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God On The Rocks Paperback – 7 Aug 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (7 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349121494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349121499
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.4 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 150,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature; has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Product Description


'A meticulously observed modern classic' INDEPENDENT 'Exact, piquant and comical' OBSERVER 'Tantalising ... Funny, sharp' DAILY TELEGRAPH Jane Gardam has a spectacular gift for detail of the local and period kind, and for details which make characters so subtly unpredictable that they ring true' TLS

Book Description

*A moving, Booker shortlisted story of a girl's coming of age, beautifully rejacketed for this reissue

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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Sep 2000
Format: Paperback
Despite the sometimes farcical aspects of this story, it's a moving and still believable tribute to childhood, old age, passion, obsession and loneliness. Each character can stand alone as a pen sketch in human nature. This is a lovely book, touchingly simple in its descriptions of the human condition, but full of complex characters - just like life itself!. I loved it and highly recommend it as an introduction to Jane Gardam.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wednesdays is `treat' day for Margaret, when her mother allows her to go on an outing with the maid, Lydia. Ellie, Margaret's mother, has just had another baby and she knows that Margaret, now eight, needs to feel loved. There are several things wrong with this scenario and, gradually, Gardam lets us discover what they are. Lydia, for instance is a magnet for young men, blowsy, large and blonde. Margaret's parents are members of the Primal Saints, a small Christian sect who do not allow pictures, music or dancing and there must be no alcohol or smoking in their houses. Margaret's father is a bank clerk and leader of the sect. Lydia has been sent (by distant Saints in Bishop Aukland, recommended as "a good girl from a devout family, strong in the faith and a good scrubber."). Lydia is not averse to work, but she is far from the paragon promised. Mrs Marsh is disconcerted: "We thought - you see, we thought -," she said. "Didn't you know? Mr Marsh, and I of course, and the children - we are The Faithful."

"Think nothing of it," said Lydia, "Where d'you keep yer butter?"

Astonishingly for Ellie Marsh, her husband will not hear of Lydia being sent away, "She has been sent," said Marsh. "We are to work His will."

The novel as a whole is a delight. Lydia wreaks havoc, Margaret learns that her mother is fallible and that the world is a much larger place than she thought. Ellie Marsh has a past more interesting than her present, with connections to an aristocratic family living nearby - whose matriarch has disinherited her children after ruining most of their lives and turning their stately pile into a refuge for so-called lunatics. These elements of the story are gradually brought together to provide a brilliant and exhilarating comedy of manners.

Shortlisted for the Booker in 1978, this novel is funny, sometimes provoking and profound.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 28 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
Set in England in the era between the two world wars, God on the Rocks, with its sly, multi-layered title, is one of Jane Gardam's earliest novels, a delightful but carefully considered look at society, religion, personal responsibility, and acts of fate in the lives of several families. Eight-year-old Margaret Marsh, the primary speaker, is energetic and thoughtful, living comfortably with her very religious bank manager-father and her subservient and seemingly passive mother. The family has recently been joined, however, by Lydia, a "fallen woman" whom her father Kenneth believes he is called upon to "save."

An especially precocious child, Margaret is having a hard time at home, these days, unable to understand the God who has sent her a baby brother who bores her (she wishes she could call him "Scummy," instead of Terrence), and as she and her mother argue about why Margaret needs to love the baby, Margaret reveals an unusually sophisticated ability to think on two levels--that of her real life, which is infinitely more exciting now that Lydia has arrived, and that of the spiritual life which her parents are encouraging in her. As Margaret questions the act of creation on all levels, along with what love really is, she is confused. "If I'd been God, I'd have left it at dinosaurs," she remarks. "And if God looks like us...What's the point?"

Through flashbacks, Margaret's early rebellions appear, and as she happily meets "damaged" people at the beach, like Drinkwater, an artist who may be living at the rest home nearby (primarily for the shell shocked), her view of the world also grows.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe on 25 Jun 2014
Format: Paperback
Well . . . eight-year-olds, actually. This is one of these novels in which a child's perspective on the goings-on of grown-ups is used to let us see the irrationality of so-called adult behavior, especially when that behavior is directed to the ends of order and control. Just to make sure we get that point, Gardam locates the main action of the novel (published in 1978) in the 1930's (1936, according to my reading of the internal evidence), and in such a way that the after-effects of World War 1 are still evident. The young protagonist, Margaret Marsh, left alone to wander at a seaside resort a few miles from her home, wanders on to the grounds of a big house, and it isn't very long before the reader figures out (as Margaret doesn't) that it is functioning as a nursing facility for men who have become psychologically disturbed as a result of their war experiences 17 and more years earlier. This forms part of the background against which the irrationality of domestic behavior is played out as the novel progresses.

Margaret's perceptions are fresh and often funny, and when she's puzzled, she asks direct questions that can be embarrassing. Gardam's rendering of the dialogue in which Margaret engages the adults around her, and her registration of the details of her everyday experience in surprising and vivid detail, are perhaps the real strengths of the book. The writing is consistently fresh, and there isn't a page on which you won't find some turn of phrase or descriptive detail that will delight you with its freshness and its rightness. These qualities are put at the service of a fairly standard theme -- the folly of people who believe that the crooked timber of humanity (in Kant's phrase) can be straightened out by them.
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