- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Virago Press Ltd; New edition edition (1 January 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1860498027
- ISBN-13: 978-1860498022
- Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 10.8 x 3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #5,16,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
White Oleander Paperback – 1 Jan 2008
|Paperback, 1 Jan 2008||
Audio Cassette, Audiobook, Unabridged, Import
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Virago editions have already sold over 140,000 copies.
'Graceful' THE TIMES
'Poignant, virtuosic and utterly captivating' PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
'However good the film version, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellwegger, it won't beat Janet Fitch's reissued novel White Oleander.' ' "Liquid poetry" is how Oprah Winfrey described it.' IN STYLE UK
'Extraordinary ... Her prose is full of startling images, snippets of poetry and one magnificent, blisteringly angry "found" poem. This highly impressive debut takes on all the big themes' OBSERVER
'Tangled, complex and extraordinarily written' OBSERVER
'Astrid Magnussen, the teenage narrator of Janet Fitch's engrossing first novel, White Oleander, has a mother who is as sharp as a new knife. An uncompromising poet, Ingrid despises weakness and self- pity, telling her daughter that they are descendants of Vikings, savages who fought fiercely to survive. And when one of Ingrid's boyfriends abandons her, she illustrates her point, killing the man with the poison of oleander flowers. This leads to a life-sentence in prison, leaving Astrid to teach herself the art of survival in a string of Los Angeles foster homes.
As Astrid bumps from trailer park to tract house to Hollywood bungalow, White Oleander uncoils her existential anxieties. "Who was I, really?" she asks. "I was the sole occupant of my mother's totalitarian state, my own personal history rewritten to fit the story she was telling that day. There were so many missing pieces." Fitch adroitly leads Astrid down a path of sorting out her past and identity. In the process, this girl develops a wire-tight inner strength, gains her mother's white-blonde beauty, and achieves some measure of control over their relationship. Even from prison, Ingrid tries to mould her daughter. Foiling her, Astrid learns about tenderness from one foster mother and how to stand up for herself from another. Like the weather in Los Angeles--the winds of the Santa Anas, the scorching heat--Astrid's teenage life is intense. Fitch's novel deftly displays that, and also makes Astrid's life meaningful.' - Katherine Anderson, Amazon.co.uk
* A novel that is as beautiful and as dangerous as the Oleander * Chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her booclub * Over a million copies in print * Film will star Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn and Alison Lohman as AstridSee all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
A dark, lyrical and shimmering world, or "a landscape Van Gogh could have painted," is the reality in which our protagonist Astrid emerges and carries her scars (both literal and figurative). As other's have noted, Astrid is a complex and at times contradictory character, but whose teen-aged development wasn't? The crux of her struggle is not necessarily to escape the psychological clutches of her murdering poetess mother, whose ego parallels that of Philip Roths (!) and offers such sage wisdom as to "Taste his fear; it tastes just like champagne." Rather, Astrid's struggle is to internalize the numerous externalities acting upon her (i.e. the swath of foster parents) and sublimate them into an authentic identity that she may claim ownership to. As Astrid says herself, "People don't fit into slots - prostitute, housewife, saint - like sorting the mail. We are so mutable, fluid with fear and desire, ideals and angles, changeable water." It is watching Astrid's mutable and, yes, flawed progression toward the eventual reclamation of "own" self that makes this novel so compelling and her character "larger than biography".
The agents were right. This is an amazing novel, not just for the outrageous but believable character of Ingrid Magnusson and her daughter Astrid, not just for the amazing plot twists and turns, but for the amazing prose style.
"What was the best day of your life?" she asked me one afternoon as we lay on the free-form couch, her head on one armrest, min on the other. Judy Garland sang on the stereo, "My Funny Valentine."
"Today," I said.
"No." She laughed, throwing her napkin at me. "From before."
I tried to remember, but it was like looking for buried coins in the sand. I kept turning things over, cutting myself on rusty cans, broken beer bottles hidden there, but eventually I found an old coin, brushed it off. I could read the date, the country of origin.
It was when we were living in Amsterdam."
What a great use of metaphor and simile. Here is another example.
And now it was too late. I looked at Sergei across the table in Rena's kitchen. He could care less about my boyfriend in New York. He didn't even care about his girlfriend in the next room. He was just like one of Rena's white cats - eat, sleep, and fornicate. Since the night I'd seen them together on the couch, he was always watching me with his hint of a grin, as if there were some secret we shared.
"So how is your boyfriend?" he asked. "Big? Is he big?"
Niki laughed. "He's huge, Sergei. Haven't you heard of him? Moby Dick."
Olivia had told me all about men like Sergei. Hard men with blue veins in their sculpted white arms, heavy-lidded blue eyes and narrow waists. You could make a deal with a man like that. A man who knew what he wanted. I kept my eyes on the broccoli and cheese.
"You get tired of waiting," he said. "You come see me."
"What if you're no good?" I said, making the other girls laugh.
"Only worry you fall in love Sergei," he said, his voice like a hand between my legs.
What's not to like about this book? The ending. I really didn't like it. I didn't like being left with two choices, two ways that this heartbreaking story might go. I thought that the author should have done that hard work for me. Four stars.