The Washington Post
Goldengroveby Francine Prose
At the center of Francine Prose's profoundly moving new novel is a young girl facing the consequences of sudden loss after the death of her sister. As her parents drift toward their own risky consolations, thirteen-year-old Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's enigmatic
At the center of Francine Prose's profoundly moving new novel is a young girl facing the consequences of sudden loss after the death of her sister. As her parents drift toward their own risky consolations, thirteen-year-old Nico is left alone to grope toward understanding and clarity, falling into a seductive, dangerous relationship with her sister's enigmatic boyfriend.
Over one haunted summer, Nico must face that life-changing moment when children realize their parents can no longer help them. She learns about the power of art, of time and place, the mystery of loss and recovery. But for all the darkness at the novel's heart, the narrative itself is radiant with the lightness of summer and charged by the restless sexual tension of teenage life.
Goldengrove takes its place among the great novels of adolescence, beside Henry James's The Awkward Age and L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between.
The Washington Post
The New York Times
In Prose's deeply touching and absorbing 15th novel, narrator Nico, 13, comes upon Gerard Manley Hopkins's "Spring and Fall" (which opens "Margaret, are you grieving/ Over Goldengrove unleaving?") in her father's upstate New York bookstore, also named Goldengrove. It's the summer after her adored older sister, Margaret-possessed of beauty, a lovely singing voice and a poetic nature-casually dove from a rowboat in a nearby lake and drowned. In emotive detail, Nico relates the subsequent events of that summer. Nico was a willing confidant and decoy in Margaret's clandestine romance with a high school classmate, Aaron, and Nico now finds that she and Aaron are drawn to each other in their mutual bereavement. Unhinged by grief, Nico's parents are distracted and careless in their oversight of Nico, and Nico is deep in perilous waters before she realizes that she is out of her depth. Prose eschews her familiar satiric mode. She fluidly maintains Nico's tender insights into the human condition as Nico comes to discover her own way of growing up and moving on. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The summer her older sister, Margaret, drowns, 13yearold Nico, her parents, and Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, each plunge into lonely cells of inconsolable grief. When Aaron reaches out to Nico, she's left to interpret the high school senior's increasingly creepy overtures on her own. The adolescent dialog by Prose, winner of the 2008 Edith Wharton Achievement Award for Literature and a 2004 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age honoree (for After), resounds with authenticity. Actress Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep's daughter) conveys Nico's innocence and vulnerability without sentimentality. Recommended both for public library YA and adult fiction collections. [Also available from Recorded Bks. 7 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 8 hrs. ISBN 9781436158459
An evocative, emotionally rich story of female adolescence and grief. Nico, the 13-year-old protagonist, lives a life of ease in her family's lake house. Her parents are well-intentioned and progressive. Her older sister is in many ways the center of Nico's universe-Nico is fascinated by Margaret's beauty, her cigarette habit, and her femininity. There is obvious love between the two of them, and a shared intelligence and wit that manifests itself in their conversation. Because Nico's awe of her sister is evident from the start, the situation is all the more painful when Margaret drowns. The narrative then focuses on Nico's grief, her attempt to reconcile her sadness with her growing feelings for Margaret's brooding boyfriend, and the family's attempt to redefine itself. As usual, Prose's writing is spot-on: she conveys the psychological turmoil of the situation with stark, simple language and tempers the sadness with moments of dry humor. Nico has a decidedly adult voice, but teen readers will nevertheless appreciate her wisdom and her confusion, her selfishness and her budding sexuality. The author taps into the deepest corners of her characters' minds and spins a hook-filled plot around a complex protagonist. Fans of Sarah Dessen, Sara Zarr, and Deb Caletti will enjoy Goldengrove immensely.-Caitlin Fralick, Ottawa Public Library, ON
Read an Excerpt
We lived on the shore of Mirror Lake, and for many years our lives were as calm and transparent as its waters. Our old house followed the curve of the bank, in segments, like a train, each room and screened porch added on, one by one, decade by decade.
When I think of that time, I picture the four of us wading in the shallows, admiring our reflections in the glassy, motionless lake. Then something—a pebble, a raindrop—breaks the surface and shatters the mirror. A ripple reaches the distant bank. Our years of bad luck begin.
That was how Margaret would have thought. My sister was the poet.
I was Miss One-Thing-After-the-Next. Which is how I remember what happened.
But that's not how it happened at all. One thing happened, then everything else, like a domino falling and setting off a collapse that snakes out toward the horizon and spills over into the future.
If all the clocks and calendars vanished, children would still know when Sunday came. They would still feel that suck of dead air, that hollow vacuum created when time slips behind a curtain, when the minutes quit their orderly tick and ooze away, one by one. Colors are muted, a jellylike haze hovers and blurs the landscape. The phone doesn't ring, and the rest of the world hides and conspires to pretend that everyone's baking cookies or watching the game on TV. Then Monday arrives, and the comforting racket starts up all over again.
