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BUtterfield 8

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,514 Ratings  ·  147 Reviews
A bestseller upon its publication in 1935, BUtterfield 8 was inspired by a news account of the discovery of the body of a beautiful young woman washed up on a Long Island beach. Was it an accident, a murder, a suicide? The circumstances of her death were never resolved, but O’Hara seized upon the tragedy to imagine the woman’s down-and-out life in New York City in the earl ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 280 pages
Published by Bantam (first published 1935)
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Apr 08, 2014 Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Halfway through the novel is this passage: " seemed to him as though he and Gloria were many times on the verge of a great romance, one for the ages, or at least, a match for the love and anguish of Amory and Rosalind in This Side of Paradise and Frederick and Catherine in A Farewell to Arms. With this, we are reminded that O'Hara is a contemporary of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, with even some similar preoccupations, notably love in a time of Prohibition. But this is where the resemblance end ...more
Jan 09, 2016 AnnLoretta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The only book in my long life that I finished, closed, held in my lap, and then broke out without warning into inconsolable sobs. That was on my second reading, in my 50's. I didn't know enough when I read it as a kid to be devastated by it.

I don't mind young people reading books and not much being drawn to them. I've seen that in reviews of this book. Because it's not, on its surface, contemporary. But with some books, I wish they'd come back to them in 30, 40 years, because maybe both the boo
Jun 22, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloria habe ich mir ein wenig wie die auf die schiefe Bahn geratene ältere Tochter von Leopold und Molly Bloom vorgestellt, die nach New York ausgewandert ist. Eine Assoziation, die ich mir selbst nicht recht erklären kann und die in Ansätzen darauf beruhen mag, dass irische Einwanderer, innerer Monolog und Nierchen zum Frühstück eine Rolle spielen in BUTTERFIELD 8. Gloria säuft wie ein Loch - überhaupt vermittelt der Roman den Eindruck, während der Prohibition sei mehr gesoffen worden als davor ...more
Jan 22, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man is this a hell of a book-- it's, as much as anything else, a portrait of NY life ca. 1931 that is maybe the least varnished I've ever seen. It's like every question whose answer you doubted when you heard it in history class is re-answered here, in totally convincing and layered fashion.

In her introduction, Liebowitz talks about the difference between O'Hara's knowingness (which she thinks is bad) and his knowledge (which she sees as good). But for me, it's impossible to distinguish them.

Jan 04, 2014 Alena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My copy came courtesy of the publisher.

Reading John O'Hara is like stepping into a time machine. He completely immerses the reader in the speech patterns and atmosphere of the well-to-do speakeasy set. Even though this novel, like Appointment in Samarra, is filled with truly despicable characters, all of whom seem to be drunk, cheating liars, I loved reading it. From the opening scene of Gloria waking up in a stranger's apartment with her dress ripped, O'Hara grabbed me. (It probably didn't hurt
Diane S ☔
Apr 05, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather unlikable characters, their lives in New York, 1931 and inspired by a true event. First time I have read this author but it will not be the last. The passion in his writing, wonderful prose, the characters interactions with each other, the speakeasies, well to do people and their desolate lifestyles all combined to make this a very atmospheric read.
Feb 15, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloria a 1930's glamour girl wakes up alone in a strangers apartment one Sunday morning.
Wearing nothing but her underwear, her dress torn she takes a fur coat and leaves.
She sets in motion a series of events that will lead to tragedy.
Her entanglement with a married man, set among the Manhattan bars and bedrooms.

