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Rodin's Debutante

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  246 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
Tommy Ogden, an outsize character holding court in his mansion outside robber-baron-era Chicago, declines to give his wife the money to commission a bust of herself from the French master Auguste Rodin and instead announces his intention to endow a boyss knowledge of how the world works. Years later, Lee meets his victimized classmate. Their charged encounter is a confirma ...more
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 733)
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Jill
Mar 01, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ward Just is a writer’s writer, as straightforward and gritty and no-nonsense as Chicago—the city from which he hails. His solid 17th novel carries a seemingly enigmatic title – Rodin’s Debutante – a curiosity, considering the book has nothing to do with Rodin or debutantes.

But wait – as in much of Ward Just’s work, there is complexity and hidden meaning behind the seeming simplicity. Sculpturally, Rodin – the progenitor of modern sculpture -- possessed a distinctive ability to model a complex,
...more
Kasa Cotugno
Apr 11, 2011 Kasa Cotugno rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc
I wanted to like this book much more than I did. It seemed as if there was a plot just waiting to come out, but it never quite jelled for me, as most of Just's books. It is old fashioned story telling with modern twists, but the characters' characters seem inchoate and there is a surprising lack of originality. Ogden, who donates his mansion to make it a school for misfits, seems to have enormous wealth that never runs out. Not possible or realistic given his lifestyle. Lee never seems to grow e ...more
Cynthia
Feb 21, 2011 Cynthia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lee Goodell grows up in a tiny town just outside Chicago in the 1940’s. His father is an influential judge and an unofficial elder of the town. A tragedy occurs to one of Lee’s classmates and he secretly listens as a cabal consisting of a policeman, the owner of the local paper takes place in his father’s study. This group decides how to handle, or not handle, the situation. They gloss it over and the immigrant mother and daughter quietly leave town. Problem solved! Consequently Lee’s mother bec ...more
Lobstergirl
Mar 07, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Kirk Douglas
Shelves: fiction
This is an "emotionally potent novel," says the dust jacket, but the opposite is true. Like all of Just's novels, which are often about a young man coming of age in midcentury America, this one is emotionally dead, its characters remote. Just's style is distant, so we always feel at a remove. Has anyone ever cared what happened to one of these characters? They always seem to be sleepwalking through life. His habit of not using quotation marks adds to the sense of dialogue being spoken by ghosts. ...more
switterbug (Betsey)
Chicago and its outlying areas exert a crisp emotional current and brooding tension in this assured and shimmering coming-of-age story of bygone days. Rodin and his (fictional) Debutante sculpture provide both a specific and totemic significance as well as a mythical fever to the book and its themes, its force being largely symbolic. In the years before WW1, Tommy Ogden, a wealthy industrialist with a passion for hunting and a penchant for a brothel, spitefully denies his wife the money to commi ...more
Don
Mar 16, 2012 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well-written, butI didn't feel that the book fulfilled its promise. The descriptions of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood--home of the University of Chicago--at mid-century seemed to be true, but most of the rest of the novel is vague and ill-formed. A good deal of the book is about Ogden Hall, the slightly disreputable private boy's school that the protagonist, Lee Goodell, attended, but ultimately, except for one event from his school days, the presence of the school as a character in the ...more
Bill
Aug 07, 2011 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rodin's Debutante is not up to Just's high standards in such novels as An Unfinished Season and The Weather in Berlin. Rodin lacks focus. Is it about a Rodin bust of Marie, Tommy Ogden's wife or someone else? Does the answer show that you can't believe what everyone else thinks?

Tommy Ogden is the scion of a railroad baron and, as such does not work but hunts. He deciders to turn the huge family mansion into a boys' school. The school, at best, is mediocre plagued by high turnover in the staff an
...more
Julie Grabowski
Dec 11, 2013 Julie Grabowski rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This one was disappointing. I had never read anything by Ward Just before, but the story sounded interesting and I expected to like it. I had a hard time getting into it and even set the book aside for a while to read something else. When I came back to it it was a little better, but I couldn't find the focus: I didn't know who or what the story was about. Tommy Ogden and Lee seemed two vastly separate stories despite the connection of the school and their meeting at the football game, and which ...more
Mike Barresi
Apr 07, 2011 Mike Barresi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
http://knowthyself-mb.blogspot.com/20...

I finished Ward Just's Rodin's Debutante two days ago and I can't even remember the last name of the protagonist. I think his name was Lee Goodell. The other main character, I can't remember his first name, but his last name was Ogden. Here's my problem with the book, I never understood the point of it. The first part was about Ogden and his hunting and and his fights with his wife and his creating a school for boys, called Ogden. This Ogden is an ass to e
...more
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
FIRST SENTENCE: This is a true story,or true as far as it goes.