Even before that Sunday, I was glad to see the day end. It wasn't that I liked school so much, but the weekends lasted forever. The loneliness, the hours to fill with books, homework,computer, watching old films with my sister, if she was in the mood. Silence, then the Sunday sounds of our house by the lake. My mother playing the piano, my dad's prehistoric Selectric.
That Sunday, that first Sunday in May, was so warm I couldn't help wondering: Was it simply a beautiful day, or a symptom of global warming? Even the trees looked uncomfortable, naked and embarrassed, as if they were all simultaneously having that dream in which you look down and realize you've forgotten to put on your clothes.
Two Cleopatras in our royal barge, my sister and I reclined and let our little rowboat drift out onto the lake. Margaret arched her shoulders, flung one arm over the side, and trailed her fingertips in the water. It was one of those actressy gestures she'd copied from the classic black-and-white movies to which she was addicted. She liked me to watch them with her, and we were allowed to stay up, because our mother said we would learn more from Some Like It Hot than from a year of school. It was often hard to tell what our mother meant, exactly, except that we learned to flutter our lashes and say, "What's a girl to do?" in breathy little-girl whispers.
One thing Margaret and I had in common was: we could do imitations. We knew whole scenes by heart, like the end of Flying Deuces, when Hardy is killed in a plane crash and then reincarnated as a horse with a black mustache and a bowler hat. Laurel's so happy to see him he throws his arms around Ollie—that is, the horse possessed by Ollie's grumpy spirit.
Sometimes Margaret would do a gesture or line and ask me what film it was from. Her silvery laughter was my prize for getting it right. The only rowboat scene I knew was the one in which Montgomery Clift pushes Shelley Winters into the water. And I was pretty certain that wasn't what Margaret was doing.
Margaret said, "This is heaven."
I wished I could have been like her instead of the kind of person who said, "Don't you ever worry about the polar ice caps melting?"
"Debbie Downer," said Margaret. "Give yourself a break. It's Sunday, Nico. Take a day off." Squinting, she aimed her smoke rings so that they encircled the sun like foggy auras.
Margaret had promised our parents she wouldn't smoke. Mom's parents and Dad's father had all died young of smoking-related causes. Both of our parents used to smoke. Their friends had started dying. The new weapon in the arsenal of Mom and Dad's War on Smoking was some bad news we'd gotten that fall: Margaret had a heart condition. A mild one, but I worried.
She'd fainted the first and last time Mom talked us into doing yoga with her. I still have a photo my father took that day on the lawn, of the three of us doing downward-facing dog or some other mortifying position that, our mother had convinced herself, was helping her arthritis. Margaret, Mom, and I are bent till our heads nearly touch the ground, like those snakes that, Margaret told me, bite their tails and roll after the children they swallow whole. Planted apart for balance, our legs take up most of the photo, downward-facing croquet hoops of descending sizes. What the picture doesn't show is that, seconds after it was taken, Margaret collapsed in a pile of leaves. At first we'd thought she was joking.
Our pediatrician, Dr. Viscott, ran some tests and said that Margaret should eat well, exercise, don't smoke. That stutter on her heart graph was something they'd keep their eye on.
Margaret knew she could smoke around me. Smoking was the least of the things she trusted me to keep secret.
From across the lake, we heard our mother practicing the spooky Chopin waltz that always made me think of ballroom dance music for ghosts. She kept making mistakes and starting over again. She'd wanted to be a pianist, she'd gone to music school, but she changed her plans when she met my dad and they ran off to be hippies. Margaret had found a snapshot of them picking soybeans on a commune in northern California. Long hair, overalls, bandannas, a Jesus beard on Dad.Goldengrove
A Novel. Copyright © by Francine Prose. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent book is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. She lives in New York City.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- April 1, 1947
- Place of Birth:
- Brooklyn, New York
- B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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The Short of It: An unsettling look at what happens to a family when a loved one is suddenly no more. The Rest of It: I've often wondered about death. Death that results from illness is quite different than a death that results from an accident or a sudden heart attack. In this novel, Margaret dies suddenly. Her family has no time to prepare themselves for the loss and for Nico, Margaret's younger sister, it's as if Margaret is there one minute and gone the next. How does a family deal with such a loss? As Nico struggles with her grief, she realizes that Aaron, Margaret's boyfriend is really the only person that understands what she is going through. They form an unlikely friendship which at times seems inappropriate but seeing what these two have been through, and what Margaret meant to them, all I saw were two people in a lot of pain trying desperately to overcome their grief. Francine Prose does a remarkable job of describing what Nico is feeling and although Margaret was not on the page for long, you definitely get a feel for her personality as these characters look back on their moments with her. Many have said that Nico seems older than her thirteen years. This may be true, but to me she came across as an 'old soul' which made her relationship with Aaron a bit easier for me to understand. As Prose takes us through the novel, Nico sees signs that Margaret is still with her. I've always been fascinated by signs. They function as a form of comfort and generally exist to help us through a crisis. Prose does a wonderful job of providing comfort to Nico in the way of signs and whether or not you believe they exist in real life doesn't really matter, because they exist realistically within the novel. I had one small quibble with Aaron. At the beginning of the novel, a comment is made which might lead the reader to think that all is not right with Aaron. As I was reading, I kept waiting for that secret to be revealed but in my opinion nothing was revealed. I felt that his actions were motivated by his loss so perhaps I missed something there. This novel was a very quick read. Once I started it, I could not put it down. The prose was easy to follow and I cared about the characters and what they were going through. This was my first experience with Prose's writing style but it definitely won't be my last.
