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The Gin Closet: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, May 3, 2011

37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Jamison's beautifully written debut follows independent young New Yorker Stella and her estranged aunt Tilly as they form some version of a family. Stella is disenchanted with her life and job as a journalist's personal assistant; Tilly is a professional lost soul, a former prostitute, and an unsuccessful recovering alcoholic. To all appearances, Stella is the savior, finding Tilly, who's been shunned by the family, to rescue her; but through alternating first-person accounts, the reader grows to view the two women as equals. Their experiences with men especially mirror one another's; Tilly has merely had worse luck. Stella describes wanting a man, any man, who could offer his face as a label for my loneliness; later, recalling men she's been with, Tilly says, most of them I didn't even like that much, but they seemed like the easiest way to change my own life. The relationship between Stella and Tilly is compelling, as are their relationships with auxiliary characters, like Stella's brother and Tilly's son, but what truly drives the novel is Jamison's gorgeous prose. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

First-time novelist Jamison portrays three generations of “wounded women” in an exquisite blues of a novel. The youngest, pretty Stella, is living the hip, single New York life, but she takes the train to Connecticut at night to care for Lucy, her grandmother, from whom age is stealing strength and clarity. When Stella learns a family secret, that she has a long-estranged aunt, she finds Tilly in a trailer park in Nevada and becomes entangled in her toxic sorrows. Narrating by turns in each lonely woman’s voice, Jamison creates emotionally complex scenes of harsh revelation in language as scorching as the gin Tilly downs in terrifying quantities. Stella is nearly as bedeviled, having struggled with the weird, dicey power of anorexia. The two make their way to Tilly’s banker son’s fortress of an apartment in a sketchy neighborhood in San Francisco, where all three are forced to recognize the limits of love. With trenchant cameos by other women teetering on the brink, Jamison’s novel of solitary confinement within one’s pain is hauntingly beautiful. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143915323X
  • ASIN: B0071UP2IM
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,276,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Leslie Jamison grew up in Los Angeles but currently splits her time between New Haven and Iowa City. A graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she has also spent time working as a schoolteacher in Nicaragua and an innkeeper on the coast of California. She is currently a PhD candidate in American literature at Yale University. She is twenty-six years old.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Alayne VINE VOICE on June 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes you pick up a book and it ends up being one of those truly amazing pieces of writing, the kind you wish you could have created when you were in your early twenties with college-angst. The kind professors yearn for and literary critics swoon over. Leslie Jamison makes me green with writers-envy. Her ability to take a string of simple words and turn them into a profound sentence blew me away on (what felt like) every page.

On the material surface, The Gin Closet is a novel about two women, one trying to find herself, one trying to survive. When Stella learns she has an estranged aunt she packs up her meaningless New York City existence and moves to the desert to help this broken woman cope with alcoholism and loneliness. Tilly is a mess, she seems to only hurt the people around her and has been that way she since she was young. She hasn't had an easy life so when Stella turns up Tilly surfaces from her gin-induced waking-coma to think of the life she could possibly have, a life that means something, a life near her son in San Francisco. Together, Stella and Tilly embark on a trip, not a journey to somewhere even though they have a destination; more a sort of movement, fumbling many times along the way.

Told from both women's first-person points of view, Stella is damaged, and Tilly is lost. The dueling narratives juxtapose these women, and give the reader a unique sense of being each of them, as well as watching each of them. This is a novel about family paradigms, but more specifically, female family paradigms: what it means to be a mother, a daughter, or a sister; what we do to our family and what is done to us. Jamison draws a true, poignant portrait of the dichotomy between female relations.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nipomo Elementary School Library on March 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
While the premise of the book sounded compelling--niece Stella tracking down her wild, runaway aunt , the writing seemed to get in the way of the story. Every paragraph was packed with similes and description like an imagery assignment for a creative writing class. I kept thinking enough already, let's get to some story, some action. I appreciate good writing and creative use of language but this book contained just too much. As for the story, there wasn't much of it . . . I agree with what another reviewer said. If you like a character study, than perhaps this book would appeal to you.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By charlotte on March 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Gin Closet is an extraordinary split portrait, beautifully illuminated and profoundly original. Stella and Tilly are both estranged--from their families, from the world. At once reflective and searching, they reveal themselves with unflinching candor and sensitivity.

Jamison's prose is lyrical but never protrusive, each moment of language perfectly distilled and woven into the narrative.

Its intimacy, its flashes of humor, its unrelenting honesty--this novel is often challenging and always magnificent.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By jf248 on March 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In The Gin Closet, two women tell their stories: Stella, a young and disenchanted New York college graduate, and Tillie, her estranged and troubled aunt, whose existence the family has denied for decades. The characters move gingerly into each other's lives, revealing lost worlds of history and trauma to one another. The book charts new territory in its exploration of the rescuer/victim dynamic, complicating the traditional roles at every term. And the pages turn quickly--I was wowed by the personal revelations, the twists of plot, the author's ability to sustain intensity scene after captivating scene. By the end, you feel as though you've read two books: a dazzling work of fiction, and a deeply human philosophical treatise on different types of pain, the many ways we can hurt and be hurt.

For fiction lovers, there's a simple joy here, too: feeling oneself in the hands of talented and capable author. The characters are rendered so well that they nearly lose fictional status--for much of my reading, I had the unsettling, thrilling feeling of spying on real people. There are turns of phrase to savor in almost every sentence, and Jamison demonstrates a gift for imagistic detail. The Gin Closet is an achievement for a first novelist--for any novelist. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Staci on June 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First thoughts after finishing: There are so many damaged people in this world. Many keep the damage to themselves while others have absolutely no problem dragging everyone else in their life down with them. This wasn't a lighthearted read by any means and it wasn't even one that I particularly enjoyed. But there was something about the way the author crafted the characters that made me care about them and made me want to hear their twisted as it was.

Recommend? Yes and No. Yes, if you enjoy reading about the inner demons of women and the destructive ways that they punish their bodies as if that will somehow make their life right again. No, if you don't enjoy reading about dysfunction. I do want to add that I thought the author's voice was exquisite and that the story flowed beautifully. The subject material was depressing and made me sad. The book elicited emotions from me and that counts for something.
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