Book Review: Goldengrove


Francine Prose

Harper Perenniel

288 pages

Nico is only thirteen when she is dealt the blow of her older sister Margaret’s death.  Out rowing in the lake adjacent to their home one Sunday afternoon, Margaret dives in water to swim back to shore as Nico naps in their canoe.  Awakened later, Nico rows back to shore to discover Margaret missing.  Hours later, Margaret’s body is discovered in the lake; she is dead of an apparent heart ailment.

Margaret is the type of girl that can do no wrong.  She is somewhat of a troublemaker when it comes to her parents, but she has a boyfriend, Aaron, an effervescent beauty, and a phenomenal singing voice.  Instead of resenting Maragaret, as many younger girls maybe would have when unable to compare to an older sister, Nico is smitten with Margaret.

Once Margaret has died, Nico is unable to deal with her grief.  She is stuck with two parents who are completely alienating themselves because they are so distruaght over their daughter’s untimely death.  Nico eventually is able to turn to Aaron, who is also searching for an outlet for his grief.  The two begin a strange sort of friendship that starts out seemingly healthy but soon turns into something strange and incomprehensible.

As a reader, Prose makes it next to impossible to not have sympathy fro Nico’s situation.  She is a young girl who is abandoned after the person she is closest to is suddenly gone.  Nico’s resilience in the face of such heartache is commendable.  She’s one of those characters that is so strong despite the innumerable difficulties she has faced.

The most touching part of the whole book for me was the poem Goldengrove is named for–“Spring and Fall”, by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  It is the poem that Margaret’s parents named her for and the bookstore that Nico and Margaret’s father owns is also named Goldengrove.

Margaret, are you grieving

Over Goldengrove unleaving?

Leaves, like the things of man, you

With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?

Ah! as the heart grows older

It will come to such sights colder

By & by, nor spare a sigh

Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;

And yet you wíll weep & know why.

Now no matter, child, the name:

Sorrow’s springs are the same.

Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed

What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:

It is the blight man was born for,

It is Margaret you mourn for.

I fell in love with the poem when reading it in the book and I have been struck by the desire to commit it to memory.
This is the first book I have read by Prose and admittedly, I had never even heard of her before I started blogging–shameful!  Now I don’t even know where to start.  I hope to become more acquainted with her after reading Goldengrove, because I am completely assured that she can write!
Other reviews:

Booking Mama

The Bluestocking Society

1 More Chapter

Caribou’s Mom

The Literate Housewife

S Krishna’s Books

I borrowed this book from my local library

3 Responses

  1. I wasn’t familiar with Prose either before reading this novel, but I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to pick up more!

  2. I’m with you and Julie. Prose is a wonderful writer. I’d love to read more of her work. I’m glad to have at least read this novel.

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