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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, hypnotic, seductive, I couldn't put it down.
White Oleander simply touched me more than almost any novel I have ever read. Astrid was a realistic character. Anyone who thinks that this novel was extreme and melodramatic in its portrayal of foster care obviously knows nothing of foster care or displaced children from disfunctional homes. Having worked in inpatient psychiatric units with both children and adults in...
Published on August 16, 1999

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like a Made-for-TV movie...
...Janet Fitch's White Oleander appears forced, mediocre, and pretentious. I could barely get through the first few chapters without balking at the countless similes and metaphors, for which Fitch should be praised for quantity, not quality.

I planned on only reading the book to pass time until I could get my hands on something better. However, like those...
Published on January 16, 2005 by M. Hess


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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, hypnotic, seductive, I couldn't put it down., August 16, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
White Oleander simply touched me more than almost any novel I have ever read. Astrid was a realistic character. Anyone who thinks that this novel was extreme and melodramatic in its portrayal of foster care obviously knows nothing of foster care or displaced children from disfunctional homes. Having worked in inpatient psychiatric units with both children and adults in state custody, I am well aware of how realistic Janet Fitch's book was.The things that happened to Astrid happen to children every day in this country. In fact reality is a little worse. The novel also presented the fact that we all recieve blessings and curses from our parents. Ingrid was a sociopath who did whatever she felt like doing regardless of who got hurt. She ruthlessly dominated her child's life "I am your home" and seemed to feel justified in doing so. However she also was a brilliantly educated poet who passed on the gifts that helped Astrid to survive her years in foster care: strength, independence, and a love of learning, a sharp intellect. I saw Astrid as a survivor who was as together as anyone could be after 6 years in foster care. In life, and in White Oleander, there is no happily ever after, and there are always loose ends. Fitch made me laugh and cry with her liquid poetry. A testement to survival.
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95 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book!, August 8, 2000
By 
I could not put this book down! "White Oleander" was wonderful from the very first sentence to the very last and I have Oprah to thank for bringing author Janet Fitch to my attention. The story is narrated by Astrid - a teenage girl - who suffers through years of living in the foster care system while her mother Ingrid serves a life sentence for murdering her ex-lover. (I can just envision a younger Angelina Jolie-type playing the role of Astrid in the film version.) Each family that Astrid lives with has its own unique (yet sometimes cliched) cast of characters that are instrumental in shaping and transforming the young woman she becomes. This is a novel of self discovery the hard way. I personally cannot imagine the loneliness and terror that Astrid experienced while bouncing from home to home to home. Ingrid stays present in Astrid's unstable life through letters and occasional visits and their strained relationship is key to Astrid's development. The character are so real, the writing style is beautiful, the plot moves swiftly and the story weaves the reader through every human emotion possible. While I'm not a fan of the Oprah Winfrey show, I am a fan of her book club and this novel ranks up there as one of her best picks.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Magnificent Piece of Modern Literature, September 10, 2002
By 
Tracey A. Nettell (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam) - See all my reviews
While Oleander is a beautiful and lyrical piece of contemporary literature with a storyline and cast of characters like nothing I have ever read. It is the story of the incredibly complex relationship between a self-absorbed "free spirit" and the daughter who wants nothing more than to be loved unconditionally as a child should be. When Ingrid is jailed for murder, so starts the long and rocky journey of Astrid as she moves from foster home to foster home. Few people will go through in their entire lifetimes what this child experiences throughout her early teenage years. Her journey is difficult but the author keeps her readers engrossed until the very end. This is a wonderful book and I sincerely hope the upcoming movie does it true justice.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A favorite, February 12, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
I found this book to be amazing. Probably the best part of the book was Astrid's mother, Ingrid. Her character was developed so well, it made me wonder how Fitch could think up all of her narcissistic qualities. The absurd things Ingrid wrote in her letters to Astrid made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. Although the book starts out a little slow, it quickly picks up with a captivating plot line and diverse characters.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poetic Masterpiece, March 28, 2002
By 
The raw brilliance of this novel is overpowering. From behind the rough exterior of the story's plot comes a true "coming of age" tale, told with the most beautiful and articulate language of words. I never believed that a book could truly take hold of your emotions and exhilerate your senses, but this story drew me into the folds of surprise, heartbreak, and amazing prose.
The story is told from Astrid Magnussen's point of view. She is a young girl (story goes from age 12-18), who lives with her mother, Ingrid, who is a smooth, freeminded poet. They live in an apartment in Hollywood, California. They go to museums, read books by Dmitry and Dostoyevsky, and do poetry readings. Ingrid uses her charm to lure in men and have carefree relationships, but she gets too serious in one of these relationships. After the man breaks it off with Ingrid, she kills him. She is then put into prison and sentenced for life.
