Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Florence Gordon has a lot in common with Olive Kitteridge.  In both books the title character is a feisty, sharp-tongued, snobbish, older woman who tells it like she sees it.  Florence is a feminist writer, known only to a few faithful followers until her latest book receives a glowing review in the NY Times.  She enlists her granddaughter Emily as her assistant, but Emily is the big winner in this uneasy relationship.  Florence never softens, but Emily begins to see Florence as a role model for standing up for herself and finds that she can dish it out just as well as Florence when the situation calls for the blunt truth.  Florence does, however, harbor a secret that would invite all sorts of fawning and sympathy if she were to disclose it, and sympathy is the last thing she wants.  There’s one scene where Florence unmercifully dresses down the volunteer who serves as her driver for a book-signing event.  When Dolly, the volunteer, tries to persuade Florence to read her manuscript, we know that she is in store for a tongue-lashing.  Dolly accepts her punishment, however, with grace and good humor, and Florence finds herself admiring this woman’s aplomb.  No one is exempt from Florence’s disapproval, including her son, Daniel, who is a well-educated cop, and his wife Janine, who is an overly enthusiastic fan of Florence’s work.  Florence’s ex-husband Saul tries to enlist Florence’s help in resurrecting his career, but you can imagine how that discussion goes.  There are several sparkling conversations in this book in which Florence always has the upper hand, until her final verbal battle with Emily, in which Emily proves that she has learned from the master how to hold her own.  Certainly the dialog is the star of this novel, eliciting cringes from the reader as we wonder how Florence has any bridges left to burn.

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