White Oleander book. Read reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Olea. White Oleander is a novel by American author Janet Fitch. It is a coming-of- age story about a child (Astrid) who is separated from her mother (Ingrid) and placed in a series of foster homes. It deals with themes of motherhood. The book was selected for Oprah's Book Club in May , after which it. Janet Fitch is the author of the novels White Oleander (Little Brown, ), an Oprah Book club selection translated into 24 languages and made into a feature .
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Janet Fitch's first novel,White Oleander, a #1 bestseller and a selection of Oprah's Book Club, has been translated into 24 languages and was made into a. Thirteen-year-old Astrid Magnussen, the sensitive and heart-wrenching narrator of this impressive debut, is burdened with an impossible mother in Ingrid. Janet Fitch's White Oleander is yet another book that follows one young woman's struggle to come of age in spite of the many hardships she.
This girl, younger than me, had experienced more than I could fathom, and the worst part was that it happens to girls like her in real life all. Poor, orphaned or abandoned girls are sucked into a system that is said to be for their best interest, but is more interested in money and getting the kid into any home they can so the social workers can say they did it. Man, this girl had it tough.
And sometimes, it hurt to read. To show that life really is unfair, and no matter how good or kind or beautiful you are, life hurts everyone, some more than others. Astrid more than the average person, and solely because she was good, kind and beautiful. Jealousy is gun-wielding dangerous, beauty is prostitution, slavery is only one meal a day. When Astrid finally let go of her oppressive mother, I could literally feel the freedom on the pages. A girl, tormented by life and the system for years on end, all the while her jailed mother scrutinized from the tiny cell block, finally found freedom in the most broken of homes and in the arms of the only person who ever saw her for her ; not a product of her mother, not a ward of the system, not as a child, or as a broken adult, but as Astrid Magnusson.
The girl who found herself while the world around her tried to tear her apart. This book was almost as good as my mom had said it was. The only thing setting it back from receiving the full five stars from me is the adult language that Fitch wrote with.
She may have had a happy ending, but I will never be able to shake what she had to go through to get there. Friday, May 31, He leaned against the white stucco wall of the bathroom as I prayed with him in my mouth, his hands in my hair. And yet Fitch makes it sing, with her beautiful, simple words. And I realised as I walked through the neighborhood how each house could contain a completely different reality.
In a single block, there could be fifty separate worlds.
Nobody ever really knew what was going on just next door. As I read this I became overwhelmed with the number of passages that I wanted to secrete away, to take out, and read again. Perhaps that explained the worn and tattered condition of the book I held within my hands, pages yellowing, stained and dog-eared or soiled in some other way by the fingers of less careful readers.
Truly I have done it several times now I can let this fall open to any page and find one of these passages. That was the thing about words, they were clear and specific-chair, eye, stone- but when you talked about feelings, words were too stiff, they were this and not that, they couldn't include all the meanings.
In defining, they always left something out. View all 47 comments. I have many thoughts that I'm having trouble putting into words.
Before reading the final chapter of the book, I had to put it down, lean my head back against the couch and think about the experience I've had while reading this book. Astrid's journey, her development from girl to woman, is remarkably crafted. Fitch's writing paints the arid desert and mountain brush in such fine detail.
Atmospherically, this story was superb. I was totally immersed in the story, in the physical spaces that Astri I have many thoughts that I'm having trouble putting into words. I was totally immersed in the story, in the physical spaces that Astrid inhabits through her page life.
My only qualm was that I wish there had been a bit more explanation from her mother's perspective. But that final interaction in the prison, wow. Just wow. It took my breath away. If you're struggling to get into this book for the first one or two hundred pages, just keep going. It's completely worth it. View 1 comment. Jan 14, Matt rated it did not like it Recommends it for: This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
View all 57 comments. Mar 22, Joe Valdez rated it it was amazing Shelves: After reading her scorching short story in Los Angeles Noir , I smoked a cigarette I don't smoke , napped and reached for a novel by Janet Fitch. Round 2 is White Oleander, which Oprah's Book Club made a sweepstakes winner at the time of its publication in and for good reason. This is fiction at its most intoxicating, with boozy prose but also beautifully woven narrative, without a single lull in story or a character who fails to make a mark.
