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White Oleander Paperback – 16 Jan 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; Film Tie-in Ed edition (16 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860499511
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860499517
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,475,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Astrid Magnussen, the teenage narrator of Janet Fitch's engrossing first novel, White Oleander, has a mother who is as sharp as a new knife. An uncompromising poet, Ingrid despises weakness and self- pity, telling her daughter that they are descendants of Vikings, savages who fought fiercely to survive. And when one of Ingrid's boyfriends abandons her, she illustrates her point, killing the man with the poison of oleander flowers. This leads to a life-sentence in prison, leaving Astrid to teach herself the art of survival in a string of Los Angeles foster homes.

As Astrid bumps from trailer park to tract house to Hollywood bungalow, White Oleander uncoils her existential anxieties. "Who was I, really?" she asks. "I was the sole occupant of my mother's totalitarian state, my own personal history rewritten to fit the story she was telling that day. There were so many missing pieces." Fitch adroitly leads Astrid down a path of sorting out her past and identity. In the process, this girl develops a wire-tight inner strength, gains her mother's white-blonde beauty, and achieves some measure of control over their relationship. Even from prison, Ingrid tries to mould her daughter. Foiling her, Astrid learns about tenderness from one foster mother and how to stand up for herself from another. Like the weather in Los Angeles--the winds of the Santa Anas, the scorching heat--Astrid's teenage life is intense. Fitch's novel deftly displays that, and also makes Astrid's life meaningful. --Katherine Anderson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Graceful (THE TIMES)

Poignant, virtuosic and utterly captivating (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)

However good the film version, starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellwegger, it won't beat Janet Fitch's reissued novel White Oleander. (')

Liquid poetry is how Oprah Winfrey described it. (IN STYLE UK) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By OllyOctopus on 3 Dec 2000
Format: Paperback
I cannot recommend this novel highly enough, and would encourage anyone who can appreciate a well written novel to buy this book. Considering this is Janet Fitch's first novel, it is an amazing piece of literature which keeps you spellbound from beginning to end.
The narrator, Astrid, tells her story of being brought up by a hippie artistic and headstrong mother who kills her boyfriend out of revenge. When Ingrid is imprisoned, the story moves on to Astrid's experiences in foster care. The neglect and abuse Astrid receives are described without being oversentimental and therefore, the reader is engrossed and completely torn by these scenes.
the fact that Astrid survives the experiences shows her strength of character which is an excellent reason to read the book. However, I was also facinated by the descriptions of the American care system as well.
If you only read one book next year, read White Oleander.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
I heard about White Oleander while watching Oprah: she had it as one of the books in her book club and gave away copies to the audience members on the show. I only caught the end, but the book had obviously affected her a great deal, so when I saw it some time later I bought it. The cover showed beautiful blonde women and they stared at me for along time before I finally picked up the book.
Once having started it, however, I could hardly put it down. So far removed from my own life, the story of Astrid as she makes her life journey from the side of a beautiful but murdering mother through a succession of disconcerting families as a child in care, was at times difficult to bear. Yet it was a story I felt I should read and it is in that light I am recommending White Oleander: a book which simply must be read. Uncomfortable at times, compelling always.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leigh on 22 Oct 2003
Format: Paperback
White Oleander is a passionate, hypnotic and dangerous novel, exploring un-spoken themes of today's tangled world.
Janet Fitch tells the moving and complicated story of Astrid, a child raised in a potent world of beauty and destruction. Her mother, a twisted and un-earthly artist raises her daughter into this potent world, before emotionally torturing and murdering her former lover, thus leaving Astrid alone and vulnerable. “White Oleander” explores Astrid’s emotional journey through countless foster homes, where she faces incest, murder and, above all, her own powerful mind.
But is not just the twisted, shocking plot which makes this novel un-missable. Fitch writes with tragic passion and charisma, making the characters and their broken worlds dance with life and colour. Each different part of Astrid’s slow clamber to adulthood evokes such empathy and impact, it is virtually impossible not to become addicted.
Although the plot at times becomes very complicated, this book explores love, loss, lust and life, looking at how we can as humans adapt and change over time.
However unbelievable it may seem, this story somehow really made an impact to me personally, making me look at the situations around me in a different way. Fitch makes the book especially enjoyable, by combining a high lexis and sentence structure with beautifully descriptive use of language. Her style makes the whole novel exceptionally pleasurable to read, as her selective use of verbs and adjectives helps us as readers to build up a vivid picture of the unfolding and intriguing life of a strong young ‘lady’. The book rapidly changes from an everyday story into a colourful bible for the aspiring artist in all of us.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Nov 2002
Format: Paperback
I was given a pack of rather samey books recently of which White Oleander was one. I left them stacked up and thought I would read them at some point but had no idea when...then the flu struck and these books became my only source of entertainment for a week or two. As soon as I picked up White Oleander, I was entranced by the vibrancy, and stark beauty of Astrid's life before and after her mother's incarceration.
This story has a remarkable thread, one you hope you can witness forever...hoping the book wont end, but end it does! Unlike many books, where promising beginnings lead to dull middles and ends, the splendor of White Oleander continues until the end, inspiring creative thought and feelings of rapture!!!! Just wonderful!
More please Janet!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By "liaw" on 18 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
I picked this novel up in a charity shop, having only heard of it previously as an item on Oprah's book list. It was the best 50p I ever spent. It's an enthralling story of the daughter of a very vain and selfish woman who murders a former lover. Astrid's life in foster care after her mother goes to prison is heartbreaking. She suffers such cruelty but manages to keep her head above water and learn many lessons it would take most of us a lifetime to learn. Her strength is inspiring. It's an eye-opening look at what can happen to an innocent child when a parent lives only for themselves. I didn't want the book to end.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Shimsham on 5 April 2003
Format: Paperback
Put simply, White Oleander is an amazing book. I read it because after reading some of the 'lists' on Amazon, I realised that many people who had appreciated similar books to me had enjoyed it. I was not prepared however for the intensity and wonder of this novel, and am thoroughly surprised that Janet Fitch has not written more novels. For its 500 or so pages, White Oleander is firstly a tiny looking book, and more to the point, one that can be read in a fairly short amount of time, mainly due to the fact that the reader is unable to put it down.
Firstly, the language is amazing, thoughtful and thought provoking. Astrid, the main character, has a deep relationship based on the admiration and dependence of her mother, a poet. She grows up, fatherless, with her mother the poet as her only guardian and, being intelligent, and eager to learn herself, she naturally inherits and develops her mother's talent for use of words and perceptive outlook of the world. All is going swimmingly until her mother is incarcerated for life, and Astrid's safe and almost predictable world is taken away and she is forced to face up to the reality of life by passing from foster home to foster home, where in each case she gains an insight into the everyday life of a huge variety of families and institutions.
The way Fitch enables the reader to thoroughly know and understand Astrid is impeccable, and unlike many novels where several characters means the reader is confused, in White Oleander, the characters and families are so well defined that the reader understands exactly how each has played a part in the life education of Astrid. Each of the many characters is totally distinguished and essential to the story.
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