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Flower Children: A Novel Paperback – June 3, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 211 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reprint edition (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594483116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483110
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This wistful, episodic second novel by Swann (Serious Girls) is made up of vignettes about four sibling "flower children" whose parents are Pennsylvania farm country back-to-the-land hippies. Swann portrays the free-floating '70s coming-of-age of these four siblings—Lu, Maeve (who narrates much of the novel), Tuck and Clyde—who delight in running freely in the countryside, but grow embarrassed by the unconventional practices of their politically active, casual-dressing parents. Their parents, Sam, a Harvard graduate, and Dee, a gardener and artist, built their own house, and though they aim to raise their children in an ideal world "in which nothing is lied about, whispered about, and nothing is ever concealed," the parents separate, and subsequent storylike chapters delineate their children's sometimes rocky confrontation with the world of TVs, junk food and schoolyard cliques. The parents' transient love interests make impressions on the children: Dee's live-in boyfriend, Bobby, avenges the shooting of the children's dogs by local hunters; later, the children set out to rid themselves of Sam's latest squeeze, a glamorous but dim-witted psychologist. Swann wisely forgoes childlike stream-of-consciousness narration in favor of lean, direct storytelling, a choice that makes this more substantial and rewarding than the vast majority of coming-of-age novels. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A spellbinding novel-in-stories about the progeny of Harvard-educated hippies . . . Swann evokes the wonder of childhood with an almost hallucinatory precision. -- Vogue

Hypnotic. . . Swann's writing is mesmerizing . . . readers won't soon forget the portraits of flower children struggling to bloom in a very different world from the one in which they were first planted. -- People (four stars, Critic's Choice)

I thought about this book when I wasn't reading it, and I looked forward to returning to it and delving further. I was left wanting to know more about this family of unique characters. Like a missing friend who lives far away, but visits regularly. Not loss, anticipation. -- Indianapolis Star-Press

Maxine Swann is extraordinary at getting right down into the warm, funny, surreal, and heartbreaking folds of childhood and family life that are so rarely captured. Her writing is immaculate and completely transporting: serene and lively, lush and bare, with that magical, seemingly effortless quality that only the very talented of writers seem to possess. I didn't want this book to end. It is mesmerizing. -- Eliza Minot, author of The Brambles

Maxine Swann's Flower Children is a work of stunning lyricism and intense originality. It tells a story many of us have been waiting to hear: what happened to those children brought up in the wake of the dream of the '60s. What is remarkable about Maxine Swann's answer to that question, is that it never shies from complexity, and speaks in a voice of astonishing power and texture. -- Mary Gordon, author of Pearl

Provocative . . . Swann deftly and vividly encapsulates the flip side to an eccentric upbringing. -- Providence Journal

Swann expertly handles the complex emotions of both boys and girls as they progress in age to adolescence and adulthood . . . Swann is a restrained, elegant writer, who lets her sentences build slowly, as if she were assembling a structure brick by brick. I nearly emptied my pen of ink underlining passages. -- Bookforum

[Flower Children] is full of the visceral pleasures and anxieties of childhood -- LA Times Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

There was little to no plot.
GypsyEyes
The book starts well but the reader has an expectation of getting to know this family better and somehow that doesn't happen.
Linda Bulger
I think there is a plot here, but the author has chosen to reveal only pieces of it.
S. Hays

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Linda Bulger VINE VOICE on July 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Although Flower Children is clearly labeled as a novel, it's more like a collection of stories loosely strung together. Author Maxine Swann writes about a family of four children raised in rural Pennsylvania in the 1970s by hippie parents. Most of the narrative is in the first person from the point of view of Maeve, the second child, though some chapters are related in the third person.

The parents, Sid and Faye, are well educated and come from wealthy backgrounds. They choose to live in a house they built themselves, with unconventional plumbing, a dirt floor, and pot growing under the kitchen sink. The children are free to roam the hills and fields. Their babysitter plays cards with her naked friends and invites the children to join but "they'd rather not play." Sid and Faye separate and then there are the lovers to be dealt with as well.

