Customer Reviews


252 Reviews
5 star:
 (97)
4 star:
 (69)
3 star:
 (45)
2 star:
 (29)
1 star:
 (12)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking
I haven't read a novel this involving and moving in a very long time. It's so good that I don't even want to say much about it; it stands on its own, as its own statement. I will say that for me the most impressive thing about the book is its vision. Spanning 40 years or so, it holds a taut center line, so that no matter where the characters go or what they do, the line...
Published on March 24, 2012 by Jayne

versus
65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life in a Commune
I enjoyed it immensely and the writing was lyrical and lovely. I would recommend this book.
I lived in a commune from the age of 17 to almost 30, so I have to add that fact to my review of Arcadia. I will tell you my thoughts, and they are sort of jumbled together, so it's not a "good" or a "bad".... First, the NAMES for things were soooo reminiscent for me! We...
Published on April 3, 2012 by J. Ehrlich


‹ Previous | 1 226 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking, March 24, 2012
By 
Jayne (SONOMA, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I haven't read a novel this involving and moving in a very long time. It's so good that I don't even want to say much about it; it stands on its own, as its own statement. I will say that for me the most impressive thing about the book is its vision. Spanning 40 years or so, it holds a taut center line, so that no matter where the characters go or what they do, the line keeps them in a defined orbit around the core of the book.

Lauren Groff is more than 20 years younger than I am. As I write this, I'm about the same age as the main character in the last third or so of the book. It's almost miraculous to me that someone who hasn't yet reached this age can so accurately peg the combination of nostalgia, bitterness, and regret of looking back at childhood, living in the present, and being uncertain about the future. There's more than a whiff of Peter Pan and Never Never Land in the story, and I mean that in a good way. On top of that achievement, Groff has also constructed a perfectly convincing bridge from a time most of her readers clearly remember to a time we can only imagine.

This is a quiet novel, without drama and histrionics. It's also highly literate and intelligent. Read it. You'll be glad you did.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Life in a Commune, April 3, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I enjoyed it immensely and the writing was lyrical and lovely. I would recommend this book.
I lived in a commune from the age of 17 to almost 30, so I have to add that fact to my review of Arcadia. I will tell you my thoughts, and they are sort of jumbled together, so it's not a "good" or a "bad".... First, the NAMES for things were soooo reminiscent for me! We had a Home Place (Arcadia is the fictional Homeplace). Our Hatchery was Arcadia's "Pink Palace" for where the babies were born. The Monkey Crew (ours was the Construction Crew) ... "Inside" versus "Outside"... I could go on and on. Basically, we had our own language, and so this fact of Arcadia was astoundingly reminiscent and immensely enjoyable.

I believe it is human nature to rebel against what you know, so I had a hard time buying into Bit's unwavering love and loyalty for Arcadia. All the kids that had been born in my particular commune hated living there with a passion. They hated being different, and they couldn't wait to be old enough to bolt. Of course, now that they're older, they do appreciate the sense of family that existed, plus the fact that they have so many brothers and sisters throughout their lives.

I had a hard time with the author's timing of things. Knowing a thing or two about communes, I didn't buy that Arcadia was going strong while Ronald Reagan was in office (circa early '80's). That was after Jonestown. I believe the concept of the hippie commune was on the wane during that time. And the non-self-sustaining issue was also hard to swallow. For a real commune to exist for so long, they would have had to be way more organized than Arcadia was. The book describes Hannah as being pissed off or depressed a lot of the time because there was no money and no food. No one would put up with that for that long, they'd just leave and go back to reality. Way too many freeloaders/hangers-on were depicted -- I know it doesn't work that way. Everyone has to pull their weight, and then some.

The fictional illness toward the end was just silly and served no purpose whatsoever. I felt the author lost her way with this story line.

