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Goldengrove: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 16, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Author and essayist Francine Prose's novel Goldengrove will be a surprise to readers familiar with her famously razor-sharp dialogue and tough-love attitude towards her memorable characters. In this affecting coming-of-age novel, Prose introduces us to Nico, a chubby thirteen-year old girl who imagines nothing more than keeping her parents at arms length and hanging out with her older sister, Margaret and her charismatic boyfriend during the long summer break. Instead, Nico finds herself navigating the perilous course of mourning after her beloved sister drowns in the lake just beyond the family's home. With little support from her grief-stricken parents, she must come to terms with the tragedy largely on her own. Prose's ability to situate the adult reader within the heart and mind of young Nico is quite remarkable, and verges on the poetic. Goldengrove is a poignant story that prompts us to retrace those often long-forgotten, but monumental early steps towards acceptance and understanding. --Lauren Nemroff

From Publishers Weekly

In Prose's deeply touching and absorbing 15th novel, narrator Nico, 13, comes upon Gerard Manley Hopkins's Spring and Fall (which opens Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?) in her father's upstate New York bookstore, also named Goldengrove. It's the summer after her adored older sister, Margaret—possessed of beauty, a lovely singing voice and a poetic nature—casually dove from a rowboat in a nearby lake and drowned. In emotive detail, Nico relates the subsequent events of that summer. Nico was a willing confidant and decoy in Margaret's clandestine romance with a high school classmate, Aaron, and Nico now finds that she and Aaron are drawn to each other in their mutual bereavement. Unhinged by grief, Nico's parents are distracted and careless in their oversight of Nico, and Nico is deep in perilous waters before she realizes that she is out of her depth. Prose eschews her familiar satiric mode. She fluidly maintains Nico's tender insights into the human condition as Nico comes to discover her own way of growing up and moving on. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066214114
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066214115
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,279,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. A former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Francine Prose lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"When I said I didn't want to go out, they sounded a little annoyed, as if I was acting princessy and spoiled. Why didn't I appreciate the good deed they were doing? They seemed relieved when I said no and they could hang up before I changed my mind or started crying. Naturally, they sounded strange. They weren't talking to the same person. I was no longer Nico. I was the dead girl's sister." -- From Goldengrove

Choosing this book to review from the Amazon Vine Program was an utter gamble on my part, for I never heard of Francine Prose and wasn't sure if I was up to a book on grief (especially having lost my first husband to leukemia).

What I discovered while reading Goldengrove was an author who had the extraordinary ability to paint subtle word pictures that animates sunlight, dust, song, shirt, fireworks, ice cream, pond scum and other surroundings normally overlooked on a given day. But arguably author Francine Prose's best gift, at least in this book, is offering an unflinching, accurate portrayal of the way individuals differ in handling grief.

I won't provide you plot details, for others have done so and I don't want to spoil your experience.

What I wish I could communicate (but words are failing me) is the uncanny ability the author has for getting under your skin--making you sympathize and squirm, exult and panic--by writing a book that appears to have a straightforward plot: a girl drowns, and her family and the dead girl's boyfriend attempt to deal with it.

While Goldengrove may sound like a depressing book, it's not. Sobering, yes...it catapulted me into a very contemplative mood for a day ("Gothic" my husband remarked).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I almost entitled this review with the quote from the book "hopeless love triangle with the dead" and though that does describe a major theme there is much more to the story than that. The book is set in present day upstate New York and the narrator of the book is Nico who is apparently writing from the future as she describes the summer she was thirteen and her beloved sister Margaret drowned due to an undetected heart ailment shortly before her high school graduation. Margaret was a "star" in their small town, a beautiful girl and talented singer with her own unique style. Nico, at the time of the tragedy, was a bookish and chubby thirteen, curiously watching and wondering about her glamorous sister's relationship with Aaron, a budding artist, who is disapproved of by her parents probably because of some bipolar tendencies that are shown as the book progresses. After Margaret's death Aaron took an interest in transforming Nico into a replica of her sister and I am very grateful the author did not take that relationship any farther than she did.

GOLDENGROVE is an exquisitely written, insightful, short novel with many well drawn and sympathetic characters including Nico and Margaret's aging hippie parents, Elaine a single mom of a handicapped child and her son Tycho a quite realistically drawn person with autism. Prose references many things from history and pop culture such as the 19th century cult the Millerites, the 60's pop singer Nico, and Hitchcock's movie VERTIGO all of which sent me scrambling to the internet to find out more about them. This is a good choice for both adults and teens who want a story with strong and ultimately life affirming themes.
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Format: Hardcover
I see that most/all the 2 star reviews are getting super blasted. Still, sticking with my gut and my code of honor, I'm going out against "Goldengrove". Give me a few minutes of your time and I'll explain why.

"Goldengrove" is the kind of book that I can see many picking up eagerly. It makes sense. The subject matter is dark, mournful, and intriguing - dangerous boys and death. What could be better for some readers? Well, premise is fine and all, but a book needs to live up to it. And "Goldengrove" simply does not. While tastily written (in that Prose's prose is elegant, swift, and descriptive), the plot (surprisingly reminiscent to teen counterpart "Saving Zoe", minus the murder) is bland. Almost all the characters sound the same. Another reviewer blasts the "fantasy" in that the teens like old movies. That part is fine. It's the unconvincing tone of 13-year old Nico that disappoints (even I didn't speak like that then). It's the way every character sounds the same, how no character other than Nico ever gets even slightly fleshed out.

"Goldengrove"'s premise rang false with me too. This is the umpteenth book with this premise I've read, where the glamorous beloved older sister dies and the simpler younger one deals by trying to live her sister's life. The teen (+murder) version of "Goldengrove" is "Saving Zoe" by Alison Noel. And while that book too had its flaws, it at least felt vaguely real to me. "Goldengrove" felt overdramatized, with that gasping incompleteness at the end. It didn't touch me emotionally (as one would expect) and it simply failed to convince. The one thing it had going for it was the clear, lucid writing. Beautiful, yes. Meaningless? Yes.

Ultimately, "Goldengrove" is lacking in a number of regions.
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