am 18. September 2003
Ich habe die Verfilmung des Buches gesehen und war verzaubert von der poetischen Sprache und Kraft der Geschichte, weshalb ich entschied, das Buch zu lesen, da das Original die Verfilmung ja meistens ziemlich blass aussehen lässt. Und ich wurde nicht enttäuscht!! Die Poesie fängt einen bereits auf der ersten Seite ein, wenn Astrid mit ihrer Erzählung beginnt. Die Darstellung der Geschichte in der ersten Person verleiht der Geschichte eine unglaubliche Eindringlichkeit und Kraft; noch eindrücklicher weil ausführlicher als der Film zeigt das Buch die Entwicklung der jungen Frau, die ihre Mutter zu einem idealisierten Bild ihrer selbst erziehen will, erst durch die Trennung von diesem übermächtigen Charakter gelingt es Astrid sich selbst zu entdecken und die Stärke zu finden, die ihre Mutter immer fördern wollte, aber jedoch ohne dabei ihre Menschlichkeit zu verlieren.
Eigentlich erzählt das Buch die klassische Mutter-Tochter-Geschichte (weshalb ich mich zuerst gesträubt habe, den Film zu sehen)Janet Fitch vermeidet es jedoch in die in diesem Genre üblichen Klischees zu verfallen und spinnt mit ihrer Sprache eine eigene Magie!
am 3. Juli 1999
I picked up this book at my local library after reading an excerpt on Amazon.com. Because I work more than 40 hours a week plus have a family, I read very few books for pleasure. This one, I just couldn't put down! First of all, the author very much captures the look, feel and even smells of Los Angeles--right down to the varieties of architecture. Then second, Astrid is the epitome of how girls in our society really try to fit in--regardless of how horrific their environment may be. Life has taught me over and over that "truth is stranger than fiction", so I don't agree with other readers that the many awful events that happened to Astrid strained the book's credibility. I also don't agree that the ending was weak! In fact, I reread it several times because I loved how Astrid had found a way to compartmentalize, express and thus redeem the various experiences of her life. And I think it's okay that we don't know how her relationships with her boyfriend and with her mother will work out! The best books end ambiguously, leaving the reader to imagine what happens next. This book will become a classic!
am 20. Oktober 1999
Never before have I been this drawn to a character, to want to protect her, to learn from her, to call her and ask her how her day was, as I was to Astrid Magnussen. Janet Fitch has a true gift for the kind of writing that allows one to not only read a story but to live it inside the imagination. Her insight into the journey to womanhood is something that all women can find strength in, no matter what their struggles or successes. The vivid imagery and numerous metaphors not only tell a story but provide the reader means for which to reflect on his or her own life. White Oleander is an extremely well researched book that is very, and horrifyingly so, believable. Since I have finished the book it has been very difficult to let Astrid go, to stop feeling like I want to know her better. White Oleander is a moving novel you won't be able to put down.
am 9. November 2005
"White Oleander" by Janet Fitch is one of the best books I've ever read. The writing style, character development, plot and presentation are nothing short of sensational.
In the beginning of the book Astrid is a twelve-year-old girl who is awed by her eccentric mother, Ingrid, an extremely talented poet who doesn't enjoy her job one bit. Astrid feels guilty for holding her mother down and sometimes blames herself for her unhappiness. One day her mother meets a man named Barry, who slowly wins her over and they fall in love. At first Ingrid is head over heels for him, a completely new woman to Astrid. Then their relationship falters and Ingrid kills Barry with the poison of a white oleander. She is sentenced to life in prison for murder.
That's when Astrid stars traveling from foster home to foster home. Sometimes she doesn't like it at all, sometimes she enjoys the people she lives with but ends up disappointed and hurt. The people Astrid encounters couldn't be more different; they range from a jealous transformed Christian woman named Starr to a greedy, thrifty Russian. Though Astrid is often thwarted by her experiences, every person she meets helps her grow and enriches her character development.
In the end of the book Ingrid gets another chance in court. If she is pronounced innocent she and Astrid will unite. If she is pronounced guilty she will surely spend the rest of her life in jail.
Ingrid surely isn't the most sympathetic literary figure in recent years, but she's one of the most interesting. The climax wasn't too exciting, but Janet Fitch's writing style makes reading about Astrid's every day life a pleasure. Fitch writes poetically and uses many metaphors, which may turn off some readers, but I found it unique and mesmerizing, just like the tale she's telling.
