Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goldengrove by Francine Prose

My third read by Francine Prose bore some resemblance to Blue Angel, which was a disturbing book for an English professor to read. It involves a sexy, manipulative student who plunges an instructor into a world of chaos. Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, the first I read, had so much clarity and good sense, it drove me to her fiction. I foresee another dozen titles by Prose on my bookshelves.

The narrator, Nico, lives in an idyllic, lake-side cottage with her father, who owns a book store named Goldengrove, her mother -- a piano teacher -- and her sister, Margaret. Margaret has a secret life, and after a tragedy, Nico seems headed into secrets of her own. I felt the same sense of foreboding I experienced with Blue Angel while reading Goldengrove, but her spectacular, lyrical prose has an element of poetry in every line, and that alone drove me on to the tense ending.

I underlined numerous wonderful lines, for example: “Now we acted as if the tiniest pressure could shatter our eggshell selves” (84) and “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” (2). Well, I have had that dream, and I know exactly how Nico feels in this scene.

This psychological portrait of a family dealing with loss calls to mind Tolstoy’s opening line of Anna Karenina. To paraphrase, all members of an unhappy family handle their unhappiness in different ways. However, this book never really strikes a sustained depressing note. 5 stars

--Chiron, 10/11/09

1 comment:

MargaretBeth said...

A moving novel and a believable central character. The repercussions of death within a family and a community are beautifully handled.