Daughters of the Revolution

Daughters of the Revolution

2.7 10
by Carolyn Cooke
     
 

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From the O. Henry Award–winning author of the story collection The Bostons—a New York Times Notable Book, Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and winner of the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers—an exquisite first novel set at a disintegrating New England prep school.

It’s 1968. The prestigious butSee more details below

Overview

From the O. Henry Award–winning author of the story collection The Bostons—a New York Times Notable Book, Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and winner of the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers—an exquisite first novel set at a disintegrating New England prep school.

It’s 1968. The prestigious but cash-strapped Goode School in the town of Cape Wilde is run by its aging, philandering headmaster, Goddard Byrd, known to both his friends and his enemies as God. With Cape Wilde engulfed by the social and political storms of integration, coeducation and the sexual revolution, God has confidently promised coeducation “over my dead body.” And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carole Faust, a brilliant, intractable fifteen-year-old black girl.

What does it mean to be the First Girl?

Carolyn Cooke has written a ferociously intelligent, richly sensual novel about the lives of girls and women, the complicated desperation of daughters without fathers and the erosion of paternalistic power in an elite New England town on the cusp of radical social change. Remarkable for the precision of its language, the incandescence of its images, and the sly provocations of its moral and emotional predicaments, Daughters of the Revolution is a novel of exceptional force and beauty.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Danzy Senna
Cooke’s characters are a diverse lot: an aging white headmaster named Goddard (or “God,” in case we missed the symbolism), who is intent on keeping girls out of the Goode School; a self-possessed black girl named Carole, who is accidentally admitted; Heck’s young widow, who becomes God’s typist and lover; and her daughter, EV. Through their interactions, Cooke shows how social transformation can be less a forward march than a messy, halting dance, with sometimes awkward partners.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
Praise for Daughters of the Revolution
 
“Daughters of the Revolution
is so good you have to read it. . . . [It is a] ferocious, astonishing experience being inside this deceptively slim book, the first novel from the brilliantly assured Carolyn Cooke. . . . [A] tour de force. . . . Beautiful, magical economy. . . . This is a dramatic social novel, a successful entwining of people that comes to signify the Big Moment of history. Cooke, not once lets a sentence flag, who can reinvent the known with imagery so fine and excruciating it feels like a dare. . . . Her profound, honest compassion for all her characters, men and women, makes them so engrossing, you almost forget what they’re up against.”
—Susanna Sonnenberg, San Francisco Chronicle
 
“Integration, coeducation, and the sexual revolution encroach on the smug, insular world of a New England prep school in this fiercely intelligent novel.”
—Karen Holt; O, the Oprah Magazine
 
“Carolyn Cooke’s wise, exquisitely spare first novel centers around the disintegration of a New England prep school, it’s philandering headmaster, and his influence on the women around him.”
—Kimberly Cutter, Marie Claire
 
“Cooke’s flinty first novel, coming nearly 10 years after her much-acclaimed collection, The Bostons, grapples with another set of crafty New Englanders, all involved, one way or another, with the Goode School. . . . Taunt. . . . Excellent. Cooke delivers on every page.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“In her amazing first novel, short story writer Cooke bridges the two forms as she introduces her characters in chapters that can stand on their own but which together create a complex and challenging structure.”
—Danise Hoover, Booklist
 
“This smart, sexy, sarcastic, sophisticated novel from Cooke . . . defies genre comparisons but has particular relevance. . . . This cautionary tale deserves wide readership.”
—Sally Bissell, Library Journal (starred review)
 
“Carolyn Cooke writes with knives and feathers. She slices into her subjects so we see the insides of them and she dusts off the everyday covering to reveal the true contours beneath. Her Daughters of the Revolution is bristling with smarts. Read it slowly and savor the gift this author gives her readers: fierce intelligence, sly humor and not a moment of missing the folly in life.”
—Susan Minot, author of Rapture
 
“Exuberant bad behavior runs like a life force through this book, in which every sentence is chiseled exactly.”
—Sarah Stone, author of The True Sources of the Nile
 
“So smart, so visceral, so sexy . . . absolutely brilliant.”
—Kate Walbert, author of A Short History of Women
 
Praise for The Bostons
 
“Weird, slightly cracked, yet chiseled and often luminous. . . [It] grabs you right away, gathers force and leaves little holes in your heart. . . . A latter-day Grace Paley. . . . Fresh and fierce. . . . Simply etched prose creates an effect of thickness; as in much of the best short fiction, one can read deeply into what she leaves unsaid.”
—Bret Israel, The Los Angeles Times
 
“A small masterpiece of black humor.”
—Lorna Williams, The Washington Times
 
“There is a certain kind of story writer who delights in seeing the world at an angle, keeping the reader off balance with narrative feints and unsettling—often comical—asides. Grace Paley is one master of this use of the form; Lorrie Moore is another. In her bold debut collection, The Bostons, Carolyn Cooke seems to take inspiration from such tale-tellers. . . . Vibrant with moments of sharp description and acerbic asides. . . . A salty vividness . . . a brisk realism.”
—Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Moving . . . beautifully observed.”
—Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe
 
