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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 26 April 2017
Good service and book exactly as described.
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This is one of the "realest" books I've read for a long time. Much has been written about how our sense of expectancy and potential as teenagers so often fizzles out into mediocrity, and how friendships made at that time are more intense than any in later life. But Lorrie Moore has described it brilliantly well, in her story of the close friendship between two teenage girls Berie and Sils. Of Sils: "She could never become boring. If she lived where I lived then, at the moment, that was enough."

The frog hospital was a sad attempt to heal creatures wilfully hurt by boys; and the males in the book are generally ineffectual, damaging or absent. At best perhaps, irrelevant. The book is very funny, but at the same time it's sharp. In fact it cuts like a knife.
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on 29 June 2011
As Moore is such a truly superb short story writer I thought I'd try her novels. This one is not a patch on her short stories - feels weak in comparison and just didn't grip me in the same way. I hurried through it, not sorry to get to the end.

I hate when writers give their characters bizarre stupid names - where on earth did she drum up Sils and Benoite-Mari? Also, although I love much of Moore's writing and images, I have noticed a rather unpleasant occupation with descriptions of sadistic treatment of animals which is a bit of a turn-off for me. In general, her writing's preoccupation with details of illness and death, whilst beautiful and moving, are quite harrowing to read - at least these are minimal in this novel, unlike the short stories.
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on 24 May 2015
I read this book as the monthly choice in my book group otherwise I would probably have abandoned it half way through.
All I can say is, ignore the gushing reviews on the cover about it's comedic qualities. I don't think I managed more than a smile.
I found it, on the whole although well written with interesting characters,a deeply depressing and gloomy book, full of failed ambition and mini tragedy.
Several hours of my life I won't get back, though it's major redeeming feature is that it's mercifully brief
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on 16 April 2015
Had this novella been longer than a hundred and fifty pages, I doubt if I would have persevered to the end.
My misgivings about it are
i it was a short story expanded into a novella. It carried excess baggage. There are two sections set in Paris. Why? They added nothing. Much of the book I thought just overwritten, as if Ms Moore was trying to get as many ideas into a sentence as she could. Few byways were left unexplored. Overload. Overload. I found myself skimming pages. In a story of 150 pages!
ii OK, so I'm male, not American, and my teenage years are way behind me, so I may be way outside the book's target audience, but this just did not convince as a coming-of-age story.
iii I was indifferent as to the fate of the narrator, in fact of all the characters except, just a little of Sil's. Ms Moore didn't make them live for me.
iv the narrative lacked tension, nothing developed, there were no climaxes.
Near the end, there were several pages of beautiful, uncluttered prose. Too little, too late.
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on 19 July 2015
I didn't really *get* this book, I'm afraid. From what I can decipher, this was based primarily on two teenage girls' friendship in the early 70's. Somehow the past reminiscing jumped to the present day in Paris with her husband - this link was lost on me.

I guess I enjoyed parts of this but for the most part it was too "arty" and "wordy". I certainly didn't find the author to be "one of the funniest writers of all time" as described on the front cover. There was no humour here and certainly no definitive plot either.
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on 1 August 2015
Absolutely fabulous, beautifully written and an absolute delight to read. I came across it in a charity shop and bought it on a whim and I couldn't be more pleased I did. One of my all-time favourites and I will read it again and again. I can honestly say I didn't want it to end.
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on 29 November 2016
This book is beautifully written and truly evocative. A woman looks back on her teenage years, perfectly capturing the mood of long summers, close friendships and fraught passions. Poignant and moving.
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on 31 August 2013
Beautifully illustrates the powerful friendship between two teenage girls in small town America. It reminded me of a friendship of my own at that age and the passion I felt for my friend. There's something very poignant about that age where you feel your feelings incredibly strongly and Moore perfectly evokes both this together with the subsequent nostalgia we can often feel in remembrance.
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on 15 June 2016
I think this book explores a married woman's psychological response to not having kids.

Her husband is coping through work. Berie, on the other hand, is hoping to make sense of her present by better understanding her past.

In particular Berie recollects her intense adolescent friendship with Sils, the girl whom she helped have an abortion when they were both fifteen.

Berie stole money to pay for the abortion, and when Berie's parents found out, they sent her away to boarding school in disgrace.

The juxta-position of an abortion with later childlessness is a riskily simplistic proposition, even though it was not Berie herself who had the abortion. It is such a loaded subject both emotionally and politically, especially in America. But Moore presents the juxta-position as a crisis of identity for one woman, rather than as a political issue.

Berie has a problem reconciling her teenage self, who facilitated an abortion out of deep love for her friend, with her present self, who hopes for a baby with her husband, even though they are not in love. Her desires and direction-of-travel then and now are so at odds.

Put simply, how does any woman absorb the tension between the phase of life when pregnancy equals disaster and the phase of life when pregnancy is the goal? It is a U-turn... a threat to personal integrity. It can drive a wedge between our young and older selves.

The story is woven through with tales of neglected or abandoned children: the fostered children who lived with Berie's parents, whose lives were not happy in spite of Berie's parents' good intentions; Berie's father, who was sent away by his parents for the summer aged 5 because he was a chatterbox and returned 'stone quiet'; Berie herself, who was sent away in disgrace to the "woodsy dumping ground for half-loved kids."

The novel is an attempt to harmonise the voices of the central character, which are very different at different times of her life, into a coherent whole:
"When I was a child I tried hard for a time to split my voice." (page 5)

I didn't understand that when I read it.

But then on the last page of the book, Berie recalls the Girls' Choir singing:
"we formed a single living thing... No boys, no parents in the room."

And then I understood - others' conflicting expectations can cause us to lose ourselves.

In their adolescence, the girls had a connection with their inner selves and with each other, which they subsequently lost due to the confusing pressures of expectations - both their own and other people's.
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