Its vision and breadth reminded me of W. Somerse After reading her scorching short story in Los Angeles Noir , I smoked a cigarette I don't smoke , napped and reached for a novel by Janet Fitch.
Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage , with a teenage girl in Los Angeles surviving a succession of mentors that mold her into an adult. The novel is narrated by Astrid Magnussen, who introduces herself at the age of 12 living in a crummy Hollywood apartment with her mother Ingrid.
Employed as a layout designer for a movie magazine when she's not hustling books of her poems, Ingrid is devoted to aesthetics. She's trucked Astrid from Paris to Amsterdam to Mexico and takes her to work as well, certain that her daughter's needs can be met in the audience of her mother.
At her poetry reading, Ingrid is approached by Barry Kolker, a chubby, dark and slovenly dressed man who Ingrid rejects on sight, but whose self-confidence and persistence gradually wins her over.
Having never known her father, Astrid is encouraged that Barry might make them a family, as well as provide stability in her life. Outside of drawing, life revolves around her mother. This takes a turn for the worse when Barry breaks off contact with Ingrid, crushing her self-esteem and drawing Viking retribution. The police come for her and Astrid spends the next year in a fugue state, watching her zombie-eyed mother sentenced to thirty-five years to life. She's ultimately placed with her first foster family, adopted by a born-again stripper named Starr who lives in Tujunga with her four children in a trailer.
On visiting day, a van transports Astrid to Chino to sit with her mother. I looked into her determined face, cheekbones like razors, her eyes making me believe. But I couldn't say it. She hugged me again. Those arms around me made me want to stay there forever.
I'd rob a bank and get convicted so we could always be together. I wanted to curl up in her lap, I wanted to disappear into her body, I wanted to be one of her eyelashes, or a blood vessel in her thigh, a mole on her neck. Do they hurt you? I had to pull away a little to see her. Yes, she was smiling, her half-smile, the little comma-shaped curve at the corner of her mouth.
I touched her mouth. She kissed my fingers. I told them I'd rather clean toilets than type their bureaucratic vomit. Oh, they don't much care for me. I'm on grounds crew. I sweep, pull weeds, though of course only inside the wire.
I'm considered a poor security risk. I won't tutor their illiterates, teach writing classes, or otherwise feed the machine. I will not serve. I want to remember you just like this, in that sadly hopeful pink dress, and those bridesmaid, promise-of-prom-night pumps. Your foster mother's, no doubt. Starr grows suspicious of her adopted daughter but Astrid convinces her that not only is an affair preposterous, but sending her back would only push Ray away.
Astrid soon consummates a relationship with him anyway and to cope with her doubts, Starr returns to booze. When it comes time for her to move on, Astrid has to be taken away in an ambulance. Recovering from her wounds, she's adopted by Marvel Turlock. Next stop: Van Nuys. Marvel enlists Astrid as a servant but provides a kind of stability she's never known. Now fourteen, Astrid becomes fascinated by a debonair neighbor named Olivia Johnstone who Marvel has disparaged as a "whore.
The friendship continues to mold and harden the girl and results in her being sent back. Considered a problem child, Astrid is placed with Amelia Ramos, an interior decorator who uses the adoption assistance checks for four girls to renovate her Hollywood home, starving her charges with only one meal per day. Astrid endears herself to a new case worker, a screenwriter gathering material, to find placement with her dream foster mother, a childless young actress named Claire Richards.
Astrid even gets along with her new foster father, who travels often producing a paranormal TV series. Astrid learns her role here is to watch over Claire, clinically depressed and possibly suicidal from lack of love from her husband. She does her best but with a year left of high school, is on the move again, this time to a hovel in Sunland, where her new foster mother Rena Gruschenka strips Astrid of her pride but replaces it with something more valuable.
Rena turned her head to the side, shaded her eyes with her hand, glanced at me, then went back to sunny-side up. A Russian always ask, what is meaning of life. Is our bad weather. Here is California, Astrid darling.
