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The Whole World Over Paperback – June 12, 2007

3.7 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When an author uses the same characters in more than one novel, the audio performance can be accurately compared. Fenno, a gay man who emigrates from Scotland to New York's Greenwich Village, is for many readers the most endearing character in Julia Glass's first novel, Three Junes, read by John Keating, who captured the cadences and charm of Fenno's native land. O'Hare, in contrast, produces a rather vague accent that could be Irish or Scottish. He also endows the New Mexico governor with a Texas accent, though the heartiness with which O'Hare portrays him is perfect. Despite these flaws, O'Hare has an eloquent, easy-to-listen-to voice that covers the large canvas of Glass's novel handily. He does particularly well with the main couple, Alan and Greenie, and O'Hare's rendition of their four-year-old son, George, is marvelous. It's a shame that the audio is not available unabridged through retail outlets. (Books on Tape, a division of Random House, has a 23-hour unabridged version on audible.com.) While condensation may work well for Campbell's Soup and tomes that are improved by having their windy digressions clipped, Glass's novel was one of the most wonderful reads of the summer and didn't need editing.
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.

From The New Yorker

Greenie Duquette loves her cozy life in the West Village, her work as a pastry chef, and her precocious young son. But she is fed up with her husband, Alan, an underemployed psychotherapist whose once passionate beliefs are ossifying into reflexive bitterness. When, in early 2000, the brash Republican governor of New Mexico offers her a lucrative job, she jumps at it; Alan is free to follow her if he chooses. In Glass's sprawling follow-up to her award-winning novel "Three Junes," a dozen or so characters are plunged into the tumultuous dissatisfactions and challenges of middle age, their paths crossing and recrossing with a pleasing mixture of chance and inevitability. Glass is fascinated by the ways people gamble both with and for their happiness, but her characters are a little too decent, generous, and forgiving. Even as we watch their dramas unfold in the shadow of 9/11, the potential horror of irrevocable choices eludes us.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker - click here to subscribe. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400075769
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400075768
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on July 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As many of the reviewers of this book are, I am a great fan of Julia Glass' first book, "Three Junes", and had eagerly been waiting for her follow-up. I was dismayed to read so many middling reviews of "The Whole World Over," but was determined to give it a try myself. I really wanted to like the book, but a hundred pages in I found myself disappointedly sympathizing with the reviewers on this site who had given up at that point and had no remorse about not continuing. I kept reading out of loyalty to Glass -- and to the fact that I hadn't actually liked the first part of "Three Junes" either, and I wound up loving that novel in the end. Unfortunately, "The Whole World Over" doesn't pick up the way her first book did. The characters just aren't very involving, and their stories don't make you want to find out more about them. They are very grounded and thought-out, but ultimately feel more planned than realistic. There is also a very disjointed narrative structure that awkwardly transitions, in each chapter, from 2000-2001 (when the present-day action is unfolding) to some point in the past of whichever character that chapter is about, and then back to the present. The cast of characters is a little too crowded as well, particularly for the narrative form Ms. Glass has chosen. Storylines are constantly getting put on hold to switch to another one, and since none of them are very interesting it only serves to distance you further from the action. Glass also seems to have developed a taste for cutesy language that feels cloying -- and her efforts to nickname each of her characters becomes grating after a while. She also falls into the trap of over-using the words like, totally, dude, and man in the dialogue of her younger, teen or twenty-something characters.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ADORED The Three Junes and was eagerly waiting for another novel from Ms. Glass but only got halfway through this book. I wanted to keep reading because I still think the author is extremely talented but unfortunately it just didn't capture my interest. Main problems:

A. I didn't find Greenie a very interesting or sympathetic character.

B. Story lumbers along very slowly.

C. I could sense the author WRITING the book as I was reading it which makes it very hard to immerse yourself in the story.

D. There are many different story lines in The Whole World Over and everytime I picked up the book it felt like I was reading a completely different novel -- this disjointed sensation never allowed me to get close to the characters or to enter their world.

I hate to write a bad review because I still think Ms. Glass is a brilliant writer. I highly recommend her first book which was utterly gorgeous and truly magical.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like many of the other reviewers, I did not find this book as instantly compelling as Three Junes. But that's okay; it has other virtues. I find its strongest virtue best described through something else that it's not.

The Whole World Over takes place largely on Bank Street in New York City and in Santa Fe, but, with one exception I'll cover later, it's not evocative of either. (I've worked in lower Manhattan for the last 25 years, a friend of mine lives on Bank Street, and I spend a week and a half in Santa Fe every August.) I assume that this is deliberate, and I assume that it's meant to focus us on what matters in this novel: the creation of family.

Many of the characters - and there are many characters - come from families that don't function well. These characters respond by creating their own families, through sex and friendship. In Santa Fe, this doesn't work out, but to focus on Santa Fe would distract our attention from why it doesn't. One of the main characters, Greenie, goes from Bank Street to Santa Fe and back to Bank Street, with excursions to Maine. It doesn't matter where she is; it matters where she can create an enduring family. Both New York and Santa Fe seem strangely under-populated in this book, as if the only characters there are the ones in the novel. The created families become the neighborhoods.

There is one exception to this, I thought. Five years after the fact, I still find it uncomfortable to think of September 11, 2001, in lower Manhattan. Julia Glass does a great job of invoking this discomfort. The attack on the World Trade Center is focused through Saga, another of the many main characters. Saga is recovering from a traumatic brain injury, and at first she can't figure out what was happening.
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Format: Hardcover
If Julia Glass had not set the bar so high with Three Junes, I would have given the book 3 stars instead of 2. There are sentences, paragraphs, even pages of brilliance in this book, but it is as if winning the National Book Award gave Ms. Glass unconditional confidence in her writing, and character development in particular. She seemed out of touch with the major demographics the narrative slings around. As another reviewer wrote, the writing process seemed transparant. Reading the book, you get the feeling that the characters are what Ms. Glass (a privileged white woman of a certain age) imagines teenagers, or New Mexicans, or black chauffeurs, or Hispanic nannies, or even gay people to be like. She is like a tourist who voyeuristically delights in other cultures without really understanding them. The teenagers and the Santa Fe inhabitants are the most painful examples of caricatures. Greenie might be the most believable, and although I understood why she was falling out of love with her gloomy Alan, I wasn't sucked along with her when she falls in love with "the other Charlie". He was only very mildly interesting and certainly not worth (even temporarily) losing your child over. With Saga, she manages to develop her most sympathetic character, but Saga's life is left floating and unresolved at the end. Even the brief appearance of Fenno, who I loved in Three Junes, lacked intensity and seemed gimmicky. All and all, a very disappointing second novel. You have to wonder, since most reviewers are pointing out all of the same problems with character, what good is her editor?
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