White Oleander by Janet Fitch
A Novel

77%

14 Critic Reviews

Fitch is a splendid stylist; her prose is graceful and witty; the dialogue, especially Astrid's distinctive utterances and loopy adages, has a seductive pull.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery - but their idyll is shattered when Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison. White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in an indifferent world can become. Oprah Winfrey enjoyed this gripping first novel so much that she not only made it her book club pick, she asked if she could narrate the audio release.
 

About Janet Fitch

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Janet Fitch's first novel, White Oleander, a #1 bestseller and Oprah's Book Club selection, has been translated into 24 languages and was made into a feature film. A native of Los Angeles, Fitch currently teaches fiction writing in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California.
 
Published September 1, 2006 by Little, Brown and Company. 476 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction
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Critic reviews for White Oleander
All: 14 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Above average
on May 20 2010

Fitch displays remarkable artistic and psychological maturity throughout, skillfully making use of metaphors...the author allows her protagonist to achieve adulthood, love, an artistic vocation, and some semblance of inner peace...an impressive debut indeed.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Dec 14 2015

Fitch is a splendid stylist; her prose is graceful and witty; the dialogue, especially Astrid's distinctive utterances and loopy adages, has a seductive pull.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Apr 30 1999

What keeps "White Oleander" from devolving into a television mini-series is Ms. Fitch's aptitude for delineating Astrid's inner life, for showing us the pull she feels between her mother...and her own need for independence...The resulting novel is frequently obvious and over the top but at the same time oddly haunting.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Jamie Kelm on Jan 28 2014

The actual writing style of the novel is beautiful. Fitch has a unique and rhythmical way of stringing words together that often creates the effect of reading poetry... a very well written piece that is sure to be a classic for years to come.

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Book Reporter

Above average
Reviewed by Joanna Neborsky on Jan 24 2011

Fitch's writing is almost maniacally poetic, piling simile upon metaphor upon simile, and forming, ultimately, a shivery, often gorgeous, narrative. This, compounded with sophisticated philosophical and artistic allusions and quiet observation of tragicomic detail, builds an unmistakable voice for Astrid...

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BellaOnline

Above average
Reviewed by M. E. Wood on May 28 2015

Overall, White Oleander is enjoyable and the suspense and terror of Astrid's travels through the foster care system are engaging, often alarming and hold interest, if only to find out what else could possible happen to this poor child. If nothing else, you put down this book knowing that your life isn't as bad as you thought...

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People

Above average
on Jul 12 1999

...it's hard not to chortle at Ingrid's contrived poetspeak. But those are quibbles: This book will seduce you.

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New York Magazine

Above average
Reviewed by Alexandra Lange on May 28 2015

Astrid, is sent to a series of foster homes, dropping swiftly from the cultural elite to white trash....Fitch's writing has trippy, visceral power, but the reader remains unconvinced that she hasn't just written this as an exercise in high-brow shock lit

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on May 16 2015

Fitch is a splendid stylist; her prose is graceful and witty; the dialogue...has a seductive pull. This sensitive exploration of the mother-daughter terrain...offers a convincing look at what Adrienne Rich has called ""this womanly splitting of self,"" in a poignant, virtuosic, utterly captivating narrative.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by raychell.faith on May 15 2015

We watch as with every heartache, Astrid learns to love her mother a little less. However, the ties that bind are strong, and the book has an over-all melancholic feel to it that will linger in your heart long after the last page is read.

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EzineArticles

Excellent
Reviewed by Yelena Lipovetskaya on May 05 2009

It helped me see the world through my daughter's eyes, experience her feelings, and understand the painful need kids have for their parents attention, approval, and most of all - their mother's love...This book is a must read for all mothers and daughters, for all the parents and all the children...

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Reading on a Rainy Day

Excellent
Reviewed by Athira on Mar 20 2010

Janet Fitch writes White Oleander in a very eloquent style. Poetic writing is not some thing I enjoy usually (since I'm pathetic in poetry). But I didn't have to strain myself here. The writing flowed easily, in fact, I couldn't wait to turn page after page to know what happens next...I would strongly recommend White Oleander to you.

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The Tech

Below average
Reviewed by Rebecca Loh on Aug 04 1999

The novel’s fatal flaw is that its main character and narrator, Astrid Magnussen, while being at once entertaining and tragic, behaves in such a way that the reader can never identify with her. Since the reader can never understand the narrator, the true nature of the other characters and the actions recounted by her can only be guessed.

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YA Book Shelf

Above average
Reviewed by Melissa Montovan on Apr 26 2010

...I have to admit that one of the big sells about Astrid’s character for me was her ironic interior monologue, that and her growing development as an artist...Some scenes may be too mature for young tweens and teens, but for those of us who are more mature, Janet Fitch’s White Oleander won’t disappoint!

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Reader Rating for White Oleander
82%

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