Has anyone read/seen/loathed/loved White Oleander?

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Discus: College Confidential Café: 2004 Archive: Has anyone read/seen/loathed/loved White Oleander?
By Neo (Neo) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 11:40 am: Edit

Well, because of VeganGirl's recommendation, I went out and acquired a copy of WHITE OLEANDER. Here's how I feel, 8 hours after I finished, 2 days after I started it.

It was interesting, and it was a page-turner, I'll admit, because I couldn't put it down until it was done. However, after consulting other Amazon reviews, I came across several flaws I'd been reluctant/unwilling to admit existed.

I'd give it between 3 and 4 stars. Not really sure yet. Probably 3.5, because it was good, but with the subtracion/clarification of certain chapters and metaphors, it could have been much, much better. Here's what I mean.

It reminded me of The Bean Trees (Kingsolver) narrated by The Bell Jar (Plath), with Oliver Twist beating you over the head with a "foster homes are evil" chant. At times, there were too many similies, metaphors, comparisions -- a bit like Cold Mountain. At others, it seemed as if she (the author) was merely dragging us through an endless circle of abusive foster homes.

I didn't like her exorbitant use of the comma. It was a sharp style, but she didn't need to use it and her weather descriptions for 390 pages (hardback edition). Some parts seemed a bit sensational (her encounters with a barrage of unsavory characters), and some chapters should have died at the hands of a competent editor -- like those involving Russian Rena.

I didn't like the way she tried to make us care about Yvonne. It didn't work -- the book seemed to be looking for an end, any kind of an end -- and she wasn't sure how to approach the last 50 pages. Perhaps the only character I empathized with was Claire. Astrid became a wall to me after she left her, about 3/5ths of the way through the book.

The ending was dissappointing. I'll leave it at that.

However, I should say some good things about the book. The language is very easy to read, and for what it's worth, it does hold elements of beauty that kept you relatively glued from cover to cover. For an author's first novel, it was a smart one. I liked the dream-like quality of the narrator, Astrid, and I enjoyed the segments (although it was sometimes hard to believe they ever even existed) when both Astrid and Ingrid, her mother, were happy together.

I'd like to see the movie. I'm quite sure I'll enjoy it more than the book...I had Michelle Pfeiffer in my head for Ingrid as I read the book, because I saw the preview for the film when it came out in theaters. Didn't see the film itself, though.

The verdict: 3.5/5 stars.

I don't recommend books under 3 stars to other people, and I typically wouldn't reread one, either. So I guess I'd recommend White Oleander. I will say, that if you read it, you'll likely finish it in a SHORT amount of time, despite its length, because it *is* engrossing -- I'll admit that. At the same time, though, if you're anything like me, you won't really care what happens to Astrid by the time she hits foster home #5. It was all downhill from there.

Oh, and so you know where I'm coming from, THE GREAT GATSBY is an example of a book I'd rate in the 4.5/5 category. COLD MOUNTAIN is an example of one I'd rate as a 2.5/5 star book.

Other books in the 4+ category for me include LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA, any of the Narnian or Dahl books, as well as THE BELL JAR, which reminded me (in a good way) of CATCHER IN THE RYE.

Well, enough of this. I just had to write some kind of a review for this...this thing I stayed up until 2:45am this morning to finish.

By Jer728 (Jer728) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 11:44 am: Edit

I thought the movie was pretty good, but not outstanding. Good cast certainly.

By Neo (Neo) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 11:47 am: Edit

Oh, I added some more to my post...it's a bit more coherent now :^)

Silly edit function.

By Rachelvish (Rachelvish) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 01:08 pm: Edit

I'm thinking of reading the book. Personally, I loved the movie- I thought that the characters were very intelligent and the mother brought up points that I think about a lot- see the movie- though idk if you'll like it as much since you read the book..

By Demingy (Demingy) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 01:10 pm: Edit

I haven't had a chance to read the book, but I saw the movie at some premier we had at the arts complex (I got free tickets from work). I thought the movie was amazing. Of course I like the movies that are what most people would consider "out there" and I found it to be fairly thought provoking and somewhat emotional (not a tear jerker, but one of those movies where you walk out feeling somewhat shell-shocked).

By Girlx (Girlx) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 02:20 pm: Edit

I haven't seen the movie, but I read the book years ago and only thought it okay. Not entirely worth my time, but not really a waste either.

By Mrbesch (Mrbesch) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 07:32 pm: Edit

I am ashamed to admit I read that book over a family summer vacation. I am even more ashamed to admit that I read it voraciously.

I'm a guy, btw. Yes, I know, I'm not really a guy anymore since I read it.

But hey, I ate some fish that I caught on a river the day I finished it, so maybe that makes up for it somewhat. Well, ok, it doesn't really make up for it.

By Neona (Neona) on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

What are you talking about? The author of this thread is a guy...

By Philntex (Philntex) on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

I'm a guy, too, and I loved it (the movie). My friend has the book, so I'll probably bum it off her later this summer. We were actually supposed to go see "The Ring" that night at the movies, but it was sold out, so we saw WO. Definitely impactful.

By Rachelvish (Rachelvish) on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 11:03 pm: Edit

Demingy- wow same here!! I thought it was amazing in the same exact way

By Mrbesch (Mrbesch) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 05:28 pm: Edit

Well, regardless of who started the thread, I consider it to be "chick lit". Whether you disagree with me or not has no bearing on my opinion.

I'm pretty sure it was part of Oprah's Book Club, but I don't know for certain.

By Neo (Neo) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 06:32 pm: Edit

No one ever said you couldn't call it what you wanted :^)

Lots of books are part of O's book club...

By Insanity (Insanity) on Tuesday, June 15, 2004 - 08:39 pm: Edit

O's book club is crap... what does she actually know about good lit. anyhow?

By Brownlovespink (Brownlovespink) on Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 11:38 pm: Edit

I personally enjoyed the book much more than the movie. I read the book first and I felt that so much of it was left out in the movie.

By Moonsurfer21 (Moonsurfer21) on Saturday, June 26, 2004 - 09:57 pm: Edit

i just finished the book and want to comment on this thread. i think it was very well-written, and although at times somewhat impossible to believe, i thouroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who wants to experience a book out of the ordinary and a new, fresh use of rhetoric.

By Recordingwater (Recordingwater) on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 05:07 am: Edit

Ehh, I didn't like it so much. It was interesting, for sure, but I hated the way it was written. I didn't think it was written that well, or the writing wasn't really *real* enough. It seemed like the author was trying to create a certain type of tone but she just couldn't get there. Just my opinion.

By Girlforever101 (Girlforever101) on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 01:36 pm: Edit

Insanity- O's book club is crap... what does she actually know about good lit. anyhow?

I was annoyed when Oprah chose 'Anna Karenina' to be on her book club list. I picked up a copy of her special edition and skimmed a couple pages. It was terrible. All the wonderful, descriptive, 19th century language had been made a little more modern so people could "understand" the book.

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