"White Oleander" was filmed with Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Alison Lohman and Robin Wright Penn. The film leaves out much of the book, similar to Harry Potter 3, but I don't think there's another option when a book is so long and complex. I would recommend the movie to anyone who enjoyed the book, Lohman really shines playing Astrid throughout her journeys.
am 19. September 2000
From the very first page I knew I was reading something very different than any book I'd read before. The author's style of writing, pulls you in and gives you a vivid colorful view of a very disturbing mother and her daughter. Every character that comes into the story seems so real, and you become engrossed in their situations. I was especially overwhelmed by this book when I got to the parts about Claire. I was deeply touched by this character, but also frustrated by her weaknesses. Overall I would say I loved this book and will read it again. The only part I wasn't too happy about was the ending. Therefore I am giving it 4 stars instead of 5.
am 8. April 2000
I'd give this no star if I could. I can't believe Oprahrecommended this book getting the National Book Award. The story isvery boring and slow moving. The prose is hardly lovely. And the characters don't undergo any great change by the end- esp. the mother/daughter dilemma. Is that really resolved as is written? If you want a languid book with 'liquid poetry' with a slow moving story that you can't put down, then read Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha. Or The Grapes Of Wrath. Or The God of Small Things Or Moghul Buffet by Cheryl Benard. This book is a sheer waste of time. I can't emphasize that enough!
am 11. Januar 2000
I read the first 41 pages of White Oleander & decided to give up, it was so boring. The language was not appealing or descriptive, more like excess baggage---get to the point! I could not care for the mother or daughter character at all. They seemed so distant & apathetic to their own lives. I have read many of Oprah's picks & this one was a huge disappointment, as was River Cross My Heart. Guess I'll read Tara Road again.
am 24. Juli 2000
How can you describe imagery so beautiful and unique that you keep a pen in hand to underline phrases to remember as you read the book? White Oleander is filled with such imagery, so poetic it sweeps you along until you are as caught up in its spell as are the characters it describes. There are shades of Tom Robbins lurking between the lines as the images leap off the pages regaling the readier with a sensory overload. And the picaresque nature of Astrid's youthful search is reminiscent of Robbins's characters. However, the comparison stops there, because in White Oleander the characters are heartbreakingly real and their struggles are almost beyond imagination. On the surface this is a story about a mother and daughter, but not the usual relationship we have come to expect in a novel. Ingrid Magnussen--poet, beauty, free spirit, evil encarnate--and her daughter, Astrid--brilliant artist, deep thinker, lover of beauty, hungry for home--have a unique relationship. Ingrid, who spurns all conventional thought and propriety shapes Astrid as she would a lump of clay, and it takes Astrid years before she realizes the heartless manipulation and control her mother has used on her. When Ingrid is sent to prison for murder, Astrid embarks on a quest for the real home and family she never had, not to mention the unconditional love one expects from their mother. Despite horrific circumstances in foster homes, Astrid also finds love as she learns, often the hard way, what love really is and that ultimately, she is a giver of love. She learns to take the best from all the places she has been and to learn from them; she also knows what kind of life she wants for herself. This is truly a lovely book, one I hated to finish and one I will read again. Here we have beauty and inconceivable tragedy, but ultimately, there is triumph for Astrid who takes the beauty where she can find it and transforms it into something she can love--a lesson well-taken.
am 8. Juni 2000
Seeing Oprah's Bookclub logo emblazoned on a book cover usually sends me reeling in the opposite direction (yes, I'm an admitted book snob), but after much urging from friends and colleagues I decided to pick up White Oleander. Let me start by saying that I should have stuck to my instincts. Oprah and her ilk don't seem to realize (or maybe they do) that they are offering the same book each month. This is the same story I've read in Sheri Reynold's "The Rapture of Canaan", in Edwidge Danticat's "Eyes Breath Memory", in Paulina Simon's "Tully", and most recently in Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone". A young woman lives through unspeakable horrors, remains stoic throughout, and becomes a better person for it in the end. A harrowing life all bundled up in a nice neat finale. There is nothing here that will challenge you or make you really think. It's like watching a Lifetime Original movie. It's the same middlebrow, two notches above mediocre fare that bored housewives flock to as a counter balance to The Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives. This is not to say that Janet Fitch isn't a gifted writer. Her prose is languid and fiercely poetic, her characterization deftly acute. But the story is lacking. It feels too segmented and because of this it's hard to really connect with the protagonist. You encounter Astrid at different stages of her life, going through one horror after another. But instead of feeling her pain right along with her, it feels more like watching a car wreck from a safe distance. For something a little more engrossing and thoroughly satisfying, pick up "Blonde" by Joyce Carol Oates or "White Teeth" by Zadie Smith. Leave White Oleander for those days when you don't really feel like thinking, or need something to kill time at the beach this summer.
