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Book Review – Ellen Foster

 Happy Monday, everyone! I’m in the process of uploading all my photos from Abby and Jared’s wedding this weekend and wanted to tell you what I spent my few spare minutes doing: reading! This week and a half has been such a wonderful vacation from studying and I’ve gotten plenty of my two favorite activities in between jogs home from work and evenings curled up with good books. I’ve actually read several, but I’ll start with the first one I finished.

I went to the library last Thursday since I had free time (no more teachers, no more books, etc…) and I picked up Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons. The book was published in 1987 and was added to Oprah’s Book Club list in 1997.

A quick plot summary: The book is told in the first person perspective of a little girl growing up in the South. Her family environment is miserable, and her education is abismal, but she has this incredibly vivid imagination that transports her away from her life and into a world of possibilities.

What I loved most about the book was getting to know Ellen chapter to chapter. I felt like I was sitting with a sweet, precocious child, listening to her story while waiting for the train. Throughout the book I became more attached to her and felt the feelings she expressed.

Unfortunately, much like the narrative of a child in real life, the book is a bit disjointed. Just when I was really getting engrossed in a chapter, it ended. And just as I felt I was really getting to know Ellen, the book was finished. I wanted so much more from the book and was left feeling disappointed.

It’s very possible this was Gibbons’ intent. The reader is left feeling somewhat lost and a bit abandoned, just as Ellen does. And how well developed could each story be if it was to be from the perspective of a little girl? Still, I wish there was a way to have both the childlike voice and the complete picture.

Would I recommend buying this book? No. But did I enjoy reading it on school vacation and returning it to the library. Absolutely.

Do you get frustrated with books that aren’t written in standard English?

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8 Responses

  1. congrats on the new site, it’s awesome!!!!!!! way to go girl!!!! i know how much work is involved in migrations, job well done!

  2. I do get frustrated, yes. But my standards are so ridiculously (and, might I add, snobbishly) high that I find it’s really best not to compare my thoughts on fiction to anyone else’s. Thanks a lot, FSG 🙂

    • Good point. I’m always skittish about getting books from book club lists. Some are great (East of Eden). Some are horrendous (All He Ever Wanted).

  3. First of all, this site is gorgeous. Me encanta.
    I find books written in “normal” language (whatever that means) to be easier to read, but not always more enjoyable. Having to really work to get through a book can be rewarding, as long as the language carries it through. Uh…I could go on for a long time here (English major alert), but I do remember watching the first half of a made-for-TV movie of Ellen Foster and getting bored. For what it’s worth.

  4. I read this book in school a really long time ago…freshman year of HS maybe? I remember liking it and going on to read many other Kaye Gibbons books I actually liked much better. If you’re interested, I remember LOOOOVING Charms of the Easy Life (Charms from? can’t remember exact title) – way more Fried Green Tomato-y than Ellen Foster. She also wrote a sequel to Ellen Foster a few years back, but I don’t remember liking it, in fact I can’t remember what it was about at all!

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