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John Dollar (Wsp Contemporary Classics) Paperback – December 1, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Of this "mesmerizing" tale of eight shipwrecked British schoolgirls, their governess and her eponymous lover, a sailor, PW observed, "Wiggins strips away the veneer of civilization to reveal the raw, primitive heart of nature and human nature."
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Described by the author as a "female Lord of the Flies ," this book is every bit as chilling and brutal as Golding's. It is around 1919 and Charlotte, a young widow, takes on the job of tutoring the daughters of British subjects in Burma. She enters into a passionate affair with John Dollar, captain of a small ship. Soon a foreshadowing of the savagery to come occurs on an apparently genteel picnic when the migration of sea turtles to lay their eggs on the beach becomes a blood bath. In very quick order a tidal wave strikes, the young girls are left to survive on their own with a paralyzed John Dollar, and a group with no code of behavior or morals drifts into shocking cannibalism. The last 20 pages of the book are spine tingling. Wiggins (wife of Salman Rushdie) has given her readers an uncomfortably clear picture of a society in which great gentility and dark human conduct coexist. It is both thought-provoking and horrifying. Its dark, disturbing message about life on a primitive, lawless basis is neither easy to acknowledge nor easy to dismiss.
- Barbara Weathers, Duchesne Academy, Houston
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Wsp Contemporary Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 2nd edition (December 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671039555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671039554
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 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 (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I didn't like this book so much that I felt compelled to review it. Rather, I'm adding my two cents because I wanted to alert people that most of the other reviewers--typically those who didn't like the book--have chosen to ruin it for others by mentioning important plot twists that wouldn't otherwise be readily guessed.

My opinion on the book though... I think Wiggins is a skilled writer and storyteller. I enjoyed the book enough that I couldn't put it down the night I finished it, despite knowing that it would give me nightmares. The comparisons to Lord of the Flies are inevitable, but it is its own work. Some complain of being bored or confused by the first half. I felt the first half established her writing prowess, and overall, I consider this book to be creepy, moralistic fun.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ted Dintersmith on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although I'd hesitate to recommend John Dollar to anyone I didn't know well, I found it a compelling, disturbing, and thought-provoking read. It's a bizarre combination of Lord of the Flies, Little Women, and Pink Flamingoes, and definitely not for the casual fiction reader. I was troubled by the novel's structure, which is almost two entirely different subplots pieced together on a thin thread. And many of the images are almost impossible to dismiss from memory, as much as I would like to. But if you're looking for challenging fiction, willing to completely ignore the annoying "Study Group Questions" provided by the publisher at the end, and up to the challenge of thinking hard about what an often-brilliant novel is pointing to, this book is something you'll want to read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Maybe *John Dollar* won't strike you at the very beginning. Or perhaps the middle parts will bore you. You'll put it aside for a few days or weeks.
But keep going. It is absolutely worth it to reach the last third of this demented, beautiful, torturous novel. The intimate rituals of little English Christian girls discovering their natural paganism and their bizarre approaches to survival in an unfriendly environment create searing, crystal-clear mental images that I have not been able to shake since reading this book several years ago. Highly recommended, although you may not like having this stuff appear in your nightmares now and then.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 1997
Format: Paperback
disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful in parts this novel has the ability to draw you into the deepest and darkest depths of your mind and soul yet also to send you soaring above the seas that Marianne Wiggins paints so powerfully. This book will not let you put it down - chapter spills over into chapter and climax overturns climax. How can one describe the genre of this novel? I am not sure - it is a love story yet that is not its intention; to say that it is the story of the sea and of shipwreck is oversimplifying the issue. Certainly it is a commentary on human endeavour, explo!itation, conquest and adventure of the spirit - isn't that enough?

Read it yourself and decide - and after you have read it I am positive that you will want to read it again to complete the loop
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Ellingwood VINE VOICE on July 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing story from beginning to end. I read it in a few hours with only short breaks. A teacher named Charlotte goes to Burma to teach English children at a school for expatriates during the Colonial Age after World War I. She falls in love with a sailor named John Dollar and while sailing on a ship is stranded on an island after a tsunami destroys their boat. John and her students are stranded also. The writing is absorbing and compelling. I was drawn in from beginning to end. The ending came as a complete surprise. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cyn on November 13, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not sure if the BOOK is not for me, or if it's the author. I learned of this book from an article on NPR's website that recommended three books that were notably dark. I bought this and one other book described in the article. I really liked the other book, but not so this one, which is compared, inaccurately, with "The Lord of the Flies."

The language in "John Dollar" was poetic to the point of meaninglessness. The author seemed to choose phrases because they were pretty, not because they communicated much of anything. The author also seemed to prefer writing in a big circle around the major events (and even the smaller, supporting incidents) rather than addressing them head on. This to the extent that the reader may emerge from a chapter unsure what has just happened. The one time the author writes directly about an incident it's so engaging, almost heart stopping. It works so well. Why not do it more often?

The book is named for a character who doesn't enter the book until the midpoint, leaves before the end and, while I suppose he makes an impact on the lives of the other characters, his was an indirect choice at best. Relationships are not explored. "Why"s are ignored as if unimportant. In short, it's exactly the wrong kind of book for me. This may be the entirety of the author's style, which would mean that she's the wrong sort of writer for me, but I won't spend the necessary time to find that out for sure.

I've written in other reviews of my hatred for poorly-written back cover blurbs. Folks, if you read this review and then decide to read the book, DO NOT read the blurb. I managed to keep my eyes from the back cover until about 60 pages in, when I was desperate to find out if the story would ever have some sort of movement. So I read the blurb.
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