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Girls in White Dresses Paperback – May 1, 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 564 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

J. Courtney Sullivan Reviews Girls in White Dresses

J. Courtney Sullivan is the author of two New York Times bestselling novels, Maine and Commencement. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, and New York magazine, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Like a lot of women in America, I was awake at 4 a.m. on April 29th. But unlike the rest, I wasn’t waiting to see Kate Middleton walk down the aisle. I was reading Girls in White Dresses.

This hilarious, pitch-perfect debut more or less took over my life for three glorious days. I cancelled dinners, ignored deadlines and went without sleep, all because I could not stop reading it.

The author introduces an unforgettable cast of characters who navigate post-college life in the city. I laughed a lot while reading this novel, nodded knowingly, and occasionally wondered if Jennifer Close had been secretly reading my emails for the past ten years.

Any woman who has been a twenty-something can relate: There are first jobs (“Isabella knew [her boss] thought the Greek salad was super healthy, and for that she pitied him.”) First homes (“They hung mirrors on the walls to make the apartment seem bigger.”) First weddings (“You never want to be the first one of your friends to get married. If you are, just resign yourself to the fact that your wedding will be a sh-t show.”)

With wit and wisdom, Close captures every little detail of New York life in one’s twenties; that decade that so often begins with late nights out and ill-advised infatuations, yet somehow ends with bridal showers and babies and mothers-in-law named Button. Close leads her characters from the days of living together in cramped apartments straight through to a time when life has gotten hectic, obligations have increased, and a stolen weekend away at a beach house is the only bonding time they get.

Through it all--through drunken nights and hungover mornings, evil bosses, cancelled engagements, and that time Mary lost her mind and named her newborn baby Gertrude for three days--their friendships remain a constant.

Girls in White Dresses is reminiscent of Melissa Bank’s The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but at the same time it’s a total original, perfectly reflecting the events of recent years: One character loses her boyfriend to a charismatic political candidate, campaigning on hope and change. Another gets married the same weekend that the King of Pop dies, and her wedding turns into a Michael Jackson tribute concert.

Only once in a very blue moon does a book captivate me as much as this one did. Read it immediately and prepare to be up all night.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Remarkably relatable. . . . Close’s debut is an addictive, thoughtful, slice of life” —Entertainment Weekly
"What a delight! The young women in this hugely appealing book are charming, funny, rueful, poignant. . . . One of the freshest and most appealing new voices in fiction.” —Ann Packer
“[Close’s characters] grumble good-naturedly through their friends’ weddings and the births of their babies . . . with the pluck and gimlet eye of Carrie Bradshaw’s younger, smarter sisters.” —Vanity Fair

“You’ll relate, but mostly you’ll laugh as Close turns her sweet-tart wit on the dating and mating shenanigans of this tight-knit group of friends.” —Redbook

“Close’s witty voice . . .  charts the romantic shenanigans of a bevy of New York women in their 20s, before career success or Botoxed foreheads. Dating is a phenomenon to be analyzed in improvised group therapy over cocktails.” —The New York Times
“The one book that I will be recommending over and over again to all of my friends. I laughed, I cried, I nodded knowingly. . . . I can’t remember the last time I loved a book as much as this one.” —Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The One That I Want
“Close straddles the line between melancholy and breeziness as she chronicles the exploits of recent college grads trying to make it in New York City . . . Hints at something deeper and truer: not just the adventure of being young, but the unmooring of it, too.” —Entertainment Weekly
“These Girls are smart, funny and extremely engaging. You will adore them and their poignant—and often hilarious—romantic yearnings.” —Danielle Ganek, author of The Summer We Read Gatsby
“This debut will ring bells. Wedding bells. . . . An uncanny portrait emerges of a time in life marked by too many hangovers, bad dates and bridal showers—as well as an abundance of solid friendships.” —People 

“One wickedly observed first novel, a book that revels in contemporary city life, revealing it with a knowing flourish. . . . Girls in White Dresses is very much about New York City and about the current economic downturn. It’s about the changes that might be necessary and those that are not. It’s about friendship and heart, and it insists that relationships, if they’re solid enough, can withstand just about anything.” –The Anniston Star

 “[An] irresistible, pitch-perfect first novel.” —Marie Claire
“Anyone who has seen The Sound of Music—that is, everyone—will likely recognize the title of Jennifer Close’s Girls in White Dresses as a certain Oscar Hammerstein lyric. But given the tone and tenor of this debut novel, it shouldn’t surprise that the reference isn’t particularly affectionate. . . . Quite endearing.” —USA Today
“An unsentimental, frank novel about female friendship—its lifelong loyalties and unconditional love.” —Kate Christensen, PEN/Faulkner Award-winning author of The Great Man
“Modern and funny, with original, wry observations. Close’s debut novel will appeal to both fans of contemporary women’s fiction with a hip vibe and readers who enjoy old-school chick lit.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“One of the most buzzed-about reads of the summer. . . . Funny and often poignant; the tone of the book is reminiscent of Melissa Bank's popular 1999 novel The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing. . . . The vignettes of White Dresses are intricate and often absurd, yet instantly relatable.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“It’s a pleasure to get to know the characters and be able to leave them behind, knowing they’ll keep muddling on toward some version of happiness.” —The Columbus Dispatch
Girls in White Dresses is a dark, funny, intimate romp through boyfriends, first apartments, and great friendships—but beneath the surface lurks the jealousy, disappointment, and love that didn’t quite end up the way you thought it would. Jennifer Close’s brilliant, deadpan humor made me laugh so hard my own roommate thought I was nuts.” —Margot Berwin, author of Hothouse Flower
“So many books aimed at 25- to 35-year-old women say they perfectly capture the angst and soaring joys of post-college life, but Girls in White Dresses truly does. Told in intersecting stories of a group of friends, Close is able to nail the complexity of the times—who to date, what job to take and what to wear to the endless weddings.” —Metro News (Toronto)
“Reading each story feels like catching up with an old friend. . . . Although the majority of the stories are humorous, they are never mean-spirited, and the friendships Close portrays feel incredibly realistic.” —National Post
“Is this just another fluffy piece of chick lit about 20-somethings finally finding love? Not with Close’s wry wit and deadpan delivery, which make this debut novel a treat to read. . . . An original confection with echoes of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing and a dollop of Sex and the City.” —Shelf Awareness