Still -- an entertaining read that managed to capture a lot of the love/hate, push/pull and sheer physical discomfort -- alternating with occasional blips of ecstacy -- of communal life.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


66 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd give it ten stars if I could., March 13, 2012
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I received an advance copy of ARCADIA and have been waiting impatiently for the pub date so I can post a few thoughts (not that anyone's been waiting to hear from me). ARCADIA is a stunning novel. Look elsewhere for a plot summary--I can't do it justice.

The imagery Groff uses on page after page took my breath away--and by the last third or so, I was weeping. Here is the very stuff of life. Hope, dreams, love, how to live, lost hope, lost dreams, lost love, death. Bit, the protagonist, is beautifully crafted and will break your heart.

It's a gorgeous book. I can't stop thinking about it. I'm going to read it again. Writers know that the most particular and specific may also be the most universal. Nevertheless, sometimes a book comes along that you think has been written just for you. ARCADIA is like that. If you care about the world, buy a copy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the eyes of a child, March 13, 2012
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
An involving, lyrical novel, Arcadia is the story of a commune of 'the free people' in upstate New York, told through the character of the first child born into the community, Bit Stone. We see Arcadia grow and then thrive, largely through the efforts of Bit's parents and a handful of other free people who truly embrace the principles on which Arcadia is founded. Bit introduces us to the many colorful characters of Arcadia, first through the eyes of a child, and later through the eyes of an unworldly but somewhat mature adolescent . Inevitably, the commune is destroyed by too many interlopers and the fall from grace of its charismatic leader, Handy. One by one the free people abandon or are banished from Arcadia. What will happen to them, and especially Bit, in the real world?

The novel is beautifully written. People and locations are portrayed keenly, vividly. Tenderness, love, beauty, pain. It's all here, and more.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant first half; tedious second half, July 13, 2012
By 
H. Timberline (Virginia, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I absolutely LOVED the first half or two-thirds of the story, when Bit was growing up in the commune with his friends and learning about the world at large and HIS world in particular. I thought Groff nailed it - the commune was universally recognizable for what it was, yet never seemed trite or predictable. And within that world, the characters were drawn clearly and specifically. She moved the story along beautifully, so that I scarcely noticed the passage of time.

But the novel ground to a halt once Bit became an adult in the city. I came galloping eagerly out of the first part of the book, and hung with it pretty well during his time as a professor and his troubling non-relationship with Sylvie. But oh my god, the story hangs up dreadfully somewhere in there and becomes annoyingly lyrical as all action nearly stops and Bit becomes almost a non-entity. I am in the final chapters of the book and almost can't stand to read it anymore. I hate to abandon a book I've enjoyed as much as the earlier part of this one, but I'm not sure I can slog through the conclusion. Such a bummer.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Prose and Undeveloped Characters Disappoint, July 8, 2012
By 
Jeff Kirsch (Madison, WI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
As I know something of communes, I really expected to like this novel, but it was evident from the beginning that the author's literary prose has stylistic quirks and, at times, the prose becomes an obstacle to the comprehension of what the author is actually trying to express. Occasionally, the prose can be breathtakingly beautiful; other times, it frustrates.

As to the plot, it's generally slow-moving, usually due to lengthy descriptions. The major weakness of the novel is characterization. Even the protagonist, Bit, we don't get to know truly well. His parents, Abe and Hannah, the next most major characters, are rather hollow. Major figures in the commune, Handy and Titus, are really nothing more than stick figures. The brief but repeated mention of all the other commune residents --Midge, Molly, Cole, Dylan and Leif, to name just a few-- serves to do little but confuse. Even Bit's eventual wife, Helle, is far from a well-rounded character, and I could guess that this is not the type of author who's going to tie up all of the loose ends and let the reader know what happened to her. She disappears, period, and the reader wanting to know her whereabouts is left just as frustrated as her husband is. The only character well enough developed that I could relate to was Bit's 14-year-old daughter Grete, but perhaps that was because she seemed a fairly typical rebellious teenager.