The children, especially Maeve and her older sister Lu, try desperately to be conventional, in the face of some very embarrassing moments with both parents but especially their father. Their younger brothers are lightly drawn and don't become distinct characters; in fact they almost vanish from the scene in the last sections.

The entire book is told with very little penetration into the children's "inner workings." The writing is beautiful, lyrical, but it's hard to feel that you really know or understand the characters. The reader could be watching a beautiful movie with the volume turned all the way down, or in a foreign language with no subtitles. How did Faye and Sid choose this path?

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Amara VINE VOICE on July 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I could picture the world evoked in parts of this book very well. I grew up in a similar time and place to the children here---among hippies with kids and tough troubled natives of a rural area. I think the characters here are written to a bit of an extreme---the hippies are more out there, the natives mostly seem to border on psychotic or sociopaths---but I recognized the general picture. The parents, rich kids who rejected their background, are also fairly believable, yet again, done to extremes.

However, the book seems to me to try too hard to be artsy and ethereal. The point of view changes all the time---sometimes it's a "we" for all four kids, sometimes a specific kid---and this isn't really necessary for the narrative. The various boyfriends and girlfriends of the parents drift in and out, without always seeming to serve any role in the book. The children's personalities never become distinct, and their reactions to startling events never seem true to life. There are too many neighbors to keep track of, each with a tiny cameo. In general, the book is a bit of a mess---a pretty mess, an interesting mess partly, but a mess, like the father's apartment always is.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Newsworthy on June 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm kind of surprised by the other comments here. Not only is this book written with the thoughtful, spare, articulate skill of a poet, it also kicks up a plume of dust that engulfs and transports us into the interior worlds of memory. It doesn't seem to me that the book was ever intended to be a blow-by-blow narrative of a group of kids growing up. The writing has a much more ambiguous quality, and moves easily through different perspectives and voices.

Swann's writing is big on imagery. This is certainly one of her strong points. Whether it's a girlfriend's blonde hair, the texture of mud dried on skin, or the first stirring of sexual arousal, she really knows how to write the image sensually.

She's also adept at capturing the prismatic universe of interior emotions. Especially those of the children growing up in a world that is alienating and borderless. I especially love the sequence where the mother's new boyfriend takes them around cutting down trees to block off roads that hunters are using with no thought that this will also block the kids' school bus route in the morning.

Flower Children reminded me a lot of my childhood. Not that my parents were hippies; but I think that a lot of the free-ideas of the 70's trickled into the mainstream and led to a lot of suspect child rearing, all in the name of free love, which unfortunately translated into adult selfishness. That's my take, anyway.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Betty L. Dravis VINE VOICE on October 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Publisher's Weekly writes: << This wistful, episodic second novel by Swann (Serious Girls) is made up of vignettes about four sibling "flower children" whose parents are Pennsylvania farm country back-to-the-land hippies. Swann portrays the free-floating '70s coming-of-age of these four siblings--Lu, Maeve (who narrates much of the novel), Tuck and Clyde--who delight in running freely in the countryside, but grow embarrassed by the unconventional practices of their politically active, casual-dressing parents. >>

Now, doesn't that sound good?

Well, it isn't!

Flower Children is beautifully written, but it's simple little vignettes of the siblings at play and "road-tripping" with their father after their parents are divorced. The stories of these very likable, precocious children are rather amusing, but not enough to carry a book. I kept trudging on through, waiting for something to happen. Something exciting and extra-ordinary.

But nothing ever happened, so what's the point?

Some would say the "point" is to depict the unorthodox way hippies raised their children and to show that these kids came out good in the end. That would make sense and be acceptable if there had been some action along the way. The most action was when the father occasionally brought one of his many bimbo-like girlfriends on a trip.

This book did not portray a sense of strong moral fiber on the part of the Harvard-educated parents, but it clearly showed their rebellion against the conventional ways of their elitist, wealthy, more shallow parents.
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