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When Madeline Was Young: A Novel Hardcover – September 19, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385516711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385516716
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,379,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An unusual ménage poses moral questions in this fifth novel (after Disobedience) from Hamilton, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for The Book of Ruth. Aaron and Julia Maciver are living in a 1950s Chicago suburb with their two children—and with Aaron's first wife, Madeline. Aaron has insisted on caring for Madeline after she suffered a brain injury soon after their wedding, leaving her with the mental capacity of a seven-year-old. Refusing to consider this arrangement inconvenient, Julia treats the often-demanding Madeline like a beloved daughter, even letting her snuggle in bed with Aaron and herself when Madeline becomes distraught at night. Decades later, the Macivers' son, Mac, now a middle-aged family practitioner with a wife and teenage daughters, prepares to attend the funeral of his estranged cousin's son, killed in Iraq, and muses about the meaning, and the emotional costs, of the liberal values of his parents. Hamilton brings characteristic empathy to the complex issues at the core of this patiently built novel, but the narrative doesn't take any clear direction. Though Mac suggests there are "gothic possibilities" in his parents' story (partly inspired, Hamilton says, by Elizabeth Spencer's The Light in the Piazza), the Macivers' passions remain tepid and unresolved, and Julia remains an enigma to her son. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

PEN/Hemingway award winner Jane Hamilton (for The Book of Ruth) delivers further proof of her stunning talent in her latest novel. The book is a subtle, provocative exploration of atypical family dynamics set against the backdrop of the tumultuous second half of the 20th century. Though the central plot element (which is partially drawn from Elizabeth Spencer's novella, The Light in the Piazza) is tragic, critics note that instead of becoming mired in grief, Hamilton is interested in the nature of sympathy and the powerful metaphor of a vibrant, happy life stopped in its tracks. It is another brave step in the upward trajectory of this talented writer's career.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

There's just not enough to grab onto in this book, which I very much wanted to like.
Paprikash
I've already paid for it, so I'll probably try to finish it, but don't waste your time or money.
Linda B.
I didn't like any of the characters in this book and the story was written in a boring way.
Fuzzy Lizard

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Haley Parnham on October 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As I read this book, When Madeline Was Young, I felt as though I was lost, wandering through a forest, searching for something - a beautiful butterfly, a perfect flower, a mystical cottage. But there's nothing there. It's just a forest full of a confusing tangle of leaves and vines and nothing mystical at all. And that's how this book is written. It is a tangle of thoughts and words, spread from the first page to the last. Nothing special at all.

I've read all of Jane Hamilton's books. I loved The Book of Ruth. Adored A Map of the World. They were both wonderful and I will always have positive comments for them, but I doubt I will ever buy another book by Ms. Hamilton. It's not that I want a "formula" book. But I do want to read something that I can relate to and I don't relate to this at all.

I don't like Mac, the narrator. His mother is just plain strange and not endearing or believable at all. I can't stand Buddy, his cousin. The rest of the characters I barely know and, quite frankly, don't want to get to know. Perhaps I've changed since her first book came out. Perhaps the author has. But whatever the differences, my love of Jane Hamilton's books has ended. Sadly.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Paprikash on February 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What Gertrude Stein said about Oakland -- there's not enough "there" there -- is true for "When Madeline Was Young." There's just not enough to grab onto in this book, which I very much wanted to like. I'm a big fan of Jane Hamilton, but this book just doesn't have enough plot points, or enough characterization. It's a novella, not a novel, an intriguing idea without any real development, just a series of incidents set in different decades. For a terrific read about the effect of a mentally disabled sibling on a family, I strongly suggest Sue Miller's "Family Pictures."
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Reader on October 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The writing was very disjointed in my opinion. I had to read and re-read many sentences to figure out what the author was trying to say. It was a struggle to read. No likeable characters. I made it to the part where it was introduced that Madeline slept with the ex-husband and current wife. Give me a break! I moved on immediately. Too many good books waiting for me to waste time on this absurd tale.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on August 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In When Madeline Was Young, Jane Hamilton creates one of the more unusual American families that readers will find in recent fiction. Their story begins with the 1943 bicycle accident that left newlywed Madeline Maciver forever trapped inside the mind of a seven-year-old child, an accident that shaped the Maciver family in ways that no one could have foreseen. Aaron Maciver, her husband, determined to do right by Madeline despite the fact her parents write her out of their own lives, refuses to even consider the option of placing her in any kind of institution. At the hospital, during the early days after Madeline's accident, Aaron is comforted by talking to Julia, a nurse whom he briefly met at his wedding, and they find themselves falling in love.

When Julia eventually becomes the second Mrs. Maciver, she and Aaron agree that Madeline must remain a part of their new family and she effectively becomes their first "child," something that does not seem at all unusual to the son and daughter who complete the family. It is through the eyes of their son Mac that we learn what happens to this remarkable family for the next several decades. Most of the book is set in the fifties and sixties, two decades that Hamilton recreates in a way that reminds the reader just how different they were from each other. Through Mac's memories of his childhood and teen years, she contrasts the enthusiasm and innocence of the fifties with the angst and anger that the Viet Nam war created in the sixties.

This was not the novel I expected it to be.
Read more ›
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By PEwy on October 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I loved other Jane Hamilton books that I have read; I greatly enjoyed both The Book of Ruth and A Map of the World. Based on my experiences with those books and with the synopsis of this book, I had expected a story that would revolve solely around Madeline. A great deal of the book, though, seemed to be devoted to pro- and anti-war sentiments of the Maciver family and Aunt Figgy's family (the Eastman/Fullers). My eyes glaze over when I get to those Vietnam bits, and I find myself glossing over them the same way that I gloss over the Civil War descriptions in Gone With the Wind. (But I am pretty much a Neanderthal reader, I guess.)
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Myra Clarke on November 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Examines unusual characters, circumstances, and relationships that distinguish the Maciver family across five decades. Hamilton's choice to tell the saga in limited third person perspective, through the character of "Mac," is unfortunate. Consequently, the novel lacks the thematic depth that could have been achieved with an omniscient point of view and the insight that could have been gained by assigning the title character narrative duties. Ultimately, the novel is about as tedious, meandering, and "distinctive" as any story about any American family in the second half of the twentieth century.
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