White Oleander is a painfully beautiful first novel about a young girl growing up the hard way. It is a powerful story of mothers and daughters, their ambiguous alliances, their selfish love and cruel behaviour, and the search for love and identity.Astrid has been raised by her mother, a beautiful, headstrong poet. Astrid forgives her everything ...
White Oleander is a painfully beautiful first novel about a young girl growing up the hard way. It is a powerful story of mothers and daughters, their ambiguous alliances, their selfish love and cruel behaviour, and the search for love and identity.Astrid has been raised by her mother, a beautiful, headstrong poet. Astrid forgives her everything as her world revolves around this beautiful creature until Ingrid murders a former lover and is imprisoned for life. Astrid's fierce determination to survive and be loved makes her an unforgettable figure. 'Liquid poetry' - Oprah Winfrey 'Tangled, complex and extraordinarily moving' - Observer
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This is one of my all time favorite books. A very beautiful but disturbed woman finds herself obsessed with a very unlikely man, and finally poisens him with Oleander. She is convicted for the crime and her daughter is left at the mercy of the foster care system. The story is very dark and haunting, but what elevates the book for me is the writing. It is beautiful and lyrical in the descriptions of Los Angeles and its suburbs. Having grown up in this area I could feel the winds, hear the sounds of traffic on a nearby freeway overpass, picture a beautiful sunrise in a seedy neighborhood. Some might say this story is a little over the top, but it is still dark and beautiful as you watch this young girl who has always lived in the shadow of her mother finally find herself as she " goes through the fire" of one bad placement after another. This is a book I will read again just to enjoy the poetic writing.
Nov 22, 2008
Readable, but not a joy
As I loved the movie, I thought it would be interesting to read the book for a further exploration of the characters. Unfortunately, I found the movie to deal with character development in more depth than the book. While readable as a way to kill time the book is mired in endless similes and metaphors, some dreamlike, most leaving the reader caught in a fog of like and as. However, as a writer myself, I am constantly dismayed by the poor punctuation and grammar that seems to be prevalent in so many of today's "literary classics." I would have thought that someone who teaches creative writing at the university level would have honed her craft a little more sharply. Perhaps Janet Fitch is attempting to appeal to the mainstream reader, who unfortunately seems to be interested in reading only those books one does not have to think about; sadly, that reader is not me.
May 28, 2008
This book is very good. Incredibly depressing, but good. Fitch shines as a writer, and the only complaint I have about this novel is that her protagonist consistently makes the wrong decision, to the point where it seems Romeo-and-Juliet-esque. Both an exploration of a mother-daughter relationship, and an exploration of the aspects (mostly bad) of the foster care system.
Apr 30, 2007
A mother-daughter thing
Astrid grows up in the loving claws of her mother, who ends up in jail for murder. Since her mother is single, Astrid ends up in an orphanage after which she gets shunted from one family to the next; one of her foster parents commits suicide (the one she gets to love most). How can a girl turn into a woman under these circumstances? She does, and she becomes a woman of integrity in spite of her mother?s pleas to ?remember who you are?. When an opportunity arises for Astrid to tell the truth about her mother (and the murder) she gets to understand that her mother loves her in spite of all the things that happened in their past. It?s honestly a story that needs to be read more than once.
Publishers Weekly, 1999-02-22 Thirteen-year-old Astrid Magnussen, the sensitive and heart-wrenching narrator of this impressive debut, is burdened with an impossible mother in Ingrid, a beautiful, gifted poet whose scattered life is governed by an enormous ego. When Ingrid goes to prison for murdering her ex-lover, Astrid enters the Los Angeles foster care program and is placed with a series of brilliantly characterized families. Astrid's first home is with Starr, a born-again former druggie, whose boyfriend, middle-aged Ray, encourages Astrid to paint (Astrid's absent father is an artist) and soon becomes her first lover, but who disappears when Starr's jealousy becomes violent. Astrid finds herself next at the mercy of a new, tyrannical foster mom, Marvel Turlock, who grows wrathful at the girl's envy of a sympathetic next-door prostitute's luxurious life. "Never hope to find people who will understand you," Ingrid archly advises as her daughter's Dickensian descent continues in the household of sadistic Amelia Ramos, where Astrid is reduced to pilfering food from garbage cans. Then she's off to the dream home of childless yuppies Claire and Ron Richards, who shower her with gifts, art lessons and the warmth she's been craving. But this new development piques Ingrid's jealousy, and Astrid, now 17 and a high school senior, falls into the clutches of the entrepreneurial Rena Grushenka. Amid Rena's flea-market wares, Astrid learns to fabricate junk art and blossoms as a sculptor. Meanwhile, Ingrid, poet-in-prison, becomes a feminist icon who now has a chance at freedom?if Astrid will agree to testify untruthfully at the trial. Astrid's difficult choice yields unexpected truths about her hidden past, and propels her already epic story forward, with genuinely surprising and wrenching twists. Fitch is a splendid stylist; her prose is graceful and witty; the dialogue, especially Astrid's distinctive utterances and loopy adages, has a seductive pull. This sensitive exploration of the mother-daughter terrain (sure to be compared to Mona Simpson's Anywhere but Here) offers a convincing look at what Adrienne Rich has called "this womanly splitting of self," in a poignant, virtuosic, utterly captivating narrative. Reading group guide; author tour. (Apr.) FYI: An excerpt from the novel was selected as a notable story in Best American Short Stories 1994. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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