You don't ask meaning. Too bad Akhmatova, but we got beach volleyball, sports car, tummy tuck. Don't worry, be happy. download something. Small beads of water clung to the tiny hairs of her upper lip, pooled between her breasts. Maybe she was the lucky one, I thought, a woman who had divested herself of both future and past.
No dreams, no standards, a woman who smoked and drank and slept with men like Sergei, men who were spiritually what came up out of the sewers when it rained. I could learn from her. Rena Gruschenka didn't worry about her teeth, didn't take vitamin C.
She ate salt on everything and was always drunk by three. She certainly didn't feel sick because she wasn't going to college and making something of her life. She lay in the sun and gave the workmen hard-ons while she could. I didn't want to tell her I had a boyfriend.
There are novels that seem like they were written just for you. Electric prose? Acidic wit? Fantastic dialogue? You like master-pupil stories, don't you? What about the ultimate L. How about detail that's so sharp you draw blood? You'll have it. Read White Oleander. I mean By April, the desert had already sucked spring from the air like blotting paper.
The Hollywood Hills rose unnaturally clear, as if we were looking at them through binoculars. The new leaves were wilting in the heat that left us sweating and dispirited in the house with the blinds down. Claire brought out the jewelry she kept in the freezer and dumped it onto the bed, a pirate's treasure, deliciously icy. Freezing strands of green jade beads with jeweled clasps, a pendant of amber enclosing a fossilized fern. I pressed it, cold, to my cheek.
I draped an antique crystal bracelet down the part in my hair, let it lap on my forehead like a cool tongue. She was painfully thin, with sharp hipbones and ribs stark as a carved wooden Christ. I could see her beauty mark above the line of her panties.
A very brave woman. I plucked an onyx ring from the pile between us on the bed, rectangular, its black slick surface pierced by a tiny diamond. I slipped it on, but it was tiny, only fit my smallest finger, above the knuckle.
A quintessential Parisienne.
I imagined jet-black hair, curls, a sharp tongue. Her black eyes would have caught my least awkwardness. She would have disapproved of me, my gawky arms and legs, I would have been too large for her little chairs and tiny gold-rimmed porcelain cups, a moose among antelope. I gave it to Claire, who slipped it right on. The garnet choker, icy around my neck, was a wedding present from her mill-owning Manchester great-grandfather to his wife, Beatrice.
The gold jaguar with emerald eyes I balanced on my knee was brought back from Brazil in the twenties by her father's aunt Geraldine Woods, who danced with Isadora Duncan. I was wearing Claire's family album. Maternal grandmothers and paternal great-aunts, women in emerald taffeta, velvet and garnets. Time, place, and personality locked into stone and silver filigree.
In comparison to this, my past was smoke, a story my mother once told me and later denied. No onyxes for me, no aquamarines memorializing the lives of my ancestors.
I had only their eyes, their hands, the shape of a nose, a nostalgia for snowfall and carved wood. Claire dripped a gold necklace over one closed eye socket, jade beads in the other.
She spoke carefully, nothing slid off. Mouths full of jewels and a gold coin over each eye. Fare for the ferryman. After a minute, she picked up the pearls, opened her mouth and let the strand drop in, closed her lips over the shiny eggs. Her mother had given her the pearls when she married, though she didn't want her to marry a Jew. Prejudice was hardly a surprise. The only thing I wondered was why would she give her pearls.
Claire lay still, pretending to be dead. A jeweled corpse in her pink lace lingerie, covered with a fine drizzle of sweat.
I wasn't sure I liked this new game. Through the French doors, in the foot of space showing under the blinds, I could see the garden, left wild this spring. Claire didn't garden anymore, no pruning and weeding under her Chinese peaked hat. She didn't stake the flowers, and now they bloomed ragged, the second-year glads tilting to one side, Mexican evening primroses annexing the unmowed lawn.
Ron was away again, twice in one month, this time in Andalusia taping a piece about Gypises. Out combing the world for what was most bizarre, racking up frequent flier miles.
