Saturday, April 17, 2010

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Published:1999
Pages: 390
Genre: Fiction

Astrid was only a young girl when her mother, a talented yet dangerous poet, murdered a man who rejected her. White Oleander chronicles Astrid's life as she goes from foster home to foster home, tries to find her place in the world, and, ultimately forgive her mother.


White Oleander is a book filled with pain, feeling, and forgiveness. I found it to be a slow read, but a shocking one as well. Consequently, I wasn't always eager to continue reading because the story didn't have elements of suspense or mystery. The book felt right, though. Action and adventure would have no place in White Oleander - this book is purely emotional.

Fitch's writing is haunting, eerie, and melodic. Because of this, the people she created are real. She truly hits the nail on the head in terms of the accuracy of the characters' psychological states and internal issues. We see Astrid evolve, we see her mother evolve, and we evolve as readers, too. At the start of the book I was frustrated and sightly confused. But at the end, I felt a sense of serenity and acceptance. The conclusion wasn't necessarily a joyful one, but it's exactly what was needed.

Something that really affected me was Fitch's writing. I've never experienced the way she compares things, the way she conveys emotion, the way she structures her sentences. It's raw, honest and powerful.

"In comparison to this, my past was smoke, a story my mother once told me and later denied. No onyxes for me, no aquamarines memorializing the lives of my ancestors. I had only their eyes, their hands, the shape of a nose, a nostalgia for snowfall and carved wood."

Because of Fitch's occasionally strange and eccentric way of describing things, I sometimes rushed over a paragraph to get to the important stuff. I regret this, though. Because now I realise that the book is so effective thanks to Fitch's way of presenting the novel. You're supposed to proceed slowly, analysing the information in your mind. This is sadly something I realised later on, and I don't think the book had its full effect on me.

Recommendation: If you can savour a book and not rush through it, I believe you'd enjoy White Oleander. If you're someone who likes to speed read and craves action and adventure, you'd find this book dry and boring. Don't be intimidated to pick it up, though! White Oleander is a pure delight to read.

17 comments:

Leanna (Daisy Chain Books) said...

I loved this book - it's one of my favourites. I think Janet Fitch has an amazing writing style. You do need to spend time on the book and savour every sentence. It's not one to rush through. You should watch the movie too - it's pretty good.

Jan von Harz said...

What a lovely review. You mentioned things about books that are not fast-paced that I too have experienced. Skipping over places and regretting it,
slow reading for lack of suspense and action.

I think I would like the book though as I loved the quote and can see that the writing style matches my reading sensibilities.

Thanks for the review. Oh I got her via the Sat Network

Kathy Martin said...

Visiting from the Saturday Network. Good morning!

Kay said...

This book was an Oprah pick several years ago. I'm pretty sure that I tried to read it then, but I was not successful. Sometimes books like this work for me and sometimes they don't. I'm glad that you enjoyed it and wrote about it so eloquently Emidy!

aloi (guiltlessreading) said...

Thank you for this review. I've been meaning to read this for ages and have been told so many lovely things about it ... I'll put this one on reserve at the library now :P

WonderBunny said...

Very good review. I enjoyed this book but didn't love it when I read it several years ago. It is one that you have to enjoy it going slow - sadly, I don't often enjoy that. I like a quicker pace then this provided.

Linna (21 ♡ pages) said...

I don't think I've read anything like this before. It truly seems like a very character driven, emotional book.

I love how she compared her past to smoke in that passage- there are so many lovely comparisons and metaphors there.

Nymeth said...

I do enjoy slower, quieter books, so I think this would work for me. And judging by that excerpt, I'd like the writing a lot too.

PeachyTO said...

Here on the hop to say hello. I loved this book, and it remains in my top ten favourites. The movie is not bad either, if you ever get the chance.

I've just become a follower, and look forward to reading more of your thoughts. ;-)

Becky said...

I have heard a lot about this book, I think that my mother might have even owned it at one point. Your review in lovely, and I will definitely try and read this one at some stage.

I love your blog by the way. I found it at Bookworming in the 21st Century and have become a follower. Can't wait to read more reviews.

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

I read this one a few years ago and I remember being quite impressed with it! Have you seen the film?

Emidy said...

Leanna - Yes, her writing style is very unique. I'm interested in watching the movie, now!

Jan - Thanks! Glad you want to read it.

Kathy - Thanks for stopping by!

Kay - Yep, it's an Oprah pick! I think it's the first book I've read in her "book club".

Aloi - Great! Hope you enjoy it.

WonderBunny - Thank you! It's certainly not for everyone, that's for sure.

Linna - Exactly, it's very character driven. I love her writing, too!

Nymeth - I'm glad! You should read this for sure, I can see you liking it.

PeachyTO - Welcome! And thanks for following. I want to see the movie version now!

Becky - Thanks so much! You really should read it.

Bookalicous - No, I haven't! I want to see it, though. I always love seeing the movies after reading.

Aths said...

I loved this book. And yes you are right.. this book should not be speed-read! You have to take the time to read through it. When I first started reading it, I zipped through the first few pages and got lost soon. So I got back to reading it quite a long time later and then took my time through it.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Nice review :) I've contemplated reading this for some time now.

Emidy said...

Aths - Exactly! I had to re-read a few pages myself, a few times.

Juju - Thank you. You should! It's a great book.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Books) said...

You should also check out Paint it Black by the same author. I thought this was a great read too!

Splendibird said...

I watched the film of this a few years ago and thought it was pretty good - I hadn't actually realised that it was based on a book. Thanks for bringing it to my attention - I shall be adding it to my endless TBR list!