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The Finishing School (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – April 20, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reissue edition (April 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345431901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345431905
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,001,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stunning . . . Irresistible."
—Time

"GODWIN PROVES HERSELF ONE OF AMERICA'S FOREMOST WRITERS IN THE FINISHING SCHOOL. . . . A profound novel with characters close to the heart."
—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"COMPELLING, WELL CRAFTED . . . A psychological detective story with dramatic revelations of character and event."
—Chicago Tribune

"FINELY NUANCED, COMPASSIONATE . . . The Finishing School is a wise contribution to the literature of growing up."
—The New York Times Book Review

"ALLURING . . . GENTLE, IRONIC, INTENSE, AND EMOTIONAL FICTION."
—People

From the Inside Flap

Justin Stokes would never forget the summer she turned fourteen, nor the woman who transformed her bleak adolescent life into a wondrous place of brilliant color. In the little pondside hut also known as the ?finishing school,? eccentric, free-spirited Ursula DeVane opened up a world full of magical possibilities for Justin, teaching her valuable lessons of love and loyalty, and encouraging her to change, to learn, to grow. But the lessons of the finishing school have their dark side as well, as Justin learns how deep friendship can be shattered by shocking, unforgivable betrayal.

More About the Author

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Unfinished Desires, A Mother and Two Daughters, Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband, and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961--1963, the first of two volumes, edited by Rob Neufeld. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has written libretti for ten musical works with the composer Robert Starer. She lives in Woodstock, New York.

Customer Reviews

I love the relationship of Ursula and Justin.
mimi
Ms. Godwin writes with the clarity of real wisdom and a deep understanding of both ages.
Steven
If you haven't read Godwin before, start here.
Debbie Lee Wesselmann

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
When this book was first released in the 1980's, I was an avid fan of Godwin's and couldn't wait to buy it. I devoured it in two sittings, loving every minute with teenage Justin and the wiser, more enigmatic Ursula. I'm pleased to see the story hasn't become dated, and that it's every bit as enjoyable now that I'm closer in age to Ursula than to Justin. Although this is on the surface a coming-of-age story, it also explores the necessity and dangers of mentorship, of friendship, of implicit trust. The characters are heartfelt and true, and Justin, with all her emotional needs and confusion, is one of the best female teenage characters in American literature.
This book remains one of Godwin's best. If you haven't read Godwin before, start here.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By trainreader on March 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Justin Stokes, a precocious, despondent 14 year old adolescent, feels trapped in a rural "one-horse" town to which her family was forced to move for monetary reasons. Justin's only respite is her fleeting relationship with Ursula DeVane, a vibrant educated woman in her forties, who lives with her highly sensitive, classical pianist brother. For one summer, Justin goes out of her way to develop a relationship with Ursula, as basically everyone else that she has contact with, including her family members, bores her. As one might expect though, Ursula and her brother have a past which eventually catches up with them, and which profoundly affects Justin, even into her adulthood. Although Gail Godwin virtually promises to "shock" her audience, a reader of contemporary novels will hardly be shocked.

Godwin is one of our best contemporary writers. Her description of detail (for instance, how she describes a garden, or a pond in the forest) rivals the best 19th century British authors. I love, for example, how Justin practices her pronunciation of the name "Ursula" in attempt to impress her older friend.

My criticism of the novel is there is not enough of a story to justify 300+ pages. I think I might have enjoyed it more if it were 100 pages shorter, or even written as a novella. On the other hand, Godwin is such a remarkable writer, that I always enjoy reading her, even if the book is somewhat slow-going.

If you are interested in reading Gail Godwin, I would recommend starting with "A Southern Family," which is longer, but more compelling, and easier to get through.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E.B. Bristol VINE VOICE on November 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
When teenager Justin Stokes goes for a bike ride one summer day, she doesn't expect to meet a woman who will change her life. With a flair for the dramatic and a tragic past, Ursula De Vane doesn't enter Justin's life so much as she explodes into it. Justin, longing to free the constraints of her conventional aunt, inquisitive baby brother and recently widowed mother, finds in Ursula the kindred desire not to live an ordinary life. But when past secrets threaten to undermine their relationship, can she find it in her to accept that Ursula is human and flawed after all. Told from the perspective of the adult Justin, now an actress, still haunted by that summer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 20, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. It is about young Justin Stokes' relationship with Ursula Devane, an
older woman who is her mentor and guide. Their lives are inextricably connected until Justin
ends up betraying Ursula as Ursula had once betrayed her own mother.

I am a fan of Gail Godwin's and highly recommend this book. Another book of hers that I
like very much is Violet Clay: A Novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven on February 17, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is one of my "desert island" books. I first read this as a teenager, and now I am close to the age of the book's character of Ursula. This book was powerful for me then, and even more powerful for me today. Ms. Godwin writes with the clarity of real wisdom and a deep understanding of both ages.

Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Virginia Graziani on June 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
" The Finishing School" is one of my favorite novels of all time, partly because it so reflects a similar experience in my own life (although my "Ursula" was not quite so dramatic!) I think it's one of the best portrayals of a girl's early adolescence ever. But as a writer myself, I am still knocked out by how perfectly this novel is crafted and paced, how each character, even minor ones like Justin's little brother Jem, Aunt Mona's kind but hapless ex- husband Mott, cousin Becky, etc. seems like a complete and rounded person with an interesting story of his/her own. My only criticism is that the final crisis seems too melodramatic -- that Justin overreacts to the situation (don't want to give anything away to future readers) -- and in a less masterly-written story this would spoil the whole thing, but it's a tribute to Godwin's prodigious talent and insight that it doesn't. But maybe this didn't bother other readers at all. Those who want a book with "more plot" should be reading a different kind of novel. This story has a LOT of plot, but it goes on in people's hearts and minds and through their relationships with each other rather than being expressed as action.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an older book that I happened across by accident and found delightful. I think it would make a wonderful Hallmark t.v. movie with someone like Jena Malone playing the lead, perhaps opposite Judith Light or an actress who could capture "Ursula's" captivating character. This book reminds you of the "intensity" of growing up with all of it's desires and fears and frustrations. The climax leaves you frustrated that the girl is only 14 and cannot view her "idol" with the maturity of experience, but the ending is satisfying in that she is able to look back and realize how inaccurate her perceptions were at that age and to understand what she did gain from this woman in the long run. I highly recommend it.
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