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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kate Zambreno's Green Girl
I think that Green Girl is one of the best novels of 2011. More than that, I feel like it's a novel I have been waiting to read my whole life. I can see the influences reviewers and Zambreno herself have mentioned - Lispector, Plath, the fact that Ruth is like Cleo in Cleo from 5 to 7. I love the novel for the way it engages with the history of art and literature as well...
Published on November 16, 2011 by Andrea Quinlan

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A melancholy book
Maybe I missed it. I guess I did. I felt so sorry for her. She seemed to have no home, no love in her life. She became a product of everything that is mainstream, yet she knew it, but couldn't seem to be released from it.
Published 14 months ago by RedHairWithaCurl


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kate Zambreno's Green Girl, November 16, 2011
This review is from: Green Girl (Paperback)
I think that Green Girl is one of the best novels of 2011. More than that, I feel like it's a novel I have been waiting to read my whole life. I can see the influences reviewers and Zambreno herself have mentioned - Lispector, Plath, the fact that Ruth is like Cleo in Cleo from 5 to 7. I love the novel for the way it engages with the history of art and literature as well as being a novel I can see apects of my own life in - even if I'm not and never have been an American working in London at a perfume counter. It's easy to identify with Ruth and her uncertainty and coming into being. I haven't read anything quite like it and I'm so grateful for it.

Green Girl is a novel that is impossible to put down, yet will stay with you once you have read it. You devour each chapter of Ruth's story which is punctuated with quotes, from Shakespeare to Rhys and Colette, like the intertitles of a new wave film. This is entirely appropriate as Ruth, who is a Godard like ingénue, is obsessed with the glamour of film and herself lives her life as a character observed by all - the women she works with, the men she has toxic relationships with, strangers on the streets, the maternal and voyeuristic narrator, us - the readers of the book. Yet, like Varda's Cleo, Ruth longs to escape from this glare to find something, her artistry.

Green Girl is a genius, brilliant work of art. A walk with a 21st century flâneuse. I can't recommend it enough.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dear God, I'm glad I'm not 20 anymore, May 30, 2012
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Scott Kennedy (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Green Girl (Kindle Edition)
A devasting prose-poem on the lack of identity that can infect one's early 20s. I loved it. Worth reading for the narrative voice alone. Also, I should mention that I had no intention of actually reading this book when I did. But glancing at the first few pages sucked me right in and then I couldn't stop. This is not a book to read for plot; it has little. But it captures and evokes an experience perfectly. As a reader in my 40s, this is a book to savor, remembering what it was like to be so unformed, and to make me damned glad I'm not 20 anymore. I could go on about other terrific qualitities of the book and the way it reflects our current society, etc., but really, you'd be better off reading it yourself (it's short) and forming your own opinion. Highly recommended. If I had to make a trite movie pitch for the book, I'd say think of it as Bridget Jones's Diary for pessimists or Catcher in the Rye for the Jersey Shore generation, one where our heroine is inarticulate and essentially vapid, but entrancing, troubling and moving nonetheless.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Icon of Ruin, January 30, 2012
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This review is from: Green Girl (Paperback)
Zambreno's prose reads like something out of Joyce -- lucid Joyce, as Nabokov put it, the "Ulysses"-era Joyce with his love of wordplay and attention to detail and epiphany -- but with a 21st century, post-feminist twist. The result is quite a literary achievement.

She begins her chapters with quotes from novels, movies, pop songs. Often when writers trot out aphorisms, it's to mask their own deficiencies. Not so here. I want to read his again with a red pen (okay, a green one) to mark the many sublime turns of phrase (of which "my icon of ruin" is but one) and essential truths that pop up on almost every page.

Unlike Ruth, her hapless heroine, Zambreno knows exactly what she's doing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You speak like a green girl, August 8, 2014
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This novel takes the pedestrian idea of the interior life of the young girl and allows it to soar. The green girl is Ophelia from Hamlet, "You speak like a green girl, unsifted in such perilous circumstances. " She cannot escape from herself and is doomed to observe herself, usually mercilessly, as she searches for the form of herself in her ideal setting. She lurks ambivalently through the "glow of thingness. Everything so beautiful." It is "porn for impressionable women", women such as she.