Goldengrove by Francine Prose Thirteen year old Nico plans to spend the summer with her sister before Margaret leaves for college. But Margaret drowns quietly in the lake and Nico is left stunned and devastated. She is unable to deal with anything that reminds her of Margaret until her sister's boyfriend, Aaron, suggests an experiment, that they together do the things that Margaret loved. Margaret, who could sing "My Funny Valentine" and bring people to tears, who loved jazz, poetry, and old movies. Nico's parents never approved of Aaron, so Nico has to sneak behind their backs. But her mother is busy self-medicating and her father, who owns a bookstore, is writing a book about how cultures imagine the end of the world. But Nico starts to get in over her head with Aaron, and is torn between her sister's identity and her own. Goldengrove is a beautifully written novel dealing with family grief and coming of age. While the plot suggests a depressing read, it isn't in the hands of Prose. It is moving and touching and hopeful. While her parents have their own issues, they are not neglectful and Nico has a very close relationship with her dad. Though their world has been shattered, they do attempt family normalcy. Nico and her dad eat lunch daily, before she goes to work afternoons in Goldengrove, the family bookstore and he discussed his book with her. Margaret had a heart problem and Nico is convinced she does, too and reads medical books while her dad writes, trying to diagnose herself, convinced she is dying. The only thing she looks forward to is spending time with Aaron, reminiscing about Margaret. But Aaron is looking for Nico to be Margaret. Nico is an interesting, sympathetic character, wise beyond her years, coping with a horrible loss. There are no real dramatic moments in this novel, but it is not a slow read. The words are lyrical and poetic. "When I think of that time, I picture the four of us wading in the shallows, admiring our reflections in the glassy, motionless lake. Then something -a pebble, a raindrop- breaks the surface and shatters the mirror. A ripple reaches the distant bank. Our years of bad luck begin." I have never read anything by Francine Prose before and discovered that she has written several novels. I plan to read more works by her in the future. I highly recommend this touching story. http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/
In the summer in Mirror Lake in the northeast, seventeen year old Margaret drowns. Her family reacts differently to the accident though each mourns their loss. Her father regrets naming his daughter after a girl who mourns the loss of summer in "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" by Gerard Manley Hopkins and to escape his grief and remorse turns to end of the world scenarios on the latest book he will never finish. Her younger sister Nico tries to put a scientific spin to her feelings of loss while writing down how she and her parents react; even in death Nico still struggles with understanding her late older sibling's penchant for the dramatic like a poet out of control yet at the same worshiped Margaret's overt confidence. Their mother Daisy turns to pills as she buries her soul with the body of her oldest child. At times Nico notes her parents act like they still have two children at home with conversations as if Margaret will respond. Each grieves the loss differently and separately. Although Nico seems more the adult than her parents, this is a fascinating look at dealing (or not) with the sudden unexpected death of a love one. None of Margaret's family was prepared obviously for the drowning. Although totally a character study with an extremely thin plot, fans will enjoy Francine prose's (great surname for a novelist) fine probing prose of the debilitation caused by hiding in the early phases of grief as if expecting the dead person to reanimate. Harriet Klausner
When I began reading this book, I thought that it was good, with developed characters and a tragic beginning. The human experience is interesting, and this novel explores a family's grief through the eyes of a 12 year old girl. I thought that the main character's voice was a bit mature to be a believable 12 year old. BUT the allusions to great films and characters was nice. There is a great appreciation in this novel for the Classic form. I wish there was more plot development, though i think that the major focus was to show how grief affects individuals within a family. So, if you like to read about human drama, and can appreciate a tragic story line, this could be an interesting read for you.
The story was okay, but seemed to simply ramble. I kept waiting for something to happen. The ending was extemely anti-climatic and didn't 'finish' the story me. Felt like the author didn't know what else to say and just ended the story without wrapping it up.
This book has been featured in numerous magazines as a do not miss, memorable novel. I have struggled thru this novel for three weeks & that is really unusual for me. The story jumps around from present to past so the reader has a really hard time understanding the book & where the storyline is going~ (no where it seemed other than a gal depressed over the death of her older sister). I found it sad, depressing and a big let down.