The coming-of-age story from a heartbreaking point-of-view
If he wanted to see something weird and uncanny, he should have just walked into his own bedroom and seen his wife lying on the bed in her pink lace panties and bra, covered in jade and pearls, pretending she was dead. I could keep typing because White Oleander stays at that pitched level of character, black wit and psychological complexity for pages, with the pulse of a mother-daughter relationship underneath and in climax, a memorable confrontation between them.
Fitch is dialed in to the human condition, depicting how those we come into intimate contact with will hurt us, inspire us and chisel away at us to expose whoever we were destined to be.
It's harrowing, it's real, it's rock 'n roll, it's one of the best novels I've read. In contrast to a lot of the others, this is also storytelling, constantly moving forward, never devolving into Writing while Astrid is on her journey. View all 33 comments. Nov 26, Jessica rated it liked it Recommends it for: There must be a reason why I've been able to recall many of the books I've read over the years, but that it took me until one of my most restless and procrastibatory nights in front of the blank Word doc to dredge this one up from the recesses of memory, even though I read it within the past year or two.
I'm pretty sure I know what that reason is, too: I'm pretty sure I know where that embarrassm There must be a reason why I've been able to recall many of the books I've read over the years, but that it took me until one of my most restless and procrastibatory nights in front of the blank Word doc to dredge this one up from the recesses of memory, even though I read it within the past year or two.
I'm pretty sure I know where that embarrassment comes from, too: This book is the most Oprahiest Book Clubby selection I've ever read in my life. It's also the most estrogened-out, hyper-womany fiction I can even begin to think of. All the criticisms and stereotypes I and a lot of you hold about lady lit are present here, by the bundle: This book was far from perfect, there are some valid and gender-neutral criticisms I have of it, but it was good, and I enjoyed it, and the fact is that I apparently find this somehow embarrassing, and on some level must think I should really be digging on Chuck Palahniuk or Ernest Hemingway or that guy who writes those series books about old-timey sailing ships that middle-aged men love so much Like that is way more respectable or something.
Have all these thousands of dollars and book-hours spent on feminist indoctrination been for naught??? Okay, it was melodramatic, but that's part of what made it good. It's about this blonde shorty with a crazy, really horrid white witch of a psycho blonde poet mother, who is scorned by this chumpy-seeming LA cheeseball in a Hawaiian shirt, and hell hath no fury like a psycho poet lady, the mom kills guy, goes to prison, blah blah blah So the kid, Astrid -- or maybe Ingrid?
Like Push, another book I need to review, there are moments you cannot believe the author was able to type with a straight face. Anyway, I liked this book.
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I can't believe I'm so defensive about it! I must really have issues. But does anyone else on here know what I mean? I noticed that NONE of my friends have read this book, which makes me wonder whether there are others among us who have somehow "forgotten," as I had myself, until I sat down tonight to write a paper.
BTW, I tried reading part of this years ago, when the author visited my college writing class she had gone to my school , and I couldn't choke it down that first time. BUT, Ms. Fitch did tell a good story about Oprah calling her personally to say she was in the book club, which I won't repeat here because I have run out of characters.
View all 18 comments.
I am appalled by the worldview presented in this book. Yet the circumstances surrounding Ingrid, a poetess who goes to prison for murder are so artificial! I don't want to squirm when I'm reading, and I read for pleasure. Is there a market for books like this? Of course there is. And I've got nothing against people who like this book.
But should they lap it up like it's licorice? The book is also about foster homes and what can go wrong. I just don't think that the author should be so fake in her I am appalled by the worldview presented in this book.
I just don't think that the author should be so fake in her plotting in an attempt to fake verisimilitude. I did like it on some level. This book is similar to books by Khaled Hosseini. It's a compliment, but at the same time, a denial. View all 5 comments. What exquisite writing, never have I read a book that speaks so beautifully but also describes pain so acutely.
Astrid becomes a ward of the state after her mother commits a crime of passion and is imprisoned. Although her mother is behind bars, Astrid cannot shake her mother's deep hold on her. Her mother, beautiful Nordic Ingrid Magnussen.