So begins Astrid's life of foster care and life altering changes. Throughout the story, Astrid is at 6 different homes, including a children's center. Each home is filled with people and experiences that all take their toll on Astrid and her upbringing. These include: getting involved with a MUCH older man, gun shot wounds, starvation, and a death, to name a few. During her time at these homes, she corresponds with her mother with letters, in which Ingrid is still trying to shape her daughter...even through prison. Astrid soon realizes that her mother wants her to remain unhappy in these homes, so she will still be "needed" by her daughter, and so that she can still influence Astrid into becoming like her.
This is a book where you hope and plead for a good ending, but you're never sure if it will happen or not. This books is remarkable. You'll be mesmorized by Astrid Magnussen adventures (or perhaps this is the repeated story of many fostered children throughout the world).
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page turner!, March 16, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
This was one of these books that I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like; I tend to be a bit snobbish about the Oprah picks. However, this book was a wonderful read with vivid characterizations that have really stayed with me. The heroine really grows as the story moves along, and the way her understanding of her completely self-absorbed mother develops and changes is very interesting and realistic. Her travels through the child foster care system are pretty harrowing, but what really engaged me was that even as a young girl she was a strong character, even when she was a "victim" she somehow wasn't - she was a real survivor. She just rang true to me. I loved this book.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you appreciate good writing, READ THIS!, May 17, 2001
By 
Danny (Seattle, WA - USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
The people griping about this book can just blow it out their ears. This book is not Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or Robin Cook fluff, it is beautifully written. If you're capable of deep thought and introspection, you'll enjoy this book if you just shut up and read the book on its own terms. Just because you personally don't like a character doesn't make the book worthless, there is a tremendous amount of food for thought provided by this book.
The ending that people complain about caught me off guard and I was disappointed because I didn't want the book to end. I saw a lot of hope in the ending of the book and closed it knowing Astrid would be okay.
But above all else, I cannot emphasize enough how well written this book is. Janet Fitch communicates a tremendous amount of detail using very few words. When reading "White Oleander", I often stopped to reread sentences, marveling over how they were written. I reread entire paragraphs because I wanted to, not because I'd spaced out. If you expect your books to be like a typical Hollywood action movie, "White Oleander" is not for you. If you appreciate something that's well written, you've got to read this book.
I rarely gush over a book I've read and it's high praise for Janet Fitch that I'm recommending this so emphatically.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EXQUISITE!, December 3, 1999
By 
Allison P. Bloom (Newtown, Connecticut United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
White Oleander was one of the most exquisite novels I have ever read. It read like a poem, the beauty of the language juxtaposed with a most depressing existence.
Astrid is a definitely a heroine and positively human. If, at times, the situations strained credulity, perhaps it is because we have not walked in the same pair of shoes.
Janet Fitch's writing style is graceful and elegant - even when it includes profanity. I found nothing that she included in her novel gratuitous or without merit. It speaks volumes about the potential of the inner spirit that resides in us all.
"White Oleander" is a superb novel - one of the best novels I've read - and I read alot! It's nearly impossible to put down once you start because you are immediately transported into Astrid's unconventional amd heartbreaking existence. This is definitely a novel written by the soul for the soul.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a perfect novel, July 9, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: White Oleander (Hardcover)
This was perhaps one of the best novels I have ever read. Janet Fitch is a supremely talented story teller and writer. (it's rare to find both, I think). Frankly, I just read through some of the terrible and so-so reader reviews at this web page and I am shocked. This book was tremendous. Janet Fitch's writing is exquisite, without being too precious. Astrid's voice comes through crystal clear. Although she is looking back on her recent history as she tells her story, we watch her grow and change and understand her mother, what she is and what she wants her to be. Unlike a lot of recent Oprah picks, this book has unity and cohesiveness. Things happen for a reason, not just because Janet Fitch just felt like mentioning them. This is a compelling read, with very believable characters. Astrid lives through some very difficult times and yet still manages to eke out something positive from her life. I would recommend this book to anyone and encourage all to ignore the negative reviews at this web page.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like a Made-for-TV movie..., January 16, 2005
By 
M. Hess (Ithaca, NY, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
...Janet Fitch's White Oleander appears forced, mediocre, and pretentious. I could barely get through the first few chapters without balking at the countless similes and metaphors, for which Fitch should be praised for quantity, not quality.

I planned on only reading the book to pass time until I could get my hands on something better. However, like those Saturday evening TV melodramatic movies, the storyline soon hooked me. I felt indulgent, wanting to see what perversions happen next! (If there is one thing for which the author should be lauded, it is the success with which the reader bonds with the protagonist.) While hating myself for doing so, I could not put the book down.

What it boils down to: if you want a transparent book that doesn't require effort of the reader, enjoy this bring-to-the-beach book; on the other hand, if you're easily put off chapters that could be summarized in paragraphs, pass this one up.
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White Oleander (Oprah's Book Club)
White Oleander (Oprah's Book Club) by Janet Fitch (Paperback - May 1, 2000)
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