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Unfinished desires : a novel by Gail Godwin

Unfinished desires : a novel (edition 2009)

by Gail Godwin

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3533630,914 (3.24)32
Title:Unfinished desires : a novel
Authors:Gail Godwin
Info:New York : Random House, c2009.
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:North Carolina, Catholic schools, nuns, students

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Unfinished Desires by Gail Godwin



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This novel is based on Godwin's own experiences at a Catholic day school in North Carolina. The retired headmistress is writing a memoir /historyof the school and is drawn back to a certain incident in the early 1950s that caused the expulsion of several students as well as her own leave of absence. But it is as much about the relationships between women - mothers and daughters, teachers and students, and the passionate friendships that exist between adolscent girls. In some ways, it is a very conventional novel, in others, a surprising and penetrating look at how power manifests itself in those same relationships and how religion was one way that women could empower themselves, even within the confines of a traditional church. There are also shadows of other great novels about teachers - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie comes to mind.

( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
This novel recounts the turbulent freshman year of a class of Catholic school girls in the 1950s. The primary thread of the book revolves around the friendship of three young girls whose innocent childhood games would wreak consequences they couldn't possibly know.

This moving tale about teenage drama, religion, and memory that spans multiple generations and view points. ( )
  Juva | Mar 23, 2015 |
thanks Bethany!
  pam.enser | Apr 1, 2013 |
The fictional Mt. St. Gabriel's girls school was located in the North Carolina Mountains. It was a fairly exclusive Catholic School run by a Mother Suzanne Ravenel until the school's closure in 1990. The aging nun is now residing in a convent in the Boston area and has been asked to dictate a history of the school which will be transcribed by former students. I wanted to like the book better than I did because of its setting just across the mountains from where I live. I think the book suffered from lack of a more structured organization. The story spanned multiple generations, and it was sometimes difficult to sort the characters and figure out which generation you were currently reading if you'd put the book down a few hours. The book seemed longer than necessary to tell the story it told, and it felt that many stories were repeated in different places throughout the book. The book seems to have been inspired by a school called St. Genevieve of the Pines which merged with an all male school much earlier than Mt. St. Gabriel's of the book closed. Apparently both schools have now been absorbed by Asheville Country Day School. ( )
1 vote thornton37814 | Jan 3, 2013 |
For some reason, I started this book back in early 2010, and just never finished it. I can't find anything in my notes to explain why I abandoned it, but I'm glad I tried again. This is a story that resonated with me. I went to a private girls school from 9th grade through college, and the fictional Mt. St. Gabriel's is eerily similar to the real life Mt. St. Agnes I attended.....down to the fact that they are both now closed and most of the nuns who survive are living in retirement facilities. Fortunately, I don't remember anyone as controlling as Mother Ravenel, Godwin's fictional headmistress, but the adolescent angst, the rivalries and the atmosphere were evocative of the 1950's Catholicism we grew up with.

Godwin's storytelling is enchanting but long. This is one of those books that could have been so much better if it had more editing. It rambled, and even with her indicating the speaker and the time frame as she changed points of view, it still was jolting to have to rearrange perspectives so many times. In doing so, there were parts of the story that seemed to be told repeatedly, and this repetition meant the book ran on for about 50 pages too many. The characters are extremely well developed, and exquisitely portrayed in the audio by Kimberly Farr who does a masterful job distinguishing between speakers and accents.

With a robust cast of characters, and a sumptuous setting, it's too bad the story line couldn't have been more crisply drawn. It was a struggle to finish this one the second time around. I kept saying "Ok, ok, let's get on with it." One of the characters - Tildy Stratton's mama - carried her emotional baggage so heavily that I wanted to shake her! Her relationship with the headmistress, while central to the story, was entirely too drawn out and dwelt up. One of those "get over it" narrations that really dragged the book down in my opinion. I still enjoyed the story, but I suspect it was more because of the nostalgic walk down memory lane, rather than the emotion ridden psychological drama it turned out to be. Even the ending, although true to the title, left me empty. I don't think this one was up to Godwin's earlier standard, but still worth the read. ( )
1 vote tututhefirst | May 15, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Godwin offers skillful writing and her usual acute insights into the complex bonds women form as friends, siblings, mothers, daughters — and, possibly, lovers... Unfortunately, the plot and the book's bloat doom Unfinished Desires.
added by Shortride | editUSA Today, Deidre Donahue (Jan 28, 2010)
Gail Godwin’s reserved yet powerful new novel, “Unfinished Desires,” is set in a Roman Catholic boarding school in the mountains of North Carolina...Godwin has created several deeply affecting characters...
added by fannyprice | editNew York Times (Jan 8, 2010)
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If you go out walking in our dark wood / When the hawk's face is tucked beneath his wing / And mist has risen in the hollows / And the owl shrieks: / Do not shrink if on your path / You meet a sollitary ghost. / Ask it, What did you love most? / And what have you left undone?" --Prologue to Suzanne Ravenel's 1931 school play, The Red Nun
To Father David Louis Bronson
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The room, though small, is light and airy. A highly polished writing table overlooks a square of lawn with flower borders. On the left side of the table, sharpened pencils have been placed slantwise across a brand-new yellow legal pad. Just behind the pad perches a small brass dinner bell. On the right side of the table is a silver serving tray. Laid out on its starched white cloth are a cut-glass water goblet, a silver pitcher beaded with frost, a tea napkin embroidered with a rose, a package of colored M&M's, and a xdesigner box of Kleenex tissues.
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Sparking enthusiasm for a play about the founding of their North Carolina mountains Catholic girls' school, a charismatic ninth grader and her recently orphaned best friend set in motion a series of events that have decades-long ramifications.

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