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Goldberg Variations: A Novel Hardcover – October 2, 2012

3.1 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Gloria Garrison, née Goldberg, is the sort of matriarch who takes the passive out of passive-aggressive…Goldberg Variations is always at its most engaging when [Gloria] is at her least.” (Jan Stuart The New York Times Book Review)

“The women who inhabit Isaacs’ books are smart, sexy, a little snarky, and filled with some serious chutzpah….Goldberg Variations is no exception.” (Rachel Martin NPR’s “Weekend Edition”)

“This wise, witty, relationship-driven novel is a truly original family saga….Readers will find Goldberg Variations enchanting from beginning to end.” (Ellen Meister Long Island Woman)

Always sassy, smart and wickedly witty, Susan Isaacs’ novel is both hilariously funny and a moving tale of family, faith and reconciliation.” (Book of the Month club)

“Isaacs’ whip-smart, shrewdly scathing, and spirited portrait of a malevolent matriarch worthy of the Brothers Grimm and her Disneyesque coterie of too-good-to-be-true grandchildren is both a saucy satire and a redemptive study of the indelible bonds of families.” (Booklist)

“A deliciously wicked tale of family dysfunction…” (Publishers Weekly)

About the Author

Susan Isaacs is the author of thirteen novels, including As Husbands Go, Any Place I Hang My Hat, Long Time No See, and Compromising Positions. She is a former editor of Seventeen and a freelance political speechwriter. She lives on Long Island with her husband. All of her novels have been New York Times bestsellers.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451605919
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451605914
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,414,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Vox Libris TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
When I read Almost Paradise by Susan Isaacs, I was furious when it ended. Those of you who have read it know the plot-based reason, but I was also angry because it ended ... period. I wanted to keep reading. I loved the characters, the story, the way Isaacs writes. I had a similar, if not altogether as intense, reaction when I read Lily White.

So I was really looking forward to Goldberg Variations. For one thing, Bach's symphonies by that name stir my soul. And for another, it's Susan Isaacs! And I love her!

And I was so disappointed!

Let's just be honest. There is not much to like about this book. The characters are almost uniformly reprehensible, with one exception (and she's such a minor character that you don't even meet her till the closing chapters), but that could be forgiven if the story were interesting. Which it isn't.

Dare I say it? I was bored. Bored by Susan Isaacs!

I never thought I'd say those words.

The setup is focused on Gloria Goldberg, one hot bitch if ever there was. Gloria is the brains and force behind Glory, Inc., a sort of "meals on wheels", fashion-style, for the harried woman who needs a caftan to feel complete. Gloria's two sons each begat children, and she summons the three of them to her palace in Arizona to propose a partnership. She will select one of the lucky trio to run Glory when she dies, while the other two get nothing. Not one cent of all of her money.
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Format: Hardcover
I cannot honestly say that my failure to have read Susan Isaacs was really nagging at me, but when the publisher offered me a chance to review the galley of her latest, I jumped on it. I knew I was well and truly overdue. And what a pleasure this introduction proved to be. Not because it's some major literary work; simply because it entertained me. Goldberg Variations captured my interest early with its cleverness and humor and kept me hooked through a rapid read.

I should mention that I am listening to Bach's Goldberg Variations as I type this review--a clever title for a novel about the dysfunctional Goldberg family. Other than the play on the characters' name, is there a deeper connection to the Bach? I don't know. Wikipedia tells me that "In music, a variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration, or any combination of those." Something about that feels resonant to family interactions and the repeated mistakes we tend to make in our dealings with those we love... But perhaps I'm stretching.

No, it's another classic that is the seed of this family dramedy. As alluded in the novel's description, Isaac owes a debt to Shakespeare's King Lear. She doesn't stretch the connection much beyond the barest premise. Her monarch is the assimilative Gloria Garrison, whose kingdom is Glory, Inc., a lucrative and thriving makeover business. Approaching eighty, Gloria finds herself estranged from everyone she was ever close to. She has no obvious heir.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Susan Isaacs' novels. And Goldberg Variations is Vintage Isaacs. Funny, smart, full of feeling as well as social commentary, the book is terrific. I read it in two sittings, and the day, which was supposed to be filled with accomplishments, was filled with pleasure.
Meet the Goldberg's and you will never forget them. Brava!
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Format: Kindle Edition
I remember Isaacs classics such as Compromising Positions and After All These Years with such enormous pleasure, it's difficult for me to write a negative review of this title, but at this price, others must be spared! If you're into the endless poring over of negative feelings and motivations among family members, go for it. Otherwise, give it a pass. Nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- happens here except conversations. Granny talks to three grown grandchildren about the possibility of inheriting her successful business. They talk among themselves about why they probably don't want it. Granny talks to one grandchild, who then talks to her cousin, who then talks to her brother. You get the picture. After suffering through 50% of this, I clicked to the end to see if anything there surprised me. It didn't. Who is this author, and what has she done with Susan Isaacs??
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Format: Hardcover
I have been a Susan Isaacs fan for a long time so I really anticipated a good read. What a let down! The story involves a grandmother and her three estranged grandchildren. Isaacs writes about the same situation from each of the characters' perspective ala Rashoman. The grandmother is a super wealthy entrepreneur who informs her grandchildren that only one could qualify to inherit her business. No one inherits a cent. She had two sons, one is still living. She has no friends and is downright unpleasant. Her relationships with others are nonexistent due to her lack of interpersonal skills. The story is boring and the chapters are long, drawn out and failed to hold my interest. I forced myself to read it to the end hoping that things would improve. They didn't.
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