A wise and entertaining novel about a woman who has lived life on her own terms for 75 defiant and determined years, only to find herself suddenly thrust to the center of her family’s various catastrophes.
Meet Florence Gordon: blunt, brilliant, cantankerous, and passionate, a feminist icon to young women. At 75, Florence has earned her right to set down the burdens of family and work and shape her legacy at long last. But just as she is beginning to write her long-deferred memoir, her son Daniel returns to New York from Seattle with his wife and daughter, and they embroil Florence in their dramas, clouding the clarity of her days with the frustrations of middle age and the confusions of youth. And then there is her left foot, which is starting to drag.
With searing wit, sophisticated intelligence, and a tender respect for humanity in all its flaws, Brian Morton introduces a constellation of unforgettable characters. Chief among them is Florence, who can humble the fools surrounding her with one barbed line, but who eventually finds there are realities even she cannot outwit.
©2014 Brian Morton (P)2014 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Exquisitely written, intelligent/wise book. As an audio listener, I especially liked the many short chapters.
Florence herself: Her toughness, self-integrity, and grit. I decided to read this because of PBS book reviewer Maureen Corrigan's description of her as a blunt and unlikeable, and I was in the mood for something unsentimental and not nicely wrapped up with a bow.
Dawn Harvey made an ambitious effort to portray the characters with nuance. She didn't always do it perfectly, sometime blending one voice over into another, but she did capture them well.
I don't know about the tag line, but if Lena Dunham could be aged by several decades, she should play the lead.
I bought this book because of the many positive reviews, and I was interested in a seventy-something as a primary protagonist. I like that this is a presentation of the life and work of a woman of a certain age, with all the acquired wit and wisdom that age provides.
While the story and characterization delivered, I just felt there wasn't enough exploration of the several connected plot lines, and not enough development of the characters' interior geography.
On the "plus" list: I did especially like the polarity that was set up between the main character, Florence, and her Gen Y (or is it "Z" by now?) granddaughter...where both the conflicts and connections were profiled with plenty of insight. And I also liked that both the male leads were not described as eye candy, their appeal emerging from more interior, subtle, character-driven sources.
But the narrator pretty much ruined it for me - most of her voices were delivered in a kind of sing-songy chatter, adding a lot of unnecessary drama which is NOT why I read. To her credit, she presented the male characters without sounding like a female Attila the Hun, but for the most part I was annoyed by her rapid staccato vocalizations.
I could sense in this narrator an affinity for the theater, as some passages of dialogue were read like a stage play, with no description, and I found it all just a little too "cute" for my liking, with quick one-liners back and forth, almost as though the speakers were going to break into song at any moment. Sort of a Noel Coward/Neil Simon effect. I realize this is the way that the scenes were written, but I would have preferred some interior thoughts and/or actions mixed in with the dialogue. Hope that makes sense.
The ending was abrupt - and I am not fussy about endings. I think they are about the same as beginnings - within certain parameters, one place is as good as another. But this novel sauntered gracefully towards an end you could see coming but then the story simply vanished, dropped out of sight without saying goodbye, leaving the reader to wonder "what just happened?".
So, it's a "3" all around. Still a very good listen, even though I didn't think it was quite "there", and it's one I would recommend - either in audio or print.
Morton yes, Harvey - not so much.
Harvey's narration of Florence Gordon is so annoying to me that I couldn't finish the book. She has assigned "voices" to each of the characters, but Harvey can't seem to remember which character has what voice, or the voices change based on who the character is speaking to, and sometimes accents fade in and out. It was so annoying that I found myself listening to Harvey instead of listening to the characters.
Harvey over-animates the voices and turns the characters into caricatures. Florence speaks in a growly voice until Harvey forgets to maintain it, the teen granddaughter is portrayed as a stereotyped ninny, when clearly she's an intelligent and thoughtful girl.
Harvey makes all the characters overact. She should have voiced them as mature adults, using lower case tone. Instead EVERYONE IS SPEAKING IN UPPER CASE as though Harvey is trying to get a point across. No nuance.
