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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 26 January 2014
“The body is the only reality,” thinks Astrid, as she watches over her friend who is giving birth, to a baby she knows she will have to give up for adoption. “I hurt therefore I am.”

This is a book filled with pain and hurt, real hurt, the kind that makes you ache in your mind as well as your body. It’s not a book you will like very much, but it is a book you won’t be able to stop reading and in the end you’ll be glad you got to read it. You want very much to come upon a phrase that tells you that the protagonist has received some balm, some safety, some calm. This is an intensely realistic book that tells you of a child and her mother. The mother is a poet – and a kind of monster of self absorption. Her mistake is to believe she can get away with murder when her boyfriend throws her out. She will not rest until she has taken revenge. Astrid is a child and she is the one who pays when her mother is taken into custody. Now begins the trial of being a foster child. In one foster home the children are housed apart from their foster parents and consider themselves lucky if they are fed once a day. In another home, Astrid is attacked by neighbourhood dogs and badly scarred. In another she is shot by the jealous mother in whose care she has been left. I’m not going to say much more about the plot because to dwell on it inevitably reduces what can be said about misfortune of this kind.

Astrid’s mother is in prison throughout this book, but she is a presence who cannot be denied. Her notoriety dogs Astrid’s footsteps and poisons her life. As she grows older Astrid learns to acquiesce in what she cannot control. It is a dreadful lesson that does not always stand her in good stead. This is an unrelentingly dark book, as tense and expectant as any thriller, and as beautifully presceient and gorgeously written as a book of found poetry. Fitch never overwrites, she has a fantastic sense of how to work a story to the bone. Her prose is rich and delicate. It is hypnotic, challenging, complex, and moving. I recommend this book wholeheartedly. It takes you by the guts and makes you want to cry, but it is shorn of sentiment and self-pity. Read it.
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on 4 February 2016
This is 9th or 10th read of this favourite of mine and I never tire or it. It tells the tale of Astrid a young girl and her complex intense relationship with her mother. After her mother Ingrid goes away for some time Astrid has to adjust to a series of foster homes, each experience as life changing as the last. White Oleander is an exquisitely written story, and I loved seeing each event from Astrids eyes. Fitch's incredible use of description and eye for detail makes you feel and see every part of Astrids journey. Read. You won't regret it
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on 2 August 2017
I really enjoyed this book; it is beautifully written. I found some of the scenarios a bit far fetched, but the building of Ingrid's character is fantastic.
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on 17 July 2017
I started off not sure about this book but ended up loving it. Really well written and rounded characters that are easy to get attached too. Would recommend.
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on 11 August 2017
Loved it!
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on 18 May 2017
One of the best books I have ever read.
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on 3 December 2000
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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on 24 June 2009
I liked the story line. I bought the book after seeing a 'Oprah' sticker on it....yes roll your eyes.
I like this type of plot, hippie mom raising a beatiful young girl type of thing. I do feel she went a bit over board with the metaphors and found myself skipping pages at times to get to the story. But all in all, well written and deep.
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on 29 February 2004
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 September 2008
I don't know how I feel about this book. I certainly didn't love it, I can't even say I enjoyed it all that much, but I kept reading it because I couldn't put it down. Not in the 'OMG must finish this can't stop' way, more like a 'bad boyfriend' kind of way. I found it pretentious and self-indulgent and cliched, exactly the kind of wishy-washy claptrap that Oprah peddles to middle-class literati to make themselves feel better about themselves, and yet it's described as 'passionate, hypnotic and dangerous'. Please. It annoyed me every step of the way and I hated most of the characters. And yet I didn't hate the book. Hmm.
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