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Unfinished Desires: A Novel (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – July 27, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
"This rich world…draws and holds the reader from the first to the final pages of the work. " —Denver Post
"Tender but clear-eyed …Godwin’s South has always been a place where charm and good manners can barely conceal the emotional drama pulsing beneath the surface…Recalls the fraught family bonds of Godwin’s best novels…"—San Francisco Chronicle
"Godwin’s reserved yet powerful new novel is set in a boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina…Though it’s a beautiful well-intentioned institution, the school is anything but serene…."—New York Times Book Review
"If you plan on reading just one great novel in 2010, this might be it… a big old-fashioned book about jealousy and passion at a Catholic girl’s school, written with Gail Godwin’s trademark depth and humor…."—Bookpage
"Godwin’s writing is … marvelous, engaging, clever." —Christian Science Monitor
"Poignant and transporting…convincing, satisfying."—Publishers Weekly
"Intoxicating… Godwin’s latest novel charms."—Asheville Citizen-Times
"Masterly."—Dallas Morning News
“A strong story populated by a host of memorable characters–smart, satisfying fiction, one of the author’s best in years.”—Kirkus Reviews starred review,
"If you plan on reading just one great novel in 2010, this might be it. Unfinished Desires is a big old-fashioned book about jealousy and passion at a Catholic girl’s school, written with best-selling author Gail Godwin’s trademark depth and humor … Godwin’s 13th novel is filled with penetrating observations on women’s friendships, family and faith … The wise, human story she tells reaches beyond the boundaries of region and religion, satisfying any reader looking for a good story."—Bookpage
"What better setting for exploring female bonds than a Southern Catholic girls’ school where epic feuds and forgiveness pass through generations? Godwin’s take is smart and intriguing." —Good Housekeeping
"Ten Titles to Watch For: This seasoned author revisits familiar territory. Fascinating, always."—O: The Oprah Magazine
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The central narrative is the school year of 1951-52 at a Catholic boarding school, Mount St. Gabriel's, in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. Mother "Suzanne" Ravenel, age 85, is reaching back and writing her memoir in 2001 of her time as a student and then headmistress of the now defunct school. She is plagued by events that occurred that one year, especially after her freshman girls staged the annual spring play and brought buried secrets into the performance. She feels stuck and unable to write about that time. Memories--how they are interpreted and relived and revived by the people who remember them--that is the primary theme that this intricate web and convoluted story is built upon.Read more ›
I did, however, like it that Godwin constantly switches her time frame over an eight-decade span. The container, set in 2001, is the taped narrative of Mother Ravenel, recalling her years as headmistress of the school, Mount St. Gabriel's in North Carolina, in the middle years of the century. Most of the detail comes from 1951-52, which the headmistress refers to as the "toxic year," when a particular combination of high-school freshmen triggered a chain of events that resulted in scandal and expulsions. There are also memories of the school in the thirties, when Suzanne Ravenel herself was a student, and her relationship with several of the mothers of the 1951 crop may well have sown the seeds for later discord. The last few chapters suddenly plunge into 2007 and 2008, covering fifty years of lives led in the outside world; these are a relief from the glacial pace of non-events in the main narrative, but they come too late.
So what is it that made 1951-52 so toxic? Surprisingly little. The girls, despite their human teenage flaws, are attractive and interesting, and what they get up to is little more than petty acting out.Read more ›
The novel masterfully straddles the past and the present; the conceit is that Mother Ravenel, the former headmistress, has chosen to write a memoir about Mount St. Gabriel, the prestigious boarding school located in North Carolina. Her memories bring her back to one pivotal moment: an incident that resulted in the expulsion of two students and her own leave of absence.
Ms. Godwin's mastery of the Catholic religion -- minus the preachiness that is often found in some lesser writers -- is evident. Mother Ravenel and her newest hire, the ethereal ninth grade teacher Mother Malloy, partially choose their vocation because of the desire for exemption. "I didn't want to be like my mother raising seven kids and sipping cheap sherry. I wanted to be like a certain nun I admired, standing in front of a classroom teaching belonging to no one but an invisible spouse," Mother Ravenel confesses.
But is her calling really pure? There are hints early on about her love for her best friend Antonia who also wanted to take vows. That friend ended up marrying and dying early; her identical twin sister Cornelia has never forgiven her. Now Cornelia's own daughter is under her tutelage -- Tildy Stratton, the high-spirited and dyslexic ringleader of her class and her sometime own best friend, Maud Norton, a girl who may be growing up too fast.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Gail Godwin is a masterful writer, and her ability to delineate so many characters is quite amazing. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Claudia Remington
I'm a Gail Godwin fan but this book was disappointing. It was well written and the basic story was interesting but it was simply rambled on too long.Published 13 months ago by Janie Bunch
I am halfway through this book and I really like it. I grew up in the 60's and attended Catholic school for 12 years. Read morePublished 17 months ago by bookworm
Too many characters, too many intrigues, too many underhanded deals, too much religious nonsense , too much viciousness , too much prurience ....and to what end ? Read morePublished 21 months ago by FRS
Gail Godwin’s attention to the minutiae of crapolic schoolgirl life is astounding. Now if only she could make even one of those details interesting. Read morePublished on March 22, 2014 by reticulately
I doubt anyone born after 1970 will completely understand the social pressures on girls and women of the time. Read morePublished on December 26, 2013 by HappyCamper
you know, i read this book but right now i can't recall a thing
about it. but i believe it was pretty good
I read Flora, by Gail Godwin, and couldn't put it down!! I couldn't wait to read more of her books and decided on Unfinished Desires. Read morePublished on July 11, 2013 by pab931
Unfinished Desires is tells an engaging story, but the pacing could have been better. The novel focusses on a year at an all-girls Catholic school in the south during the early... Read morePublished on June 30, 2013 by Elizabeth Hendry