitingly humorous novels like Bigfoot Dreams and Blue Angel.

Thank you to Trish at TLC Book Tours
for organizing this tour
and supplying me with my review copy.


Wall-to-wall books said...

Wow, this book sounds really good!
Thanks for the review! I am going to add it to my list right now!

KR said...

This sounds great! I'd love to read it.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a wonderful book!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I read this book when it was first released and really enjoyed it. I'm glad you did as well. Great review.

kalea_kane said...

I love a good coming of age story. What a wonderful review! Another book to add to my list!

ImageNations said...

Interesting. A good review.

Ashley said...

Sounds like a very engaging book, will put it on my list of books to read.

Darlene said...

Wonderful review Gwendolyn. I'd love to read this one - it sounds so good.

bookmagic said...

I really enjoyed this book too, I thought it was very well-written but your review expresses it better than mine.

Nina said...

Great review, thank you for introducing me to the book.

trish said...

I'm fascinated by the fact that a book dealing with death isn't heavy and depressing, but rather (in your words) luminous. I think it takes a special writer to take a difficult subject and make it hopeful.

Thank you for being on this tour and writing such an insightful review!

Zibilee said...

This sounds like an incredibly moving book. I like the quotes you chose, and I think I'd really like to read this. Thanks for the great review, I'll be adding to my ever growing wish list!