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Goldberg Variations: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2012

102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Gloria Garrison, née Goldberg, is the sort of matriarch who takes the passive out of passive-aggressive…Goldberg Variations is always at its most engaging when [Gloria] is at her least.” (Jan Stuart The New York Times Book Review)

“The women who inhabit Isaacs’ books are smart, sexy, a little snarky, and filled with some serious chutzpah….Goldberg Variations is no exception.” (Rachel Martin NPR’s “Weekend Edition”)

“This wise, witty, relationship-driven novel is a truly original family saga….Readers will find Goldberg Variations enchanting from beginning to end.” (Ellen Meister Long Island Woman)

Always sassy, smart and wickedly witty, Susan Isaacs’ novel is both hilariously funny and a moving tale of family, faith and reconciliation.” (Book of the Month club)

“Isaacs’ whip-smart, shrewdly scathing, and spirited portrait of a malevolent matriarch worthy of the Brothers Grimm and her Disneyesque coterie of too-good-to-be-true grandchildren is both a saucy satire and a redemptive study of the indelible bonds of families.” (Booklist)

“A deliciously wicked tale of family dysfunction…” (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Susan Isaacs is the author of thirteen novels, including As Husbands Go, Any Place I Hang My Hat, Long Time No See, and Compromising Positions. She is a former editor of Seventeen and a freelance political speechwriter. She lives on Long Island with her husband. All of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451605919
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451605914
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,140,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

First, here's what the critics say::

AFiction done well and done with a difference...A sophisticated storyteller, with a wry view of the world.@ - Washington Post

AJane Austen brought up to date...Highly amusing.@ - Atlantic Monthly

ASusan Isaacs is a witty, wry observer of the contemporary scene.@ - New York Times Book Review

ASardonic humor and dead-on commentary.@ - Houston Chronicle

ASusan Isaacs knows the art of dialogue the way J.S. Bach knew the art of the fugue.@ - Seattle Times

Blockbuster writers tend to be no more than terrific storytellers. Susan Isaacs=s talents go far beyond that. She is a witty, insightful, and elegant writer.@ - Mademoiselle

AI can think of no other novelist--popular or highbrow--who consistently celebrates female gutsiness, brains and sexuality. She=s Jane Austen with a schmear.@ Maureen Corrigan- National Public Radio Fresh Air

AWho....., is our best popular novelist? The nominee for this quarter is Susan Isaacs....[She] is a comic realist, an astute chronicler of contemporary life in the tradition of....Anthony Trollope.@ - Sun Sentinel

Susan's biography

Susan Isaacs, novelist, essayist and screenwriter, was born in Brooklyn and educated at Queens College. She worked as an editorial assistant at Seventeen magazine writing everything from book reviews to advice to the lovelorn. In 1968, Susan married Elkan Abramowitz, then a federal prosecutor. She became a senior editor but left Seventeen in 1970 to stay home with her newborn son, Andrew. Three years later, she gave birth to Elizabeth. During this time she freelanced, writing political speeches as well as magazine articles.

In the mid-seventies, Susan got the urge to write a novel. A year later she began Compromising Positions, a whodunit set on suburban Long Island. It was published in. Her second novel, Close Relations, a love story set against a background of ethnic, sexual and New York Democratic politics (thus a comedy), was published in. Her third, Almost Paradise, was published in 1984. All of Susan's novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Her fiction has been translated into thirty languages.

In 1985, she wrote the screenplay for Paramount's Compromising Positions, which starred Susan Sarandon and Raul Julia. She also wrote and co-produced Disney's Hello Again. The 1987 comedy starred Shelley Long and Gabriel Byrne.

Her fourth novel, Shining Through, set during World War II, was published in 1988. The film adaptation starred Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. Then came Magic Hour January 1991, After All These Years in 1993. Lily White in 1996 and Red, White and Blue in 1998. In 1999, Susan came out with her first work of nonfiction, Brave Dames and Wimpettes: What Women Are Really Doing on Page and Screen. During 2000, she wrote a series of columns on the presidential campaign for Newsday. Long Time No See, a sequel to Compromising Positions, came out in September 2001. Anyplace I Hang My Hat, was published in 2004. Past Perfect is her eleventh novel.

