Thursday, February 18, 2010

25 - Unfinished Desires; Gail Godwin

Unfinished Desires; Gail Godwin
This is the first novel I've read by this author, and although I loved the setting, and the novel is beautifully written, it was not an easy read.

Briefly, the story begins in 2001, Mother Suzanne Ravenel is an 85 year old, former headmistress of Mount St. Gabriel's, Roman Catholic boarding school for girls. The school was founded in 1910, and closed in 1990, and the school is located in the mountains of North Carolina. The school serves as the background for the well written novel.

Mother Suzanne Ravenel attended the school in the 1920s, and is recruited to write a memoir and record the history of the school. As she reflects back some 50 years, she is haunted by the events that occurred during one particularly "toxic year", 1951-1952. It was the year she became the headmistress of the school were prominent families for generations sent their daughters. What happened that "toxic year" involving a group of ninth grade girls, and those responsible for their education, causes even the nuns to wrestle with their own demons from the past, about such issues as faith, love and their chosen vocation.

MY THOUGHTS - Most of the story is told from the third person point of view of the many characters involved, except for Mother Ravenel. The story covers shifting time periods and points of view, and at times I felt that the characters and their relationships with others, was very confusing. This book took me about one month to complete, because I found that I needed to read it very slowly in order to understand what was going on. I actually thought about abandoning this 400 page novel, but I am glad that I hung in there. In the end, it was worth it. Unfinished Desires touches on so many themes: families, friendships, power struggles, buried memories, but the most important theme was that of forgiveness -- forgiving others as well as ourselves. RECOMMENDED (4/5 stars)
 (Review copy sent to me for review through the Amazon Vine Program)

30 comments:

  1. I haven't gotten to this one yet, but Gail Godwin is a favorite of mine. I'd highly recommend Father Melancholy's Daughter and Evensong if you want to read more.

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  2. Gail Godwin, I've heard, is a great author. I've always been somewhat afraid to try one of her books. I really, really enjoyed your review. I'm glad you recognized she is "difficult." There is a book, I think, about the woman's marriage to a gangster. Don't remember the title. I've been thinking of trying that one. There is also a very tiny one I might try written by her.

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  3. I struggled with keeping up with everything, too. I re-read A LOT. Ultimately, I enjoyed it...but it wasn't my favorite of hers.

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  4. I'm intrigued! It's been some time since I read Godwin, but will keep an eye out for this one. Thanks for the review.

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  5. I got my copy from the Vine program, too, which was why I kept reading; I, too, found myself struggling at times. It's not a book you can read when there are other distractions in your life. I found myself constantly rereading because of those distractions.

    My review is here:

    http://curlupandread.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/secrets-in-an-all-girls-school-a-review-of-unfinished-desires/

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  6. I haven't read anything by this author, but you've made curious about that "toxic year."

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  7. This sounds good, though perhaps difficult to follow. I think I'll still give it a go! Great review :)

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  8. I've got this one on my list of things to read at some point. I'm intrigued by your description but think I would have to be in the proper mood to tackle this book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Diane.

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  9. I haven't read anything by Godwin in years, but I second Lise's recommendation of Father Melancholy's Daughter. I believe she also wrote a sequel for that one, although I'm not sure I ever read it! I can't say I've ever found any of her books difficult to read (in terms of how they are written), so I'm curious to see if I'll find this one confusing too. Great review!

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  10. I saw this book and thought it sounded very intriguing but if it's hard to get into I think I'll skip it.

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  11. The premise sounds interesting, but I'm not sure it's for me. The title sounds like a romance book to me.

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  12. I have never heard of this one or this author. It sounds very good.

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  13. I always count on you to be honest with your reviews. I haven't read anything by this author. Thanks for your review.

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  14. (P.S. I want to find out more about Amazon Vine.)

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  15. You definitely make this book sound interesting, but it's a bummer that it seemed such a daunting read.
    Alayne - The Crowded Leaf.

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  16. Susan...

    If you post book reviews on Amazon, after posting a certain # (not sure what that number is) they will send you an invitation inviting you to participate in the Vine program.

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  17. I've only read one of her books but loved it. It was a bit of a coming of age novel but also of women finding their place in the world in the 1950s or so. Funny how sometimes we've feel we've come along way but there are still a lot of the same emotions of how to juggle career, etc. This book sounds completely different but I'm adding to my list. Sounds great to me!

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  18. This sounds really interesting. I've never heard of it before. Off to add it to the ever-growing wish list!!

    PS. I have an award for you!!
    http://www.crazy-for-books.com/2010/02/and-emmy-goes-to.html

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  19. I've heard about this one and wanted to read it. Glad you gave it a good review!

    -Amy
    Life by Candlelight

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  20. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one and that you didn't abandon it. As for me, if it took me that long to get through it I think I would've thrown in the towel! :)

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  21. Wow this book sounds intense! I went to Catholic school so that theme alone intrigued me. I haven't read any of her books before so I'll keep my eye out for this one. Great, honest review!

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  22. this has been on my reading list for awhile! thanks for your review and now i'm even more eager to pick this one up!

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  23. I'm intrigued. I have never read Godwin. This sounds like a book I would have to wait for a weekend alone to read. With my son in the house there is no way I would attempt this one.

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  24. I really want to read this one. I'm glad you liked it.

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  25. This sounds great! I will definitely be adding it to my wish list (that makes three new ones tonight)!

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  26. This sounds like a difficult BUT powerful read.
    I will eventually read it but not so soon :)

    I love the cover of this one!

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  27. The theme of this book sounds very interesting. I am curious now about what happened during that toxic year. I'll just have to grab the book now, won't I?

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  28. This has been on my list for a while - since a few months before it was released, and I didn't realize that it was out now. I love boarding school books!

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  29. Sorry to hear this was a difficult read. It sounds like a book I might like, but your opinion has me wavering a bit. I'll have to think on it.

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  30. I'm glad you liked this book! I've been looking forward to your review since you posted on my blog that you had it on your shelf.

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