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On Green Dolphin Street: A Novel Paperback – January 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jazz fans may recognize the title of this tepid novel about a love triangle set in 1960, but the reference (to a 1960 Miles Davis hit) will do little to enhance their appreciation of this disappointing work, the fifth novel from British writer Faulks (Birdsong; The Girl at the Lion d'Or; Charlotte Gray). Moving away from his trademark early 20th-century French settings, the writer tries out his meticulous brand of melancholy romance on mid-20th-century America. Charles van der Linden, a British diplomat posted to Washington, is in a serious slump: his investments are losing money, political suspicions poison his career and he increasingly turns to alcohol for solace. His gentle wife, Mary, is holding things together, but when the couple's two children must be sent to school in England, she finds herself at a loose end. On a visit to New York, she is shown the sights by newspaper reporter Frank Renzo, and the two embark on a passionate affair. The outline of the story is unremarkable, but it does have dramatic potential: will Mary leave her disaffected, alcoholic husband and her beloved children to join her soul mate Frank in his quasi-bohemian Greenwich Village life? But Faulks doesn't generate the intensity he is known for, relying instead on unconvincing interior monologues and flashbacks to flesh out the three characters. He has clearly done his homework on the period details of current events abound, along with minute descriptions of what the characters eat, drink and smoke but the descriptions are just filler. The novel feels unformed and inert, with reportage substituting for imagination, and never reveals the heart-wrenching power that characterized Birdsong. 10-city author tour. (Jan. 15)Forecast: Birdsong and Charlotte Gray were bestsellers, but Faulks's latest effort looks unlikely to hit the charts, despite (or because of) its American setting. Faulks's earlier books, however, will soon get a boost: film adaptations of Charlotte Gray (to be released in the U.S. in early 2002 and starring Cate Blanchett) and Birdsong (unscheduled) are forthcoming.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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

From Library Journal

Having made it big in America with Charlotte Gray, a New York Times best seller, British novelist Faulks sets his new novel here. The heroine accompanies her diplomat husband to Washington, DC, in the cheerful Fifties, then finds her world upended as the Age of Aquarius dawns.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375704566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375704567
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This story is centered during the Cold War in the 1960's, and tells the story of Mary van der Linden and the two men she loves. One is her husband who is posted to the British embassy in Washington, DC and may be at the top of his game. The other love is journalist, Frank Renzo. They meet at a cocktail party and for some unexplicable reason they fall in love. Mary has two children who attend private school and during the school year she is at loose ends. An affair ensues and she and Frank meet in New York and other cities where Frank is following the young Jack Kennedey in his presidential bid. Mary has a full life in Washington but a husband who is not present. He is fully involved in the Russian story of the Cold War, and it is this post that will make or break his career. He does not notice Mary's absences except for the break in his routine.
Mary is called suddenly to England to help care for her dying mother , and then to help her father re-set his life. During this time Charlie is called to Moscow, and Mary plans to join him when her father has his life in place.
Mary has a conundrum should she leave her husband- she is his life- what would he do without her - what would her children do? But she in so much in love with Frank, and he her. He appreciates her and helps nmake her life come alive. Much of the book centers on Mary's decisions and how she makes them. Mary is afterall a realist, a romantic at heart but a realist in mind.
One of Sebastain Faulks better books-
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer R. Wright on January 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
On Green Dolphin Street

Never thought the 60's could be interesting, but Sebastian Faulks manages to write about this politically turbulent time in a very intriguing manner. This novel is both a post-war/cold-war psychological study and a full throttle story of love's infidelity. It is always enjoying to read Faulks' British perspective, in On Green Dolphin Street it is particularly interesting to see America through these British eyes; particularly the Kennedy era. Mary is a well-developed character who provides a portal to a wealth of human emotion ranging from her strong attachment to her children, her moral struggles as the wife of an alcoholic and her wrenching grief when faced with death/dying.

This novel is quieter than all of Sebastian Faulks' other novels, but its message is just as deep and meaningful while delivering a history steeped in fact.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Javier Echavarri on October 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
On Green Dolphin Street tells the story of a long triangle between Mary van del Linden, her husband Charlie, and Frank Renzo, a New York journalist. As important as the characters is the historical setting, which is America during the Nixon-Kennedy campaign. Faulks creates three vivid characters, each with their own motivations and weaknesses, and paints a love story that is passionate and filled with longing, but also with resignation.
What I liked about the book is the sense of urgency it creates and the mood it is set in. Among the main characters, Charlie is the one I felt more interesting. I also enjoyed the sections set in England when Mary's mother dies, how her feeling are wonderfully explored. Faulk's prose is literate although sometimes he gets too wordly when he describes the characters' thoughts, rendering them unreal. Also, I wasn't very interested in the politics.
All in all, a good read. Faulks proves his versatility with this novel. Don't expect another Birdsong though!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Even though I've read and enjoyed all of Faulk's other books I took a pass on "On Green Dolphin Street" when it first came out because of the mediocre reviews. Fortunately I happened to pick it up in the library and was so enchanted by the first two pages that I dropped everything else I was reading to finish it. Of all Faulks books I think it is best, if only for the fact it doesn't have all those distracting sub-plots like the grand-daughter in Birdsong and Charlotte's relationship with her father in Charlotte Gray. Mary van der Linden finds herself at age 40 with an alcoholic husband, two children who must be packed off to boarding school, a terminally ill mother and the attentions of an interesting newspaper reporter. How does she take care of everyone else and still be able to save herself? Faulk's writing is beautiful picking out wonderful details of life in the balance between the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. Frank and Mary make love with their words as much with their bodies. The scenes in which Mary and Frank try to keep their hands off one another are so filled with sexual tension you don't know whether to laugh or cry for them. Other scenes throughout the book are brilliant facets of a perfect gem. To be sure Faulks hasn't let go completely of his war stories. Both Frank and Mary's husband Charlie are scarred by their wartime experiences and still find themselves to soldiers of a sort in the Cold War. But it's Mary's battle to decide between the two men she loves that kept me turning the pages right up until the end.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By J. F Malysiak on January 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A not entirely successful new novel by the bestselling author of such highly respected works as Birdsong and Charlotte Grey. While Faulks's attention to period detail is, as ever, right on the money - New York's Greenwich Village during the Beat era is evocatively rendered - and his writing at times utterly gorgeous, the story, about a British diplomat's wife and her affair with a New York newspaper journalist, only takes off in sporadic bursts. The character of Mary is sympathetic, but the reader feels more an observer of the events unfolding than an actual participant in them, despite heavy use of interior monologue and flashback. Her husband Charles,again, is sympathetic but not particularly developed. Faulks's most successful character here is Frank, the American journalist with whom Mary falls in love. He just feels right, completely representative of New York City in that place and time.
With all that said, however, I did find the final third of the novel quite moving when Mary must make the inevitable choice between her husband and her lover.
Recommended reading ... just with some reservations.
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