- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (October 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582432910
- ISBN-13: 978-1582432915
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,518,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $5.50 shipping
Garbo Laughs Hardcover – October 14, 2003
See the Best Books of 2018 So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year so far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
From Publishers Weekly
Garbo hardly ever laughed, and when she did, it was dubbed; reality is similarly transformed in this quirky, dreamy novel infused with movie mania. A plague of cinematic absorption settles over an Ottawa neighborhood in Hay's latest offering (her debut, A Student of Weather, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize). Harriet Browning's ascetic mother refused her the frivolity of the cinema as a child, and as an adult she views films obsessively. In middle age, she is the center of a small group of cinephiles: her son, Kenny, obsessed with Sinatra, watches classic movies to forget his troubles at school; her daughter, Jane, on the brink of adolescence, longs for the glamorous life; her neighbor and friend Dinah may be attracted mainly by the familial activity of watching together. Lew, Harriet's realist husband, is left out of this loop; his escapes come in the form of business trips to South America. The arrival of Harriet's aunt Leah, the trouble-making widow of a Hollywood screenwriter, and her stepson Jack, a lazy, fast-talking writer, leads to shifts in affections and allegiances. It is illness, however, that brings an end to the movie-watching, in true Hollywood weepy fashion. References to Pauline Kael (beloved by Harriet), top 100 movie lists and a lineup of movie greats (Marlon Brando, Sean Connery and Bette Davis are among the favorites) are as integral to the story as the interactions of its film-besotted protagonists. This is a gracefully written novel, mapping out the patterns of tension and release in a family whose members are best able to express their love and disappointment through the films of the past.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Greta Garbo is one of many movie stars who fascinate the alluringly eccentric characters found in the latest tale by one of Canada's most gifted novelists. In this witty, gracefully choreographed, and potent Ottawa-based family drama, Hay ponders our enthrallment to movies, conjuring a cast of ardent souls who cope with a catastrophic ice storm, unwelcome guests, undermined dreams, distressing infatuations, lingering illnesses, and sudden death by finding solace, even guidance, in classic films. Harriet, the Garbo-like star of the book, is a novelist who has developed the curious habit of writing but not mailing confiding letters to her hero, the then still-living film critic Pauline Kael, and discussing, at length, such burning cinematic questions as who is sexier, Cary Grant or Sean Connery, with her sweetly precocious and equally movie-mad son and daughter. As Harriet indulges her grand obsession with movies, she struggles with her less than passionate feelings for her real-life leading man and forges a warm but risky friendship with a new neighbor, the earthy Dinah. Imaginative, droll, and incisive, Hay's profound tale of attempted escape and accepted responsibility, of found joy and dreaded sorrow, deftly explores the dangers and benefits of fantasy. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Harriet's son Kenny keeps a "gangster's outfit" available for watching movies and visiting his mother's friends. He seems to have no friends of his own. His fascination with movies easily matches that of his mother. He has firm opinions on actors, portrayals, nuances in the making of the videos they watch together. Sister Jane hovers at the edge of the film fanatics, but is still caught up in their debates. Lew Gold, Harriet's beleaguered husband, withdraws from the film buffs when their intensity surpasses his patience. How far will his disenchantment take him? Perhaps as far as their neighbour "luscious Dinah Bloom"?
Harriet's relations with Dinah, as well as with her other neighbours, keeps in delicate balance throughout the story. Harriet's writing and film watching have become the focus of a life easily intruded upon. The greatest intrusion comes in the form of her aunt Leah and that widow's stepson Jack. Leah, a badly disguised character in Harriet's book, arrives for a visit - one likely to be extended. She harbours resentment over the book, a feeling built on previous bumpy relations with Harriet. It's a contest of wills, Leah's overbearing manner only slightly modified by being on Harriet's turf. Hay portrays these persona with wit and skill. None are false nor overdrawn. They seem to have taken over the story with Hay simply recording events. Perusing her portrayal of the people and events draws the reader into intimate association with them all.
Hay's writing skill borders on a prose version of Mozart. Like his sonatas, her words are carefully chosen and placed. None are out of order. There are no lapses to leave the reader wondering what she meant. Every sentence has a place in the story leading the reader confidently along the narrative. This isn't cold, clinical precision. Her character building is dynamic - they are alive, bickering, plotting, evaluating. Stillness isn't part of the story, even when the character is alone. In Ottawa, with river, canal, parks and spreads of forest, solitude should come easy. In Hay's hands, this little city is fraught with local intensities.
Hay is fascinated with weather. Who can blame her, living in Ottawa? Having previously examined Saskatchewan drought and New York humidity, she strives here to impart the chaos of the Great Ice Storm of 1998. She captures the permanent bending of trees, the treacherous sidewalks, the quiet dictated by impassable streets, with vivid eloquence. If you weren't there, trust in how skillfully she imparts the daily experiences and long-term effects. She shows how lasting such an event can be on lives. Recovery is hesitant, unpredictable and presenting fresh difficulties. Hay weaves all this in to a poignant finale, all the threads coming together effortlessly. A brilliant book, worthy of attention. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
We are invited to share the daily life of Harriet's family and neighbours - through the better part of a year that included the ice storm of 1998. The story takes place in a close-knit neighbourhood in Ottawa. Hay sets the scene of the cozy community in which every body knows everybody and they all interact frequently. Emotions, concealed or expressed, flow between the various characters. The arrival of aunt Leah, widow of a Hollywood screenwriter, and her stepson Jack bring upheaval to the daily routines. Some relate better to them than others and relationships become more complicated. Leah is an astute observer of people and knows how to rub salt into the proverbial emotional wounds. Harriet's problems with the goings on are aggravated by her inability to sleep: she watches the old movies over and over again and at all hours of day or night - no wonder she has sleeping problems! Her ongoing musings on her life, her relationships and her surroundings are shared in frequent, un-mailed letters to real-life movie critic, Pauline Kael.
For movie expert Kenny, the teenage son of Harriet and Lew, actors and their abilities are more important than real life concerns. His probing mind is focused on the silver screen. In the meantime, his problems in school can only be pushed aside for so long...
Hay has a unique talent to make this family and her surroundings breathe; she brings each character into his or her own. Her portrait of the place, the time and - of course - the weather - are gems in descriptive power. Let's not ignore that there is a story line to follow, endearing and captivating, which flows effortlessly carrying the main characters along. Hay has created a wonderful story that deserves to be read, and not only by classic movie aficionados. [Friederike Knabe, Ottawa, Canada]