What I like about books is you can assign or imagine voices to the characters. I love audio books, but I especially appreciate the narrators who don't try to act out the book for me. That's what my imagination is for. Just read the words, please.
I've never thought this about a book before, but I can't wait for a movie to be made. I think the it has potential to attract great actors, including older actors.
I'll be switching from audio to paper version for this book.
I really enjoyed this literate, engaging book. It's all about a somewhat dysfunctional, but highly functioning, family, lead by the title character, Florence Gordon. There isn't a plot so much as a series of seemingly slight but significant events that build to significant changes to each member of the family. Warning: this is not a plot-driven narrative, and, like life, nothing is wrapped up in a tidy resolution. The ending is abrupt, but exactly suited to the bluntness of Florence Gordon.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
Really great character study of an unconventional woman who refuses to let others define her. Not exactly likeable, Florence navigates her way through her personal and professional relationships like a cargo ship. You either get out of her way, or get plowed under by the force of her passing. The best scenes were the ones involving Florence and her granddaughter, Emily. Gradually, Emily comes to realize that her grandmother is a human being with her own desires, wants and fears, rather than simply an old woman to whom she happens to be related. The generational divide between them is never entirely bridged, but their rapprochement makes for good reading. Sometimes the reader is inside Florence’s head, getting a glimpse of her frustration with—and lack of understanding of—Emily’s constant use of her cell phone. Sometimes we are inside Emily’s head, sharing her frustration with her grandmother’s inability to observe common niceties like saying “thank you” but also sensing Emily’s growing appreciation for Florence’s accumulated wisdom and sheer strength of character.
There are also some wonderful scenes involving Emily and her father, neither of whom knows what the other is thinking (of course we, the readers, do know) during which it seems like we see Emily grow up before our eyes.
I guess if I had to sum up what this novel was about, I’d say it was about how we all continue to grow and change no matter how old we are. But it’s also about how our core selves never really change. As Emily says, “It’s just as difficult to imagine an old person’s past as it is to imagine a young person’s future.”
Kudos to Mr. Morton for bringing to life this realistic older woman character and allowing her to engage in real conversations with other female characters. It was a refreshing change from most literary fiction I come across.
[I read this as an audio book narrated by Dawn Harvey. She did a good job giving young Emily the “upspeak” lilt appropriate to her generation, and differentiating her from her grandmother, Florence.]
The truth is that I suspect that this is probably an interesting, well-written book, and I wish I had followed my knee-jerk reaction and opted to wait until I actually had the time to read it rather than to let it accompany me, beginning to end, on a recent road trip. I'm sure that my mind's ear would have provided a much more neutral but fertile medium for the organic growth and development of Mr. Morton's cast of characters than the overwrought, strident, sing-song provided by narrator, Dawn Harvey.
She is, without a doubt, the worst reader I have encountered in an Audible.com selection. The portrayals, without exception, though strong and assured, are strident and one-dimensional. If only Ms. Harvey had been directed to tone down her point of view and modulate her infuriating insistence upon running all of the speeches through every extreme of vocal pitch and range of volume, these unusual characters might have a chance at achieving some of the interest and dimensionality undoubtedly intended by their creator, and I wouldn't have been left feeling like a really good book was being held at arm's length from me by the egomaniacal president of the drama club at a very, very small high school.
Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard for me. It was overacted and screechy. I couldn't even manage an hour. I have been an audible member for years and have never stopped listening to a book because the narrator was driving me crazy - until now! I will read the rest of the book.
I picked up this book because it's not usual that I see a book about an old person as the main charcter,, so the idea intrigued me. Florence Gordon is everything you expect her to be but I feel as if the book made her to be something of a caricature. In my mind I know that there's people in the world who are very much like her. Although she was strong, independent and intelligent she lacked joy, happiness and connection with other people at least in a way that was kind. Although the ending was logical and consistent with her character, it actually left me feeling hurt. No one likes the idea of a grandmother dying alone. I wouldn't normally give away the end but the book is so much more than its basic plot. Great read!
The character of Florence resonated with me especially because I came of age during the 1960s feminist movement. I knew many women like Florence. While men could get away with outrageous behavior in service of their cause, Florence is depicted as strident and very selfish.
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