The novel opens with the story of an anonymous debutante whose home is Astor Street in Chicago, traveling through Europe with her mother, who visits Rodin's atelier in Depot des Marbres, where the artist sculpts a bust of her for her eighteenth birthday.

We then meet Tommy Ogden near the start of the first World War, a wealthy man whose first love is shooting and the thrill of the hunt, at his dinner table, in a heated argument with M
...more
Bookmarks Magazine
“What a masterful storyteller Ward Just is!” exclaimed the Minneapolis Star Tribune, mirroring general sentiment. All critics appreciated Ward Just’s realistic prose and the themes that run through much of his work, such as the alienation of characters who move from small towns to cities. They also thought the characters dreamed up for Rodin’s Debutante were superbly realized. However, they expressed different feelings about the book’s plot structure. Some reviewers thought Just had brilliantly ...more
Molly
Jun 17, 2014 Molly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another book with an overly gruesome and detailed account of sexual violence. Completely gratuitous. The young girl who was raped was only briefly mentioned and then appeared later in the novel to meet with someone who knew about it, to try to bring closure to what happened. This processing of her trauma did not require a detailed accounting of the violence. Also, a cringing romanticization of Hyde Park area in Chicago and a newly married couple's trip to Italy. What was this book about anyway?! ...more
Joanne Gass
Aug 17, 2012 Joanne Gass rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Ward Just has set out to explore the political and personal idiosycreses of Americans in the twentieth century. At any rate, this one is about the mid-west and the loss of innocence of the people of a small town outside of Chicago. After having read an inordinate number of novels this year about old men trying to make sense out of their lives, it was a relief to have the protagonist be a young man finding his way in life(not an original plot line either, I know). I liked this one very mu ...more
William
This is the first book by Just that I have read, surprising because it's his 17th novel. The books strikes me as more form than substance. The prose is stylish, but the plot seems contrived and the characters are somewhat flat. For instance, I was puzzled by why Lee, the protagonist, or perhaps his parents, would choose a school as peculiar and substandard as Ogden Hall, and the whole plot hinges on this choice. It doesn't help that none of the characters appealed to me very much.
Joe
Mar 07, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Here’s my review of Ward Just’s “Rodin’s Debutante”

Crazy as he is, Tommy is the sort of oddball who could usurp Just’s novel. But in part two, Just dexterously melds Tommy’s story with Lee Goodell’s. Lee begins his life in fictitious, blue-collar New Jesper, on the western shore of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago. Times are tough in New Jesper, and Just vividly portrays out-of-work men knocking on back doors looking for handouts.

http://ow.ly/4cQPm

--Joe



Caroline
This is a strange one. The writing is exceptional, but the structure is basically unsound, and the narrative voice reels around like a folk dance. I think the point was to contrast 2 artistic types, and that the contrast may have had something to do with empathy. Beyond that, I'll have to peruse the reviews here and see if someone's willing to clue me in.
Rosemary
Nov 02, 2014 Rosemary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just continues the search for truth, this time with Lee in Chicago. Lee grew up in a gritty lakeshore town north of Chicago, where his father is a judge and a member of a group of men who run the town. When a young woman, Magda, is brutally raped, they decide the details should be suppressed to protect her and the town's reputation. Lee is sent to the Ogden school to finish his education and then settles in Hyde Park with his wife, Laura to continue his life as an artist, a sculptor finding trut ...more
Penny
May 19, 2015 Penny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had to use this rating a lot lately. This book left too many loose ends, in my opinion. I don't require a completed bundle at the end, but this tale was more scattered than real life.

Just is a really good author and I enjoy his characters and his manner of narrative, but the strands of this story just didn't blend well enough for me to discover the pattern of his cloth. I had read two of the four parts before I began to feel comfortable with the journey the author had me on. Nevertheless
...more
Michele Weiner
Dec 02, 2011 Michele Weiner rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Spoiler alert - I have written about the few events that actually occur in this book, and given away the ending, such as it is.


The opening sentence of Rodin's Debutante is, "This is a true story as far as it goes." Prophetic. The story doesn't actually go anywhere at all. I don't know if the main character was supposed to be the small town young sculptor Lee Goodell was raised in or the school the very wealthy Tommy Ogden founded. Ogden's wife Marie had returned from a trip to France where her t
...more
Timothy Bazzett
Apr 30, 2012 Timothy Bazzett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ward Just's newest novel, RODIN'S DEBUTANTE, is a fascinating and absorbing read however you want to interpret it. It is, perhaps more than anything else, a coming-of-age story, but it is also very much about "the enigma of class in America."

