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God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam
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God on the Rocks (original 1978; edition 2010)

by Jane Gardam

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2521045,464 (3.77)43
Member:brewergirl
Title:God on the Rocks
Authors:Jane Gardam
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Collections:Your library, Personal collection
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Tags:fiction, read2012, england, BOMBS2012

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God on the Rocks by Jane Gardam (1978)

  1. 00
    Who was Changed and Who was Dead by Barbara Comyns (lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Two books set in the English countryside, both about the bizarre side of human behavior.
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» See also 43 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Recommended to me by Erica Jensen
  JennyArch | Nov 22, 2013 |
The qualities that I love about Gardam's books, particularly her earlier ones are those I associate with my favourite early twentieth century writers such as Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Taylor. She can appear to do (deceptively) light and comical whilst also revealing emotion and depth of character.

God on the Rocks had a particularly vintage feel as it is set in the 1930s although it was first published in 1978. Maybe because of her affinity with 1930s writers, the period feel is utterly convincing. The characters eat brawn and shape for high tea ("the brawn was glossy and the shape was matt. Otherwise there was little between them and they were both pale brown"). Only towards the end when things became a little farcical with a married woman accidently losing her clothes in the house of a childhood sweetheart, did I think, maybe we are in the 1970s after all!

We are introduced to the story through intelligent, eight year old Margaret who has been brought up a strictly religious father and a mild, accomodating mother. When her mother has a new baby, Lydia the vivacious maid is encouraged to take Margaret for afternoons out. This leads to new characters entering her world such as as painter Drinkwater and Cambridge graduates Binky and Charles. Margaret starts to see the world as something different but can't quite make sense of the new things she hears and the odd relationships between those around her.

As the book develops, the reader learns more about these characters who tend to be delightfully unpredictable yet wholly believable. Events are eventually resolved in a satisfying ending which is almost an epilogue where we find out what ultimately happened to whom! ( )
7 vote Soupdragon | Jun 23, 2012 |
Not quite as good as "Old Filth," which is the only other book by Gardam I've read to date (although I will surely read the rest). But then again, "Old Filth" is a very hard act to follow and "God on the Rocks", for all it was shortlisted for the Booker back in 1978, was (I think) Gardam's first.

In this novel, Gardam's humor is by turns scathing and sweet and surprising. Her characters are marvels of three-dimensional creation. Here, between the two World Wars, we have quiet, self-contained, old-before-her-years Margaret, growing up in an alarmingly religious household with her mother Ellie, who has just had another child, and her father, Kenneth, Pastor of an evangelical church. Enter stage left -- Lydia, a somewhat blowsy, vulgar and undeniably alluring 'maid'. Lydia and Margaret go on day trips, where the world becomes far more complicated than Margaret had imagined up until this point: they visit a lunatic asylum, wherein lives an old lady with many secrets and a painter who paints, among other things, quite a lot of snakes.

Lydia evokes all sorts of emotions, not least of them from pious Kenneth. Ellie, in turn, revives a friendship with a long-lost love, the estranged son of the lady in the asylum. In other words, everyone's life gets a good shaking up, resulting in a rocky cliff of disillusion, which echoes the title -- God on the Rocks.

Gardam uses a complicated omniscient point of view in this work -- multiple voices and multiple time frames, and if she doesn't quite pull it off on every page, she comes close enough for it not to matter. You have to pay attention when you read Gardam, so as not to miss anything, and the effort is well rewarded. Highly recommended. ( )
  Laurenbdavis | Mar 30, 2012 |
Margaret, a precocious 8-year-old with an adventurous spirit, lives with her odd, fundamentalist Christian parents in a sleepy, seaside English town. A series of events occur around Margaret – including the sudden appearance of her mother’s childhood friends - that bring together a web of people who share a complicated and painful past.

Part comedy, with a bit of tragedy thrown in, the novel examines the toxic effects of longing, stubbornness, and regret, and how people are kept apart and made miserable for the silliest of reasons. It also explores the stock situation of rich-boy-not-allowed-to-marry-his poor-love-due-to-evil-mother without coming across as tired or cliché.

I have absolutely no idea why it’s never occurred to me to read a Jane Gardam novel until this week. Good grief. This is warm, witty, quirky, touching, and wonderful. The writing is excellent and the characters are vivid and rich. It’s ridiculously delightful. I love it. ( )
4 vote DorsVenabili | Feb 2, 2012 |
dnf ( )
  WinonaBaines | Jan 8, 2012 |
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Because the baby had come, special attention had to be given to Margaret, who was eight.
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Book description
It is with great pleasure that Europa Editions makes this Booker Prize short-listed novel newly available to the legions of Gardam fans.

Originally published in Great Britain in 1978, the novel describes Margaret Marsh¹s coming of age one summer between the world wars. Caught in the backwash of a fervently religious father, a mother bitterly nostalgic for what might have been, the tea and sympathy of some thoroughly secular neighbors and the bawdy jokes of her nanny Lydia, Margaret¹s world hurtles towards a shattering moment of truth. Drama, tragedy and a touch of farce lend themselves to Gardam¹s typically eloquent prose. With subtlety and precision, God on the Rocks provides an intimate portrait of the tensions that divide men and women, present and past, and the love and sorrow that lingers throughout.

Jane Gardam¹s reputation in the United States has been greatly enlarged by the critical acclaim and commercial success garnered by her latest novels, last year¹s Man in the Wooden Hat and her masterpiece Old Filth. Now, newcomers and fans alike can enjoy the pleasure of the splendid writing that established Gardam¹s considerable canon some four decades ago.

~~ From Europa Editions
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Originally published in Great Britain in 1978, the novel describes Margaret Marsh's coming of age one summer between the world wars. Caught in the backwash of a fervently religious father, a mother bitterly nostalgic for what might have been, the tea and sympathy of some thoroughly secular neighbors and the bawdy jokes of her nanny Lydia, Margaret's world hurtles towards a shattering moment of truth. Drama, tragedy and a touch of farce lend themselves to Gardam's typically eloquent prose. With subtlety and precision, God on the Rocks provides an intimate portrait of the tensions that divide men and women, present and past, and the love and sorrow that lingers throughout. --From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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