A true seductress a woman who can weave a web of destruction with her beauty, poetry and words, people fall in love with her, men in particular, she is dang What exquisite writing, never have I read a book that speaks so beautifully but also describes pain so acutely. A true seductress a woman who can weave a web of destruction with her beauty, poetry and words, people fall in love with her, men in particular, she is dangerous and nobody knows this better than Astrid.
White Oleander by Fitch, First Edition
A relationship that is deeply destructive and insidious. Along the way Astrid meets many "mothers" foster mothers who have their own lessons to teach Astrid, although she goes through some horrific foster placements, she really tries to belong but always finds that her mother keeps a firm grasp on her and is able to manipulate her and those around her even though she is in jail and can't physically reach her, it's the mental scars and trauma that keep affecting Astrid and making it hard to move on however hard she tries to.
A book that really exposes the complexities of women, how they shape and influence us, in good and bad ways. I loved this book but it was heavy going at times, it's a book I needed to take breaks from as if could become all consuming and depressing. The theme of this book touched a nerve so it affected me personally which is why I rated this 5 stars View all 26 comments.
White Oleander follows the story of Astrid, a young girl who is shuttled from one foster home to another while her mother serves a life sentence in prison.
I'm reading this for the second time, and it remains one of my favourite books ever. It is as beautiful and dreamy as it is bleak and raw. The Los Angeles setting is gorgeous, blissful, and yet terribly unforgiving. I was so totally immersed in this story from start to finish, and I would think about it longingly when I was off doing other thi White Oleander follows the story of Astrid, a young girl who is shuttled from one foster home to another while her mother serves a life sentence in prison.
I was so totally immersed in this story from start to finish, and I would think about it longingly when I was off doing other things - which is what I love most about reading; it's such a wonderful feeling when you can't wait to dive back into the world between the pages.
The characters in this novel are ones you won't forget; terribly flawed, and yet I remained sympathetic towards all of them.
Janet Fitch has a talent for writing in a way which allows you to thoroughly comprehend what each character is going through, regardless of how different your own life may be. I highly, highly recommend this novel, especially for those who love character driven stories, or if you're looking for something different.
White Oleander is truly remarkable. Dec 04, Helene Jeppesen rated it it was amazing. When I was about pages into the book, I already knew that this was going to be a new favourite of mine. Now that I've finished it, I can honestly say that this is one of the most raw books I've ever read. What strikes me the most about this story is the impeccable writing style.
The main character, Astrid, tells the story in a very impressionistic way and it was beautiful! Janet Fitch has a way of comparing life to ordinary things and creating metaphors that are spot on, and it was so easy to follow Astrid's train of thoughts and feel for her through her struggles.
The impeccable writing style was then paired to a beautiful and - as I said - raw story about doubt, loneliness, love, insecurity and so many other things. Name a feeling and this book has it. I still can't believe how Janet Fitch manages to convey Astrid's feelings and doubt so beautifully; even though I've never been in Astrid's situation, I completely understood the feelings she was going through.
I loved every page of this book! It broke my heart, and it has left a great impact on me. That's eaxctly why it made it straight to my favourites list: This is a must-read! View all 9 comments.
Gritted my teeth to get through this and see what happened. The story itself is interesting, but the writing was so fussy and melodramatically overwrought that I wanted to toss the book away. Kept going only because I wanted to understand people's strong response to it.
Jun 23, Debbie "DJ" rated it it was amazing Shelves: This is some of the most beautiful writing I've ever encountered. Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. It's language is deep and satisfying. The mother daughter relationship told in an almost mythical way. Loved it! View all 7 comments. Most people have been powerfully affected by it.
They either really liked it or really disliked it. After reading it, I could see how it could sway you in either ways. You could either take the story at face value and be swayed by it, as I did, or you could critically analyze it and call upon its credibility.
My opinion Janet Fitch writes White Oleander in a very eloquent style. Poetic writing is not some thing I enjoy usually since I'm pathetic in poetry. But I didn't have to strain myself here.
The writing flowed easily, in fact, I couldn't wait to turn page after page to know what happens next. White Oleander is told from Astrid's perspective. Beauty was my mother's law, her religion.