I picked this book up after reading a critique in the flawless "Bad Feminist", and I am beholden for the reference. It is wonderful witty book that achieves what so many fail attempting: it transports the older woman to her past. It has some sting, but it is a careful sting. I winced at times, but it was a good ache from remembered pain. This is a great book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quick Engrossing and Dark Read, April 17, 2012
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This review is from: Green Girl (Paperback)
The story is about a young 20-something American woman, Ruth, who moves to London following a heartbreak, of which the reader is only vaguely informed. In fact, the reader is not really fully aware of most of the "action" in this book; rather, the bulk of this book is snippets of feelings and thoughts. Ruth is going through a dark time, and the tone of the novel reflects her mood perfectly. She is clearly sad and lost, and possible explanations are only gradually exposed. But again, the sad events of her past are only incidentally featured in the story. Her depression holds the story very much in Ruth's present-day life and lingers in every action she takes and every thought she has. She bounces around in a near-aimless existence trying to make sense of her life, and as the reader tries to do the same, the book is really able to make its mark. While reading, this book made me sad. It made me feel sorry for Ruth and sympathize with her but at the same time made me want to pull her up and yell at her to get her life together. I think it's difficult to provoke strong feelings in a reader and this novel does it perfectly. It is a quick read and definitely worth your time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Green Girl, C'est Moi, December 14, 2011
This review is from: Green Girl (Paperback)
Reading Kate Zambreno's Green Girl was the like hearing a voice speaking through to my very bones. How often I have been the green girl--performing lines; dressing up; searching for the one who will hear my stories of loss and longing. With her notebook as "protective shield", the green girl is what my friends and I called gauzy, when vulnerable wasn't enough. This isn't the attractive vulnerability of a Hollywood starlet; the green girl is the open space in each of us, the space we don't want to acknowledge, and so she'll have to do. We need these girls, their beautiful, ugly emptiness, their impossible longing to self-destruct and to be born again. "So malleable she changes identities easily." We pathologize these girls, Zambreno seems to say, because the green girl reminds us of where we were, where we might be, where we long to be again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book, June 23, 2013
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This review is from: Green Girl (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book though it is hard to put into words. We meet Ruth, a young, lost girl, American living in London, working for Harrods and loathing it. Ruth is a blank slate, the reader follows her on her journey that seems to have no destination.
The writing was amazing, I actually started reading this after I was disgusted by the poor writing of a novel that had been showered with praise. This novel was like a palate cleanser for my brain. I loved it so much, I decided I needed a paperback copy. I have a feeling that this is a book I will re-read at least once a year.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A melancholy book, June 6, 2013
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This review is from: Green Girl (Kindle Edition)
Maybe I missed it. I guess I did. I felt so sorry for her. She seemed to have no home, no love in her life. She became a product of everything that is mainstream, yet she knew it, but couldn't seem to be released from it.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There are strangers here who wear your face., November 22, 2011
This review is from: Green Girl (Paperback)
THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT THE NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

In Kate Zambreno's hallucinatory and disjointed Green Girl (Emergency Press), we are lured into the world of Ruth, a young American girl lost and damaged in London. Following this ingénue into her dark musings, the echoes of voices fill the page--Ruth, HIM, her mother, the author, and the silver screen flickering in the distance. It is a hypnotic read--the duality of Ruth--her good side and her darkness, the need to behave and the need to be punished.

Scattered throughout this novel are several different voices. The first is a series of epigraphs--quotes from movies, the voices of directors and femme fatales, leading men and women, artists and philosophers, and the Bible as well. They form a narrative, not just a lead-in for each passage, but a thread that stretches across the book, defining our green girl, her emotions and desires, street signs to guide us through the cobblestones of London and the wrinkles of Ruth's mottled brain:

"I have a part of you with me. You put your disease in me. It helps me. It makes me strong."
--Isabella Rossellini in David Lynch's Blue Velvet

And:

"First of all, I must make it clear that this girl does not know herself apart from the fact that she goes on living aimlessly. Were she foolish enough to ask `Who am I?' she would fall flat on her face. For the question `Who am I?' creates a need. And how does one satisfy that need? To probe oneself is to recognize that one is incomplete."
--Clarice Lispector, The Hour of the Star

We are given these clues, these hints at what is really going on, where Ruth is in her emotional journey, what history she is standing on as she works at "Horrids" and goes to her parties, sleeps with men (and sometimes Agnes, her flat mate), and seeks some sort of depth and meaning in her life.

There is another chorus, a conversation that takes us back to the United States, to a past relationship, with an unnamed man who she only calls HIM or HE. As the story unfolds we come to realize that Ruth is unstable, damaged, hurt and lost. One passage that is repeated throughout, goes:

"There are strangers here who wear your face."

It isn't until much later in the novel that we get a more in-depth explanation of how HE hurt her, and what transpired between them:

"The first time we ever had sex you hurt me so badly that I was convinced my appendix had burst. You grabbed at me and shook me like a rag doll, throwing my legs over your shoulders, poking at my womb, my anus, my mouth. I had only known adoration before. Not this hate mixed with semen and want. I wrenched away from you like some hurt animal while you simmered in disgust, your penis dangling like a raw, red, piece of meat."

Adding to the layers that push our green girl down are more voices. The third one is difficult to label. It seems to be the voice of her dead mother, haunting her, watching over her, guiding her, but also judging. And in other places, it feels as though it is the voice of our author, breaking the fourth wall and speaking to us as her creator, breathing life into this character. It's up to the reader to decipher and come to their own conclusion, but take a look at these two passages. The first, is from the opening of the novel, and is about the birth of Ruth, which can be taken literally, as flesh born into this world, or as a metaphor for the author bringing this character to life:

"Ruth is still lovely as I see her. She is lovely perhaps in her impending decay, like a red rose whose petals are beginning to brown, her last gasp of girlhood. I want her to be young forever. My wonder child, wandering wild.