“If Elizabeth Bennet were post-collegiate, hungover, lovelorn and living on the Upper West Side, she would definitely be rooming with the Girls in White Dresses. This debut is hilarious, warm-hearted and wise, and I couldn't put it down.” —Holly LeCraw, author of The Swimming Pool


Product Details

  • Paperback: 291 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307743691
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307743695
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (564 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Girls in White Dresses" follows a group of friends through their "freshman year of life" and beyond, to borrow a phrase from J. Courtney Sullivan's "Commencement." I don't mean to draw unnecessary parallels, especially since Sullivan wrote the featured editorial review on this novel, but I can't help but compare the two - especially because Sullivan's debut novel is so much stronger.

Some of the situations are relatable and touching (an ill-advised ski trip with a new boyfriend and his friends, a tipsy lunch with a despised college acquaintance), but the characters are so bland and forgettable that I repeatedly found myself wondering "Wait, which one is Lauren?" The women are so interchangeable that it was hard for me to feel particularly invested in any one story/career/relationship.

Given the press this novel has received, I guess I was expecting a much more compelling novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After reading the Amazon review I couldn't wait to read this book. I eagerly awaited it to hit the shelves so I could purchase it on my kindle. It started out okay, I could see some of my old friendships in a few of these characters. But the book just drug on and on and on.... I kept waiting for something really exciting to happen but it never did. I believe the Amazon reviewer said she couldn't put the book down and was awake until 4am. Really?! Because I think the only reason to be awake at 4 am reading this book, is if the book was actually written about you. Seriously, this book needs more substance. I would not recommend this book to my friends, but if you are really set on reading it go check it out from the library for free.
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By kate108 on January 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This book consists of short choppy paragraphs that do not even flow from one paragraph to the next. It feels like a little kid wrote this. Isabelle moved to NY. She met a boy. They went to dinner. Etc... There is no depth or subtance to the characters. SAVE YOUR MONEY!!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected this based on the blurb, which made it sound like a fun and sarcastic 20-something gal tale. I went in expecting a "Sex and the City" sort of vibe, but instead found a boring, badly paced and almost incomprehensibly scattered book.

The "story," and I use the term loosely, of a rather random group of college friends, is told in brief vignettes that jump in and out of the timeline to share their dating disasters, drunken escapades, sexual indiscretions and career catastrophes. The gist seemed to be that these girls, who you never really understand how or why, or even really if, they are friends, are sad-sack slackers with little in their life besides booze and, occasionally, each other.

I say "occasionally" because the peripheral characters, including supposedly pivotal boyfriends, come and go so randomly as to be even less than sketches. I only put the book down a few minutes ago and I don't think I can name a single one. Even the main characters are so poorly drawn you not only don't care about them, I couldn't even recall their main details (where they live, what they do, who they care about) or relationship to one another halfway through the novel.

Basically the book read like a co-workers' endless anecdote about a group of people you don't know, don't care about and will never meet. "So, I was at my cousin Stacy's wedding and Stacy's best friend, Nancy, has been dating this guy Phil for three years, but he's a real jerk and Phil's friend Ellen was there and she'd just broken up with her boyfriend Ben. Do you remember I went to school with Ben? Well, Ben and Stacy used to date and Ellen was jealous and Nancy heard Ben tell Phil that ...
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Format: Hardcover
So this is what a fine education at Boston College and an MFA from the New School produces: a gifted writer who willingly writes a novel about young female drunks who vomit their way through weddings and relationships with witless, wholly useless men. I have encountered more sympathetic characters in Bukowski novels and I have yet to meet a woman who would not tell the male characters in this book to get schtupped at their nearest possible convenience.

I am genuinely mystified by the stayed-up-all-night rave reviews from writers who have written much better books than this one. It makes me wonder how seriously we should ever take these blurbs.
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Format: Hardcover
This book looked so interesting. The reviews on the back were so positive ("I laughed, I cried"), and so on. But it was kind of like reading someone's diary. Very little descriptive writing, just little connecting stories about a few girls that knew each other. It read sort of like; Isabella went to work. She came home and ate supper. Then she went out to a bar with her friends. It was so boring I quit after Chapter 3. Sometimes I can't figure out how these books get published. Maybe it's all in who you know, not in what you know. That was kinda mean to say, but it is a mystery to me.
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Format: Hardcover
The friendships between several of the characters sounded true to life...sarcastic but loving, snarky but truthful...and that was good to read. It is the way a lot of women actually relate to their good friends. But, I got tired of, and then offended by, the author's use of the terms "retard" and "retarded" to describe behaviour that is being made fun of and by the author's obvious disdain for anyone that could be overweight. These were cheap shots, and had nothing to do with the plot (such as it is). There really is no "plot" and nothing of climactic import happens to these characters or, if it does, is mentioned briefly and life for the characters just moves along, in a somewhat boring fashion for all of them. The ending is the same way...nothing really truly settled for any one character, it just ends. All of these women just always seem vaguely dissatisifed and you are always left with the impression that they are all either settling or questioning themselves about "is this all there is?"
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