You could do anything you wanted, as long as you were beautiful, as long as you did things beautifully. If you weren't, you just didn't exist. Although I had noticed by now that reality didn't always conform to my mother's ideas. Astrid's mother, Ingrid, did not give herself to men.
Men came to her, but she frowned on them. Until Barry Kolker came along and proved to be her weakness. When Barry leaves her for another woman, Ingrid's methodical jealousy has her murdering him by poison. Ingrid's sentence to jail starts a six-year transformation in Astrid from the girl who worships her mother to someone who tries to stay away from her. Astrid's years in foster care are almost gut-wrenching to read about. That a year old girl goes through so much makes it an even more poignant reading.
Astrid happens to be very mature for her age. Her initial confusion over what her mother did soon gives way to an acceptance of what she will have to go through. All her foster parents have shades of gray. Every house she stays in, she learns something formidable about human life in general. She slowly comes to learn how to manipulate human wants and desires. In so many instances, I could see quite a bit of her mother, in herself. White Oleander is very powerfully written. It describes a very harrowing picture of the foster care in LA, where Astrid grew up.
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A foster parent who suspects her of sleeping in with her boyfriend, another one who suspects her of being lesbian and having a relationship with the prostitute next door, yet another who encourages pot and alcohol in the house.
What was saddening was Astrid's belief that she deserved it. Which child deserves any of this? Sometimes I wanted to shake the people around her for being blind to her - A year-old aware of the manipulative power of sex, the lifting effect of drugs and being attracted to old or married men.
However dire these situations, White Oleander also strongly advocates that human companionship can be found in the least expected places. In the geeky studious child who is very knowledgeable about nature, in a woman who sleeps with men for money, in the childless mother, who adores Astrid but who is highly suspicious about her husband's fidelity, in the pregnant foster-child who looks to Astrid for support during her pregnancy. These little tales of love moved me just as much as the harsh tales did.
What made the sorrows more unbearable is that the good events didn't last. Much as Astrid was being doomed to a life of hardships, she learned from these situations to get the upper-hand. I did get bugged initially by the fact that hardships follow Astrid. I would not have liked White Oleander if Astrid never grew to love and feel loved. The one foster-home that gives her that moves me more than the shady foster-homes she has been in.
I loved Astrid's coming of age in this book, and how she adapted to different situations, but I liked Ingrid's character-sketch more. Janet Fitch has painted a sharp picture of Astrid's mom, with all her staunchly held beliefs and her conviction that Astrid could only "belong" to her. It was a portrait that one would hate instantly and yet be enamored by its sharp colors and strong inward pulls. I would strongly recommend White Oleander to you.
It is very hard to do justice to this book, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn't quite get it right. So I'll just say, go ahead and read it! Title Demystified Did you know that white oleanders are poisonous?
My knowledge of botany is at the very bottom, so this particular fact was quite new to me. White Oleander is all about the poisons in the human spirit. There is the frequent mention of "sin virus", when someone yearns for something wrong - sex, drugs, or anything that is frowned upon. There is the reference to Ingrid's poisonous tentacles that sweetly lures everyone and then jumps in for the kill. White Oleander is a strong tale of how the many poisons in a person can overcome the good feelings and undermine a relationship.
Cover Art Demystified I was initially captivated by the cover of this book, way before reading its synopsis. The beautiful woman slowly unzipping herself, gives me the image of human temptations and manipulations. Human poisons, in other words, that much laces and interleaves the whole story of Astrid and Ingrid.
View all 14 comments. Jan 11, Megan rated it it was amazing Recommended to Megan by: Aunt Amy Jane. My aunt bought me this book for Christmas one year and at first I was really disappointed.
I thought "Oh, that's niceIt was a portrait that one would hate instantly and yet be enamored by its sharp colors and strong inward pulls. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. I adored the protagonist, Astrid. Fitch spins letters into gold; every word that she chooses is deliberate and precise. Our BookSleuth is specially designed for you. She must later decide whether she should help her mother try to appeal her sentence.
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