“Gleaming artfulness . . . Cooke’s fading old Bostonians share a puzzlement that lurks in our own more universal calendars.”
—Richard Eder, The New York Times
 

Library Journal
For lack of a life jacket, the trajectory of several lives is altered in this smart, sexy, sarcastic, sophisticated novel from Cooke (The Bostons, a New York Times Notable Book). The Goode School, a prestigious New England bastion of male-only education, designed to prepare its wealthy students to become masters of the universe, represents a microcosm of the social and political upheaval of the past four decades, all overseen by self-important, entitled headmaster Goddard Byrd. In 1968, a typing error results in a scholarship offer to the first Negro female in the school's history, negating Byrd's promise to admit "girls" over his dead body. Encouraged by the put-upon female faculty and protected by the moneyed Rebozos family, gloriously rebellious Carole Faust upends life at the school. Meanwhile, the drowning of Goode alumnus and doctoral candidate Heck Hellman means that his wife and daughter must struggle through menial jobs and public school education, working their way up to middle-class status until, years later, they cross paths with Carole at a Goode school function. VERDICT Cooke's unique novel defies genre comparisons but has particular relevance as our country's financial woes exacerbate the gap between the power brokers and the rest of us. This cautionary tale deserves wide readership. [See Prepub Alert, 11/29/10.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Myers, FL

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307596611
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/07/2011
Series:
Vintage Contemporaries
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
192
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

He begins with a bang at the center of his story. It’s spring of that revolutionary year, not too far in. Meringues of snow line the sidewalks, but a freshness cuts the air. Goddard Byrd—known to his friends and enemies as “God”—has just emerged from an afternoon at the Parker House Hotel, a virile, uncircumcised male of his class, upbringing and era. His prostate gland and his praeputium have not yet been removed, and he is unburdened, just now, of Puritanism’s load. He has drunk a glass of gin, then lain with Mrs. Viktor Rebozos—whom he must remember to call Aileen—and both of them are better for this exercise.

In bed, she tells him he is a bear, all paws and claws. She insults him, purrs, climbs on top. She wants to know if he could be any wild animal, which would he be?

An animal? He would be a tiger!

(She would be a gazelle.)

He likes himself better this way, his natural shyness tempered by adrenaline. She is more fl exible than he, more at ease, depending on the occasion—more pliable. Women are pliable, he thinks; they revel in the shifting relations required by husbands,
children, lovers, others. (How can this be a matter of opinion?) He can’t tell Mrs. Rebozos these things; she might eat him alive.

They lie together in the fading afternoon light, the March grisaille. “The most beautiful words in the English language are sex in the afternoon,” she tells him, and he can’t, in the moment, find reason to correct her. Mrs. Rebozos’s tongue darts suddenly across his left nipple, and God rises with an animal roar, his body fire and ice.

She smiles. “I read that in The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana.”

“Do it again,” says God.

Her tongue and lips move excruciatingly over his body, describing ancient erotic techniques from the Orient. He rises obediently as a snake in a basket. God lifts his head to look at her, and feels an organ breach (liver? spleen?). She is so gamine, indeed! She looks like a boy. Almost. Short hair. Hoops in her ears. All of it signifying what? Maybe nothing. Eventually, he pins her to her back, which she seems to enjoy, and humps her in the familiar way, running breathlessly toward a goal, which he reaches.

“You’re beginning to get it, my earnest missionary,” she tells him afterward. “Let’s hope it’s not too late.”

They share a plate of cold roast beef, a famous roll. Naked, quivering a little, she wraps a blue knit scarf around her shoulders. “My dark secret,” she says. “All my life I’ve been drawn to misogynist coots like you. Like a taste for black coffee—incredible when you think about it.” Even God is surprised that a free-spirited woman such as Mrs. Rebozos would so defi antly stand beside an old man, in his shadow, eat meat with him and be his prize!

“I have to go,” he says into her ear. “You could stay all afternoon; you could have a bath.”

“Just a quick shower,” she says. “I have a women’s thing. Last week, we inspected our cervixes. Mine looked like an eye.
It blinked.

God tries to conceal his horror. At three, he descends, leaving Mrs. Rebozos to enjoy the rented room, whose extravagant price stabs him when he thinks of it. (In spite of the evidence, he imagines her as feminine, passive, mysterious and inert. Women
in their beds, Rorschach blots on luminous sheets.)

He advances through the lobby and rolls into the street like a well-oiled man on wheels. The atmosphere of hostility and depravity beyond the doors of the Parker House stings him like a slap. The street is fi lthy; even the city fathers are off their game, lax or stoned. Girls in paper dresses—temporary dresses for temporary girls—giggle at him. He’s harmless, they think, the last of a dying breed.

God passes gently into a haze of mustard-purple-maroon and marijuana fumes. In spite of the expense of the hotel and the crudeness of the street, he feels deeply at home in this world. It is divided and antagonistic, fi lled with human hatreds bred by race, religion and economics; he loves it anyway.


From the Hardcover edition.

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