Saturday, May 2, 2009

Goldengrove, Francine Prose

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?

It was interesting to read this book so soon after reading A Map of the Known World. It felt a little like doing a school report comparing and contrasting such similarly themed stories, especially when one is so much stronger than the other (hint: Goldengrove, you win!).

I had a lot of issues with Map and feel like it is a text book example of an unrealistic voice for a young narrator. Francine Prose's portrayal of Nico is the complete opposite of Cora's character. Nico is completely unique but still realistic. This is the book that A Map of the Known World was hoping to be.

Goldengrove is one of those books that I didn't really didn't want to end. The characters were so real and the writing was clear, beautiful, and to hammer it home- believable. I think this kept popping into my head because I was so used to not believing anything about Cora and both books had the same younger sibling dealing with the death of older sibling theme going on. I kept marking passages to remember and revisit. This book is sad and amazing. I definitely plan to buy my own copy.

"I hated it when my mother talked about her parents. It depressed me that she still missed them. It was worse now, because it made me realize that missing someone could last an entire lifetime." (p.73)

Here was the quote that made me sit up and really notice the difference between the writing in Goldengrove and A Map of the Known World. I believe Nico would actually have said the following quote unlike that twaddle Cora was spouting about breath leading us through life.

"I looked like Jean Seburg in Joan of Arc, lit so that the heavenly radiance shone on her upturned forehead even as her cheeks were shadowed by the silhouettes of the flames dancing up to kill her." (p.74)

I love this quote about Nico's 4th grade teacher. That is exactly how I feel about myself on my bad days- like a teacher doll with no outside life or feelings other than keeping a classroom of babies happy.

"I'd liked Mrs. Atkins, though to me she was just another teacher doll that wound itself up when school began and ran down at three...I'd never imagined her having a mother, let alone one who could die. I'd never dreamed she could have been grieving even as she'd ordered us to play." (p.79)

"Margaret had been born too late. She'd meant too late for the jazz standards, the screwball comedies, the satin gowns. But she'd been off by the centuries. Too late for the lifeguard saint." (p.98)

"Nico, how are you? Really."
I said, "I'm okay. Not great."
"Great would be bizarre," she said. "No one's expecting great. Getting out of bed is the new great. Which you seem to be doing." (p.127)

"It used to be my studio," he said. "When I was pretending to paint."
"And now?"
"Now it's where I bake little children into gingerbread." (p.139)

"...the crisp Bach preludes that made me think of prairie dogs popping in and out of their burrows." (p.169)

Interview with Francine Prose at Book Page

Terry Teachout on Goldengrove

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