While the story of the commune, its disintegration and Bit's first exposure to the outside world is enough to keep the reader who has the patience to deal with the prose going, the end of the book, especially the last 60 pages, while offering one pleasant surprise, weighs heavily on the reader. Groff seems not to know how or when to end her novel, and spends about 60 pages on Hannah's painfully slow death. Long before Arcadia ends on page 289, I just wanted it to be over.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luminous and unique, March 29, 2012
By 
NewlyKindled (Charlotte, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Arcadia (Kindle Edition)
I enjoyed this book as much for how unique it was, as for the story it told. I am weary of reading the same "woe is me" novels over and over again. It seems that the more tragedy you can shove between two covers these days, the more likely you are to get an agent. And while, yes, there was sorrow in this book, there was also joy. And incredibly well done description. Sometimes maybe too much description? Towards the end of the book I found myself skimming, and I admit I actually didn't read the last couple of chapters. But I am not blaming the author for that. It was more that I felt like the story had reached its natural conclusion already and I was ready to be done reading it. I fell in love with the character Bit. He was like a modern day Dickens character, and I love Dickens, so that's high praise from me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately unsatisfying, May 28, 2012
By 
JustMelissa (New Jersey, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I had high hopes for Arcadia after really enjoying The Monsters of Templeton. Unfortunately, Groff's sophomore novel didn't work for me. Although the early days of the commune and the politics of group living were interesting, I couldn't find a character to really root for. Even Little Bit was more annoying than endearing. And as a adult, I found him bland and boring. The book skips from Bit's childhood to adulthood, skipping his coming of age in the real world after the collapse of the commune. Too bad, I suspect that was the most interesting time of his life.

Though the critics loved Arcadia - calling it lyrical, nuanced, and revelatory - I found it distant and depressing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Will Transform You, June 2, 2013
This review is from: Arcadia (Paperback)
We read books to be entertained, to be informed, to have a laugh, to escape the day-to-day. And then, every now and then, we stumble across a book that we read at just the right moment in our lives for us to be bewitched, transported and transformed.

That just happened to me while reading Arcadia by Lauren Groff. This isn't a new novel--it was first published by Hyperion in 2012--and the fact of the matter is that I tried reading it four separate times before I finally was able to become absorbed by this book. That's what it feels like, once you get into the rhythm of the language: as if you're falling down a well or crossing through some sort of foggy membrane and entering another dimension entirely, your entire being surrounded by Groff's magical imagery.

The story revolves around Bit, who is a very young boy when the novel opens, living with his parents in a commune in the 1970's, and traces his life as the commune rises and falls, and as he has to make his way in the world after this Utopian dream shatters. The language in the novel is dreamy and complex, especially in the first half of the novel, when we are trapped in Bit's perspective as a child and can only glean from snatches of conversation what's going on around him. I was fully expecting the language to become simpler as Bit aged out of the commune and, in the second half of the book, is an adult living and working and parenting a young child of his own. Instead, the language grew even more lush, with image after image that floored me. By the end of the novel, I was weeping not only for Bit's personal losses--and there are many--but also for the loss of our nation's innocence--an innocence that once allowed us, as children of the 1960's and 1970's, to truly believe we could be in harmony with each other and with nature instead of in continual conflict. It was a good cry--I don't mean to imply that the book is depressing. The emotions Groff provokes are complicated and cleansing. You will wake from the dream of Arcadia, as Bit does, determined to do whatever you can to stay more fully present in your life and aware of the magic of everyday things.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Arcadia by Lauren Groff, August 14, 2012
By 
Marvi (California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Arcadia (Hardcover)
I agree with the other "2 stars" that the concept and development of this novel are limited, despite the lush, sensual details. Yes, Bit is definitely more interesting in his commune days than later, and the disappearance of the annoyingly selfish Helle rankles rather than intrigues. Moreover, the "quiet" doctor who takes Helle's place is totally unbelievable (sitting for hours over tea with Bit!) and as boring a character as he is.
The whole time I read this, TC Boyle's wonderful "Drop City" stayed in the back of my head. With the definitive story of the death of a commune already written, Groff faced a difficult task!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 226 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Arcadia
Arcadia by Lauren Groff
$8.89
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.