I am trying to push her out into the world."

And then much later in the novel, this passage:

"I make my green girl kneel. I am the harsh director. She begs and pleads: Please don't make me do it but there is a clause in her contract. I am reminded of the Barbie dolls that I played with as a young girl. I would perform the cruelest acts on my lovelies. I would behead them. I would cut off their hair to make them look like Ken. I would sentence their bodies to various torture machines. Perhaps writing for me is an extension of playing with those dolls. Ruth is my doll. I crave to give birth to her and to commit unspeakable acts of violence against her. I feel twinges of joy at her suffering."

Part of the journey that is Green Girl involves navigating between these three different voices, these sections that break out of Ruth's own narrative. It is a compelling way to structure a book, challenging at times, but once it seeps into you and festers, it expands to engulf you, absorbing you into the wet, dreary London streets, almost claustrophobic at times.

But above and beyond all of this is Ruth. She is a complicated protagonist, one that we want to root for, because she is hurt, because she needs help, even if she doesn't want to admit it to herself. She is constantly split between wanting attention, and abhorring it:

"Look at me
(don't look at me)
Look at me
(don't look at me)
Look at me don't look at me look at me look at me don't look at me don't look
(Look)
(Don't look)
I can't stand it if you don't look
Look
Look
Please
Stop"

We understand. There is a constant shadow hanging over Ruth, a sense of demise, and as she further abuses herself, there is a voyeuristic pleasure in watching her come undone. And yet, how far will it go? This darkness permeates the novel, always an echo, always adding an element of danger to the page:

"Train about to depart. Mind the gap. The doors shut like a silencer. Shooosssh. Crowded car. Bodies, bodies, bodies. Ruth remains standing, gripping the metal pole to steady herself. Maybe it'll miss the tracks next time, she thinks. She imagines her face smashed, unrecognizable. Gone in pieces like a porcelain doll."

And:

"She gulps down a cup of tea. The wet teabag in the sink lies there like a dead mouse."

Ruth gets pleasure from her own self-destruction. She is both narcissistic and desperate for love. When she masturbates, the first face that comes into focus is her own. She fantasizes about a beast destroying her, and when she finally gets a sweet young man, Rhys, to have sex with her, she immediately loses interest. And yet, when the bartender in a corner pub takes her downstairs and has his way with her in a storeroom, she disconnects, and pushes out of her body, performing "her magic trick of going dead inside."

What does Ruth want? How can she be satisfied? How can we help her? It is not clear. She needs closure, a way to get away from HIM, or she will continue to seek out men that abuse her, and find no fulfillment in the kind boys that are drawn to her. She is destined for a tragic death, and it is something that she wants, or thinks she does. It is only in the final sentences of this novel that we see that maybe she can be saved, maybe there is hope, if she can just let it all go, move on with her life, forgive herself for everything she has done, and be born anew:

"I want to go to a church she thinks. I want to sit in a church and let the white light bathe me. It doesn't matter what church, what religion. It would be best if I did not understand the mumbling pleas directed up high. I want to go to a church and direct my eyes up high and open my arms open my arms up to the ceiling. And scream. And scream. And scream."

Kate Zambreno has written a powerful, hypnotic, and lyrical book, with Green Girl. There have been comparisons to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and I think that is a good place to start, but somewhere in here there is also the violence and danger of the misanthropic American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and the work of Mary Gaitskill, as well. It is not just a cautionary tale, but also the baring of a soul--in all of her complex, damaged and vulnerable glory. Ruth will stay with you long after the book is closed, her shadow drifting down the streets of London, eyes wide, seeking something--forgiveness or acceptance, perhaps.
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4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars London Down, December 15, 2013
This review is from: Green Girl (Paperback)
Exactly it is, exactly why...

Londoners hate Americans...

Vapid, little nowhere girl...

Hold tight, your head's a twirl...

In deepest, deeper depressive state...

Tea at Three, skip along, one, two...ah, too late...

Rock it like your girl love...Sylvia...

P L A T H...do the math...

Two plus eleven is sixty-three...

In record files, recorded, a nasty English winter...

Ice hemorrhaging streets, thoroughfares...

East End, West End, six-foot icicles sway...

Now, sweet Hell, I come running...

Must prepare properly...

Seal off the kitchen...

Crawl into the oven...

Do the self-gassing thing...

Fade to black quick....Ruth who?

She was red, white and mostly blue...

Chris Roberts, Lord High God of Wintry Day
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Green Girl
Green Girl by Kate Zambreno (Paperback - October 10, 2011)
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