am 19. Oktober 1999
Janet Fitch's White Oleander is a novel that intertwines disappointments with surprises for the reader. Perhaps that's appropriate for a novel in which she's woven disappointment on at the end of a magic carpet of heady romantic love ridden by poet Ingrid Magnusson.
In the beginning, White Oleander is Ingrid's story. Narrated by Astrid, Ingrid's adolescent daughter, the first few chapters convey how overwhelmed Astrid's young life has been by her self-focused mother. Burning with revenge after being rejected by her unlikely lover Barry, Ingrid's anger, plots and potion-brewing are witnessed by Astrid, who is suffering the loss of Barry in her own way. Through Astrid's narration, Fitch captures beautifully the madness of the woman scorned and the sadness of the lonely child who knows she's been a burden to a free spirit and who wishes for a father.
Ingrid, however, is one of the weaknesses of the book. The bewitching woman who lives by her own rules, who is almost destroyed by them, and who uses them to resurrect herself, is a type that literature has seen before. Zenia, from Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride, comes to mind. It's unclear whether it's Fitch's intention or not, but Ingrid is more comical than compelling when she opens her mouth or writes from prison to tell Astrid about their strength and superiority. She speaks of her hate for Barry as if she's at a melodramatic poetry reading:
"I press it within my body. As the earth presses a lump of prehistoric dung in heat and crushing weight deep under the ground. I hate him... A jewel is forming inside my body. No, it's not my heart. This is harder, cold and clean. I wrap myself around this new jewel, cradle it within me."
Ingrid is too pivotal a character to sound so unreal and silly to the reader, no matter how convinced she is of her own righteousness.
After Ingrid is jailed for Barry's murder, it is Astrid's story that truly begins, even though it's a life story strongly influenced by her lethal mother, like a meal laced with arsenic. The reader follows Astrid through the foster care system, from home to home, from disaster to disaster, sharing her fears, her short-lived joys, and her sense of betrayal. Astrid is both realistic and heroic. The reader comes to admire her painfully earned wisdom, her street smarts, as she learns to play the game of getting a better placement with her social worker. In trying to leave one abusive placement, Astrid is forced to decide whether or not she should report her foster mother and help the other girls living there as well as herself. She opts for simply getting herself out as quickly as possible, reasoning out "how it would really play. Joan [the social worker] started her investigation, got transferred to the San Gabriel Valley, and I lost my chance to have a young caseworker who still got excited about her clients." She tells Joan "'That could take a long time. I need out now.'"
Although Astrid is a survivor, Fitch has worked admirably to create a believable child. In spite of her wisdom, Astrid makes a vulnerable young girl's mistakes and has a vulnerable girl's wishes. She seeks both a father and a lover in Ray, carpenter and live-in boyfriend of her first foster mother; the scenes of their brief affair are wonderfully constructed from beams of sadness and desire, smelling strongly of new wood. Later, Astrid seeks a mother in Olivia, a beautiful black woman and high class prostitute who lives next door to her second foster family. When Olivia returns home from an extended trip with one of her client-lovers, Astrid greets her with the anger of a lonely adolescent. Her unreasonable sense of betrayal rings true.
White Oleander disappoints the reader when it falls prey to the assumptions of late twentieth century fiction. Suburbs are inhabited by hypocritical, racist Mary Kay salesladies and their tired-out husbands; churches are led by lustful ministers; and the most caring, sensitive person that enters Astrid's life is emotionally weak and suicidal. There is much in the final third of White Oleander that is authentic and new, however. Trite characters and environments finally give way to Astrid's last foster home and foster mother, opportunist Rena Grushenko, and to a climax that involves a revelation of Ingrid's regarding Astrid's childhood.
While some of the ground is too familiar, White Oleander is still seductive. It's scented with women's perfumes and it intertwines hope and danger. Astrid Magnusson holds the attention of the compassionate reader who wants to see her survive, but her story's strengths also overcome its weaknesses with prose that is as passionate as it is truthful and clean.