Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont Book Review

Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont
(Algonquin, Hardcover)


Inspired by a drug-bust at a prep school in the 1980's, Nina de Gramont's debut novel takes a look at friendship, peer pressure, and the lasting consequences of adolescence. Gossip of the Starlings is a coming-of-age novel about Catherine Morrow's troubled friendship with her schoolmate, the famous Skye Butterfield. When Skye walks into the Esther Percy School for Girls, lonely Catherine is surprised and pleased to find a friend. Skye has been sheltered her whole life and she's ready to break free. Her chosen methods are destructive and she doesn't care if she brings Catherine down with her.

This is actually an adult book but I think that is has appeal for teens. It's told from the point of view of Catherine when she is an adult. Maybe 30ish? Catherine's story is told with equal parts jaded maturity and bright-eyed youthfulness. As I was reading Gossip of the Starlings, I knew that Skye was a bad influence but I felt myself becoming seduced by her words as much as Catherine was. Skye made being bad seem like so much fun. Nina de Gramont perfectly captures what is like to be an adolescent on the verge of adulthood--the pressure to succeed, to conform, and the yearning to stay young. I think Skye describes it best when she says,
"That's how I feel sometimes. Like there's this language I knew when I was a kid, and every year of my life it unravels just a little bit. Becomes more and more indecipherable. So that I'm left all alone, trying to figure it out." (page 85)
There are other mitigating factors than Skye's self-destruction in this story. Catherine's adult role models include husbands who cheat on their wives, senators who break promises, and a president with his finger hovering over a bomb. The novel is set during the Cold War and the characters are desperately trying to make sense of a world that is out of control. Why take responsibility for their actions when the adults around them showed a flagrant disregard for the rules?
"We understood that nobody would save the world. It would have to find a way to survive on its own." (Page 154)
I didn't grow up during the Cold War. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in constant fear of nuclear attack. De Gramont uses these feelings of fear and hopelessness to show that her characters, though flawed, were trying their best to cope with a world they couldn't understand.

That's the long review.
The short review? Read this book. It is haunting, it is engrossing, it is lively, it is tragic, it is good.


  1. That sounds very very good. *adds to wishlist*

    Great review too. (:

  2. This book sounds so interesting, never heard of it, I am definitely looking it up.

    It was good to find you on book mooch And mooch a book from ya =) I hope more people log on there and maybe we can get a thing going. oh, i have a long wishlist my problem is I don't have alot of books to give away=( i'm a book hog I like keeping my books. Me and my hubby put up like 20 books when i first started and I thought we'd be good for a while. But they all got mooched like right away I was stunned so now I don't know what to do. Hopefully I figure it out.

  3. Em,

    Another very interesting review from you. I trust your opinion, always, and I love your generosity as a reader. Your question regarding stars, well — we turn to you to learn about books we should be reading. We know that when you are featuring a book it's' because it moved you in some fashion.

    We trust your reviewer's voice.

  4. Ooo. -goes to add to library list-

    Book~Adorer, I have a bookmooch as well. It's linked on my blog, I think. XD I'm having a contest there too, so check it out.

    But brilliant review as always, Em, and I can't wait to read this book! And a lot of 'adult' novels have teen appeal, just like a lot of 'teen' novels are read by adults.

  5. I have this book checked out from my library along with some others. I was looking for a good quick reaad before Breaking Dawn comes out & this seems to fir the bill. I can return some of the others that had less favorable reviews. Thanks.

  6. What would be a good comparison book to this novel?


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