Susan Isaacs is a recipient of the Writers for Writers Award and the John Steinbeck Award. She serves as chairman of the board of Poets & Writers and is a past president of Mystery Writers of America. She is also a member of the National Book Critics Circle, The Creative Coalition, PEN, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the International Association of Crime Writers, and the Adams Round Table. Besides writing innumerable book reviews, Susan has also written about politics, film and First Amendment issues. She lives on Long Island with her husband.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By vox libris TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When I read Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, I was furious when it ended. Those of you who have read it know the plot-based reason, but I was also angry because it ended ... period. I wanted to keep reading. I loved the characters, the story, the way Isaacs writes. I had a similar, if not altogether as intense, reaction when I read Lily White.

So I was really looking forward to Goldberg Variations. For one thing, Bach's symphonies by that name stir my soul. And for another, it's Susan Isaacs! And I love her!

And I was so disappointed!

Let's just be honest. There is not much to like about this book. The characters are almost uniformly reprehensible, with one exception (and she's such a minor character that you don't even meet her till the closing chapters), but that could be forgiven if the story were interesting. Which it isn't.

Dare I say it? I was bored. Bored by Susan Isaacs!

I never thought I'd say those words.

The setup is focused on Gloria Goldberg, one hot bitch if ever there was. Gloria is the brains and force behind Glory, Inc., a sort of "meals on wheels", fashion-style, for the harried woman who needs a caftan to feel complete. Gloria's two sons each begat children, and she summons the three of them to her palace in Arizona to propose a partnership. She will select one of the lucky trio to run Glory when she dies, while the other two get nothing. Not one cent of all of her money.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I cannot honestly say that my failure to have read Susan Isaacs was really nagging at me, but when the publisher offered me a chance to review the galley of her latest, I jumped on it. I knew I was well and truly overdue. And what a pleasure this introduction proved to be. Not because it's some major literary work; simply because it entertained me. Goldberg Variations captured my interest early with its cleverness and humor and kept me hooked through a rapid read.

I should mention that I am listening to Bach's Goldberg Variations as I type this review--a clever title for a novel about the dysfunctional Goldberg family. Other than the play on the characters' name, is there a deeper connection to the Bach? I don't know. Wikipedia tells me that "In music, a variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration, or any combination of those." Something about that feels resonant to family interactions and the repeated mistakes we tend to make in our dealings with those we love... But perhaps I'm stretching.

No, it's another classic that is the seed of this family dramedy. As alluded in the novel's description, Isaac owes a debt to Shakespeare's King Lear. She doesn't stretch the connection much beyond the barest premise. Her monarch is the assimilative Gloria Garrison, whose kingdom is Glory, Inc., a lucrative and thriving makeover business. Approaching eighty, Gloria finds herself estranged from everyone she was ever close to. She has no obvious heir.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jane Isay on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I love Susan Isaacs' novels. And Goldberg Variations is Vintage Isaacs. Funny, smart, full of feeling as well as social commentary, the book is terrific. I read it in two sittings, and the day, which was supposed to be filled with accomplishments, was filled with pleasure.
Meet the Goldberg's and you will never forget them. Brava!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By MysteryBuff on October 21, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I remember Isaacs classics such as Compromising Positions and After All These Years with such enormous pleasure, it's difficult for me to write a negative review of this title, but at this price, others must be spared! If you're into the endless poring over of negative feelings and motivations among family members, go for it. Otherwise, give it a pass. Nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- happens here except conversations. Granny talks to three grown grandchildren about the possibility of inheriting her successful business. They talk among themselves about why they probably don't want it. Granny talks to one grandchild, who then talks to her cousin, who then talks to her brother. You get the picture. After suffering through 50% of this, I clicked to the end to see if anything there surprised me. It didn't. Who is this author, and what has she done with Susan Isaacs??
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By The Gabster VINE VOICE on October 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have been a Susan Isaacs fan for a long time so I really anticipated a good read. What a let down! The story involves a grandmother and her three estranged grandchildren. Isaacs writes about the same situation from each of the characters' perspective ala Rashoman. The grandmother is a super wealthy entrepreneur who informs her grandchildren that only one could qualify to inherit her business. No one inherits a cent. She had two sons, one is still living. She has no friends and is downright unpleasant. Her relationships with others are nonexistent due to her lack of interpersonal skills. The story is boring and the chapters are long, drawn out and failed to hold my interest. I forced myself to read it to the end hoping that things would improve. They didn't.
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