The story of young Lee Goodell, only child of a judge in the small town of New Jesper, north of Chicago, is one of privilege, private schools and university with a generous "allowance." The town has it's own "Committee" of upper class citizens who make the
...more
Kim Meyers
Nov 29, 2011 Kim Meyers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming of age story grappling with memory and how different characters view the same situation, as well as how it shapes their lives. Lee Goddell tries to find meaning in life, much as he tries to discover form within marble as a sculptor. When he is a boy in small town New Jesper, Illinois, a heinous crime happens to one of his classmates and he witnesses how his father, the Judge, and other leaders deal with the issue, more concerned with how the crime will affect the town’s reputation than on ...more
Kat
Aug 26, 2011 Kat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely language, thoughtful descriptions, some puzzling sentences (thank you book club members for helping unravel one part of speech mystery). This book is very much of the momement or lived in, I am stumbling for words here, but you get a sense that the places and people are very authentic, very right for their time. The problems I have with this book and with some other books by Mr. Just are 1) that the protagonist is removed a bit from the drama, not a first-hand participant, but an observer ...more
Rachel
May 30, 2012 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
By the time I was halfway through the book and well into "Part 3" I realized this book has no idea what it wants to be.

The main character isn't even introduced until well into the novel, by which point we've been through what feels like a hundred jerky POV shifts, including a foray into first person to let the main character narrate (though it is not obvious by this point that he is, indeed, the main character).

As a side note, before giving up on this book I thought I'd check out the NYT review
...more
Mary
Mar 21, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in twentieth century Chicago, this coming of age story is well written and I especially enjoyed the Hyde Park setting. Lee Goodell is a sheltered child the child of a judge in a small city on the lake north of metropolitan Chicago. A rape and a hobo's death changes his life, his perspective of his family, and he ends up attending a boarding school founded by a strange industrialist named Tommy Ogden. Ward Just uses sculpture as a means to present the growth and devlopment of Lee. The school ...more
Jennifer
Ward Just was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for a previous book, An Unfinished Season.

I liked the characters in this book and the writing but the story didn't seem to get anywhere. There waa murder and a rape that weren't solved. And no attempt was made to solve it. The main character just lived his life - went to school, became a successful sculptor, married, had children. I did love a section in the book about his childhood, when he and a friend roamed this scrubby uninhabited area
...more
Sarah Merkley
I have a soft spot for Ward Just books. They always feel a little soapy but in a perfect way.
Virginia Walter
Lee Goodell's story is linked with that of Tommy Ogden, an eccentric Chicago millionaire of the era of robber barons. Lee, raised in a small town outside of Chicago, goes to the boys' prep school founded by Ogden and from there goes on to the University of Chicago and a career as a successful sculptor. He rejects the conservative politics of his boyhood as he embraces the values of his new life in liberal Hyde Park, but incidents from his life in the small town where his father was a judge never ...more
Krista (CubicleBlindness Reviews)
If you are fans of Ward Just, you will not be disappointed in this new coming of age story. It goes full circle from a young boy, son of a Judge who overhears about a school mate being raped, changing schools and discovering his love for scultpture as well as eventually falling in love himself and travelling the world. This story has well developed characters and a well rounded plot that will leave you wondering about your own schooling, friends and loved ones. There is beautiful imagery of Rom ...more
Djrmel
Four and a half stars for the setting - North Shore, South Side, Gold Coast, Hyde Park, even a name drop for Gary, all so alive that they are the characters that kept me reading this book. Two stars for the real characters, the main ones so flat and bloodless that they can move in and out of the story arc without being noticed. There's some beautiful writing in this book, but honestly, there's not a lot of story. Several small stories that would have made a great short story collection, but as l ...more
Kim Berkshire
May 28, 2011 Kim Berkshire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first Just book. Title caught my interest at the library. Loved loved loved the rich writing; I found myself going back and re-reading long paragraphs, although I can't use that as an excuse for why it took me more than three weeks to read it. Like other reviewers, would have liked to see some resolutions of the murder, the rape, the disappearance of Magda at the end, even the comings and goings of some of the less starring characters. But that's a small complaint. Will definitely read him ag ...more
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Ward Just (born 1935) is an American writer. He is the author of 15 novels and numerous short stories.

Ward Just graduated from Cranbrook School in 1953. He briefly attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He started his career as a print journalist for the Waukegan (Illinois) News-Sun. He was also a correspondent for Newsweek and The Washington Post from 1959 to 1969, after which he left
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