God on the Rocks

God on the Rocks

3.5 8
by Jane Gardam
     
 

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It is with great pleasure that Europa Editions makes this Booker Prize short-listed novel newly available to the legions of Gardam fans.

Originally published in Great Britain in 1978, the novel describes Margaret Marsh's coming of age one summer between the world wars. Caught in the backwash of a fervently religious father, a mother bitterly nostalgic for what

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Overview

It is with great pleasure that Europa Editions makes this Booker Prize short-listed novel newly available to the legions of Gardam fans.

Originally published in Great Britain in 1978, the novel describes Margaret Marsh's coming of age one summer between the world wars. Caught in the backwash of a fervently religious father, a mother bitterly nostalgic for what might have been, the tea and sympathy of some thoroughly secular neighbors and the bawdy jokes of her nanny Lydia, Margaret's world hurtles towards a shattering moment of truth. Drama, tragedy and a touch of farce lend themselves to Gardam's typically eloquent prose. With subtlety and precision, God on the Rocks provides an intimate portrait of the tensions that divide men and women, present and past, and the love and sorrow that lingers throughout.

Jane Gardam's reputation in the United States has been greatly enlarged by the critical acclaim and commercial success garnered by her latest novels, last year's Man in the Wooden Hat and her masterpiece Old Filth. Now, newcomers and fans alike can enjoy the pleasure of the splendid writing that established Gardam's considerable canon some four decades ago.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
American readers first turned on to Gardam via Old Filth are in for a surprise with the witty though decidedly more serious story of Margaret Marsh, who comes of age in interwar England. Margaret grows up the only child in an oppressively religious household, and her world gets a much-needed shaking up when her mother, Ellie, has another child and hires a maid, the bawdy but loving Lydia. Lydia immediately begins taking Margaret on day trips that open her eyes to the way others live. Margaret's father, Kenneth, meanwhile, sees Lydia as a laboratory for his Godly work, though he ends up being a less than ideal practitioner of the moral lifestyle he preaches. Then there's Ellie, whose reintroduction to a long-lost love tempts her down the path of what might have been. It all leads to a precipice of disillusion for Margaret regarding her parents' behavior, shattering her perceptions and leading to tragedy. Gardam doesn't waste a word, and the story reads as fresh and relevant now as when it was originally published in Great Britain in 1978. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Things are coming apart at the seams for Margaret Marsh during one cataclysmic season in her eight-year-old life. Born between the wars and brought up by her Holy Roller father and his compliant wife as a "Primal Saint" to eschew entertainments and to memorize and recite Bible chapter and verse, Margaret is in rebellion. With the arrival of a new baby in the household, her parents have hired the bawdy and buxom Lydia to help at home and escort Margaret on seaside outings, during which she encounters some eccentric residents of a home for the elderly and insane. At the same time, her mother renews the acquaintance of her childhood friends Binkie and Charles, from whom she'd been estranged since she went to work at the post office and they left for Cambridge. Both new and old acquaintances come together to shake up the once ordered lives of the Marshes. VERDICT Published in the United Kingdom in 1978 and only briefly available here, this Booker nominee will appeal to readers who love the Penelopes (Fitzgerald and Lively) as well as Gardam's more recent novels, like Faith Fox and Old Filth. This treasure should send them back for all her books. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/10.]—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Nancy Kline
…so charming a novel that you don't want to give away a single one of the many twists of its plot…We are in the hands of a master story-teller. Over the course of the novel, Gardam gives us the past and present of her characters' lives, zooming in and out of their diverse perspectives…Thoroughly opaque to one another, and often to themselves, Gardam's characters behave as extravagantly as their Dickensian names would suggest. And yet they're completely credible because they so resemble our most beloved friends and relations.
—The New York Times

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933372761
Publisher:
Europa
Publication date:
10/26/2010
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jane Gardam has twice won the Whitbread Award, for The Hollow Land, and Queen of the Tambourine. She is also the author of God on the Rocks, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and most recently, Faith Fox.

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God on the Rocks 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
LaurenBDavis More than 1 year ago
Not quite as good as "Old Filth," which is the only other book by Gardam I've read to date (although I will surely read the rest). But then again, "Old Filth" is a very hard act to follow and "God on the Rocks", for all it was shortlisted for the Booker back in 1978, was (I think) Gardam's first. In this novel, Gardam's humor is by turns scathing and sweet and surprising. Her characters are marvels of three-dimensional creation. Here, between the two World Wars, we have quiet, self-contained, old-before-her-years Margaret, growing up in an alarmingly religious household with her mother Ellie, who has just had another child, and her father, Kenneth, Pastor of an evangelical church. Enter stage left -- Lydia, a somewhat blowsy, vulgar and undeniably alluring 'maid'. Lydia and Margaret go on day trips, where the world becomes far more complicated than Margaret had imagined up until this point: they visit a lunatic asylum, wherein lives an old lady with many secrets and a painter who paints, among other things, quite a lot of snakes. Lydia evokes all sorts of emotions, not least of them from pious Kenneth. Ellie, in turn, revives a friendship with a long-lost love, the estranged son of the lady in the asylum. In other words, everyone's life gets a good shaking up, resulting in a rocky cliff of disillusion, which echoes the title -- God on the Rocks. Gardam uses a complicated omniscient point of view in this work -- multiple voices and multiple time frames, and if she doesn't quite pull it off on every page, she comes close enough for it not to matter. You have to pay attention when you read Gardam, so as not to miss anything, and the effort is well rewarded. Highly recommended.
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