REVIEW: White Oleander

Likes:
Locale descriptions
Astrid’s honesty in emotions

Dislikes:
Abundance of similies
Ending

Before really getting into White Oleander, I perused the Goodreads reviews I could find. Many praised Janet Fitch’s writing–from style to voice to character development. People LOVED her and her book. Hell, it’s an Oprah Book Club book, it has to be great right?!? Maybe not so much.

Oprah is clearly not as literarily inclined as everyone likes to pretend. Does she pick good books? Yes, of course she does. However, a good many are clad with a “bestseller” emblem on the front and coming from someone who is somewhat of a book snob, the people who decide what makes a bestseller usually don’t know anything about literature or what makes it quality or not. But, Oprah has picked quite a few that I would consider of high literary merit (lots of great Classics, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou). Somehow Janet Fitch just doesn’t quite measure up.

White Oleander is beautifully written. Fitch has a way with words, stringing them together in a most eloquent way, that solidfies Ingrid Magnussen as a poet. Descriptions of Los Angeles paint a picture of the very differing locales it holds; the seasons play a huge part in the unfolding of Astrid’s life, and personally I found that extremely relatable. Regardless of the many pretty words Fitch chose, her use of the similie is over done.

Similies can be a great help in creating adequate visualization for the reader, there are even several that utilize comparisons not traditionally thought of and these work to her advantage. The rest, on the other hand, are superfluous and make me doubt her ability as a writer. Without the similie can Janet Fitch paint me as grand a picture? I’m not sure, I hope so. But, it might explain why I’ve seen no other books from her. She ran out of similies and gave up.

Which is exactly what the end of the novel felt like. Giving up. It was anticlimactic to the max, and left poor Astrid in yet another form of limbo. Longing, yearning, and not growing much as a character. It was a quick, good read. It was even a bit enchanting to read from a perspective very different, yet similar in some ways, to my own. The personalities of mother and daughter so thoroughly interwined yet juxtaposed made for diverse exchanges between the various characters. I won’t resell it, but I doubt I’ll read it again either.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5