Thursday, September 17, 2009
Book Blogger Appreciation Week - Day 4
Today's BBAW assignment is to review a book that you read thanks to another book blogger. I'm excited about this one - I've been saving this review just for this event, and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you!
A couple of months ago, I was scanning through my Google reader, and happened upon a post with my name in it. What??? I looked closer, and saw that Cathy, from Constance Reader, had dedicated a review to me. We had discovered a shared love of books set in boarding schools, and when she read this book she thought of me. I was SOO excited - no one had ever done that before! So, of course, I immediately had to find a copy of the book she had reviewed, and boy was it a good one.
Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont
Constance Reader's review
Synopsis from publisher -
When Catherine Morrow is admitted to the Esther Percy School for Girls, it's on the condition that she reform her ways. But that's before the charismatic and beautiful Skye Butterfield, daughter of the famous Senator Butterfield, chooses Catherine for her best friend. Skye is a young woman hell-bent on a trajectory of self-destruction, and she doesn't care who is taken down with her. No matter the transgression--a stolen credit card, a cocaine binge, an affair with a teacher, an accident that precipitates the end of Catherine's promising riding career--Catherine can neither resist Skye's spell nor stop her downward spiral.
My thoughts -
Here's what this book was like - imagine Gossip Girl, set in the early 80s, with REALLY good writing. It has that same guilty pleasure quality that Gossip Girl has, with it's rich teenagers and their soap-opera-esque lifestyles. Catherine is the bad girl desperately trying to clean up her act, and Skye is the damaged, irresistible friend Catherine can't quite seem to shake. I can't say I especially liked either of these two girls - this is not the type of book you keep reading because you form such a connection with a main character. I spent a considerable amount of time wanting to throttle both of them, for their superior attitudes and reckless ways. But there was something about them that compelled me to keep reading, compelled me to find out how their stories would play out.
And I did enjoy the writing. Nina de Gramont has a beautiful way with words, and despite the fact that I didn't truly connect with the characters, she made me feel their emotions - the insecurity, and invincibility, and betrayal. I also found her use of Shel Silverstein's poem, Forgotten Language, to be especially effective in evoking the sense of a lost time, a period in the narrator's life that she couldn't ever get back.
"The rain fell, Bloom twitching her ears in protest. Without being commanded the horse shifted around and began heading toward home. A lump in my throat swelled with sorrow and relief at my own undeservedness. I could never have predicted it could feel so painful. So grand and enormous. So unexpected and inevitable. To be forgiven."
As a caution, there is a LOT of drug use in this novel. A LOT. It's interesting that the author set the story in the 80s, because it seems to me that is the only way her characters could have gotten away with some of the things they do - like smuggling cocaine back home from Venezuela in their jacket pocket. About halfway through, I was pretty tired of it - yes, I know, the kids are engaging in debauchery. Just like the last chapter, and the chapter before, and all the ones before. So if you have a low tolerance for that, seriously do NOT pick up this book.
But I have to say, I did enjoy this read. The time flew by as I was engrossed in these characters lives - it was a bit like an accident, where you know you shouldn't look, but can't help yourself. If you are looking for a book that reads like a guilty pleasure novel, but is actually well written, you might want to check this one out.
Cathy, thanks for giving me the heads up about this novel - the next time I stumble across a good boarding school story, I'll be sure to let you know!
(As a completely random aside, when my husband was a wee little lad, his parents almost sent him to Philips Exeter. Of course, I'm glad he didn't, because the likelihood of our meeting would have been pretty slim, but I admit in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "Wow, that would be so cool!")