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A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff
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A Fortunate Age

by Joanna Smith Rakoff

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This has been touted as a fin-de-siecle masterpiece of social depiction a la Dickens or Wharton. It's not; it's several notches below that in literary taxonomy (hint: rhymes with "quick fit"), but still reasonably engaging. Rakoff has a good feel for the lives of her privileged, over-educated, Brooklyn-dwelling characters; whether the reader is going to be able to muster sympathy for them is another question. The book is both an anthropological snapshot of a certain time and class, and a page-turner. There are worse combinations. ( )
  MikeLindgren51 | Aug 7, 2018 |
I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I know some people will have trouble reading about the struggles of relatively privileged 20-somethings in New York -- if you're one of those people, then this book is not for you -- but I just devoured this book. The story of six Oberlin College graduates living their post-collegiate lives in New York, this book pulls off the considerable feat of shifting perspective between the characters. The jacket copy of the book described it as being in the tradition of 19th Century novels, and I suppose that would be right. It did feel a bit like reading a Jane Austen book.I've come to admire authors who can tell a story that unfolds over several years, and Smith Rakoff does a fine job of this, deftly moving between excruciatingly drawn-out scenes told in painstaking detail and grand, sweeping paragraphs that sum up a month or a season. This is no simple thing, to move through time like that. It's a skill that eludes many talented authors. I also liked that this book took place in New York before and after the 9/11 attacks, but it didn't become maudlin or overwrought. The characters noted the attacks, and some of them were clearly changed by them, but it was the way I felt changed by them. This wasn't a story about people who survived the 9/11 attacks or those who didn't survive them, but rather about the way life was -- both before and after -- for all those millions of people who lived in the city when it happened.If I have a criticism of the book, it's that the joints between sections, and the allotment of time between characters seemed a bit off. Why do we spend so little time with some and so much more with others? I would've enjoyed more from petulant, petty Dave's perspective (I fear I might be the only reader with this request), and I wondered more about Beth and Will. Still, it didn't stop me from enjoying the many chapters that lingered on Sadie. I think she was probably my favorite character in the end. And in this book, there were so many to choose from. ( )
  Patrick311 | Jul 15, 2011 |
"A Fortunate Age" by Joanna Smith Rakoff is the story of six 20 somethings, starting out in New York. It is set in the late 90s and turn of the century, and follows five Oberlin graduates as they shed their youth and start their lives.
I found that the characters were difficult to follow and I didn't feel that the characters were fully developed. The author focuses each chapter on one character but doesn't go into enough depth in any of them to make me care about them. Smith Rakoff uses flashbacks to try to fill in some of the gaps, but instead of helping, I feel it makes it difficult to keep everyone's story straight. None of the characters in this first novel by Smith Rakoff, is memorable.
The author used language that tries to emulate that of Edith Wharton or Charles Dickens and is used to try to fill the depth of this book. Not a successful endeavor. If there was a plot, I couldn't find it. I finished the book only because I hoped that the next chapter would be better. Instead, I was disappointed and no less confused. ( )
  liisa22 | Sep 18, 2010 |
Did not like this book at all, am glad it was a free advance copy. The characters are so self involved it was hard to like any of them or care about their lives. It seemed to be trying to captialize on the success of 'Sex and the City', but missed, in my opinion. ( )
  Suuze | Aug 12, 2009 |
Slow start but then a good read. ( )
  february270 | Jun 16, 2009 |
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What she was clear upon was, that she did not wish to lead the same sort of life as ordinary young ladies did; but what she was not clear upon was, how she should set up leading any other... - George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
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On a gray October day in 1998, Lillian Roth found herself walking down the stone-floored aisle of Temple Emanu-El, clad in a gown of dark ivory satin and flanked by her thin, smiling parents, who had flown into New York from Los Angeles a mere seven days earlier, still in mild shock that their obstreperous daughter was submitting to the ancient rite of marriage.
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A group of 1990s-era Oberlin graduates forge a friendship based on shared dreams, but find their camaraderie threatened by their youthful mistakes, their relationships with egocentric and insecure men, and the September 11 attacks.

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