Made into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor.
May 29, 2008 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone researching the development of the American novel
O'Hara writes with such an intense passion and excitement that it is a very difficult book not to like. But unfortunately, much of the brilliance lies within that passion and excitement, and not in the story or characters involved. The author's sense of dialogue is tremendously flowing and spot on, but at novel's end you have that lip-biting feeling that you've just read an unfinished masterpiece. Read it for the character's interractions with one another and for O'Hara fiery prose.
Nov 19, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first encounter with B8 was a scant three minutes on television. Elizabeth Taylor lolling about with her hair mussed and a drink in her hand.
"It's awful," my mother said as she changed the channel. "She should have won that Oscar for Hud." To which I took away that Elizabeth Taylor movies cribbed their titles from rejected candy bar names.
Four decades later, I agree that the movie is awful. And the book is awful too in all the right ways. This is a sharp and still relevant take down of class
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Great, great novel! BUtterfield 8 starts with the mink coat and ends with the mink coat, but the story of young Gloria Wandrous in between is truly some terrific fiction. In some sense I think that John O'Hara has rewritten Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Although, the protagonist of O'Hara's tale, Miss Wandrous, is not the social or sexual naif that Tess was. Gloria's crime--if it is even such--is that she wants to live her life and be treated by other people as the men in her day are ...more
Gabriel Valjan
Mar 27, 2014 Gabriel Valjan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
BUtterfield 8 – the camel-case title references retired telephone exchanges – is O’Hara’s ‘ripped from the headlines’ novel. A real murder inspired the novel. Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous earned her her first Oscar in 1960 for the 1935 novel adapted to the big screen. The novel is provocative: it details up-town and downtown adultery with cross-town machinations. Fate hinges on a telephone number and a mink coat. The novel uses the word ‘slut,’ which should remind readers that their grand ...more
Another scalding piece of American realism from John O'Hara, BUtterfield 8 moves away from the author's "Gibbsville," Pa., home locale to depict a dozen or so main characters from a wide range of Manhattan social classes, who cross daily as equals only in the strangeness of the city's Prohibition-era speakeasy life. It is not a pretty picture, but deftly drawn with his great, great dialogue and unerring characterizations -- a love story, in its way. O'Hara makes me think of two very different wr ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Jessie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel rather divided about this book. I believe that I didn't enjoy it more because it lacked something that let me emotionally connect to the characters in a consistent way. It was choppy in that regard. It was very matter of fact, very linear. There were spells where I would read steadily, following along and trying not to be bored to tears. And them, I'd just fall in, like an unexpected drop off in a swimming pool. I'd find myself deep into some truly beautiful writing. It would be descripti ...more
Jul 28, 2009 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own
There are a number of "classics" sitting on my shelves to be read. This summer I picked up BUtterfield 8 and dove right in. I had almost no idea what to expect. I'd never seen the movie and hadn't really ever heard anything about the story. Reading the back cover gave a slight insight, but still left me wondering what to expect.

The book started out a little slow, but still very vivid. O'Hara writes with great description and passion and was able to make the scenes very alive and full. However, f
Jun 28, 2016 Andy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So far this is reminding me a lot of John Dos Passos' USA Trilogy.
Jun 08, 2010 Katrina marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I found a page from this book on the ground in Brooklyn in May, brown and torn and mostly disintegrated. The bit that was legible drew me in, though, and thanks to Google books I was able to find out what book it's from! I wonder if this was a sign that I should read this book or just a sign that someone's copy was due for retirement.


Aug 24, 2015 Melody rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't get through this and stopped maybe 25 pages into the book. I didn't care about any of the characters because they are all sleazebags and I didn't want to waste my time reading about a cast of unremarkable people exhibiting the worst in human behavior.
Vivek Tejuja
Oct 17, 2013 Vivek Tejuja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember the first time I watched BUtterfield 8. I was dazzled by the plot and more so by Elizabeth Taylor. I grew up some. I grew up some more. At twenty-five I realized that it was adapted from a book by the same title, written by John O’Hara and I could not wait to get my hands on it and devour it. I searched everywhere – high and low, but could not find it anywhere. This was way before the online shopping mania struck us. Somehow, I managed to find three of his novels in one book – Appoint ...more
Aug 18, 2010 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
Nice and sexy at the start, with everyone walking around in their underwear ... moves through some misogyny and casual racism (it’s the 1930s) and ends with a disappointing splash. But fun along the way. Gloria is great:
"In the bathroom was a dressing-table with triplicate mirrors and many lights. Even the front of the draw had a mirror, and whenever she noticed this she thought about the unknown person who designed the table, what he or she must have had in mind: what earthly use could there be
Dana Jennings
Nov 24, 2013 Dana Jennings rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Penguin Classics edition with introduction by Lorin Stein. Here is an excerpt from the introduction which I read before starting the novel and again when I finished. "On O'Hara's gravestone it is written: 'Better than anyone else, he told the truth about his time, the first half of the twentieth century. He was a professional.' O'Hara's camp up with the epitaph himself. The claim is debatable (and tacky) , but it's useful when reading Butterfield 8 to bear that ambition in mind, for O'Hara alway ...more
Lucy Pearson
This book is one which has long been on my bookshelves. I have resolved to work my way through lots of those this year, but I'm finding this one heavy going. I was fascinated by the opening, but either it or I have lost steam.
Nov 24, 2014 Jon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read, if only to puzzle over the differences between it and the 1960 Elizabeth Taylor/ Laurence Harvey movie.

The big difference is that in the book Gloria is a sexually liberated – for 1935, its year of publication -- young woman from a moneyed family, while in the movie she is an upmarket call-girl. Each treatment provides more entertainment than insight: the book is an extended New Yorker story; the movie an extended photo shoot of Taylor in her Most Beautiful Woman in the Wor
Mar 26, 2014 Victoria rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Having never watched the movie, I feel I was pretty much a blank slate reading this. I found that I just feel disappointed ... All of the characters seem so underdeveloped that I really couldn't connect with them, even though I wanted to. I often felt I had to spend time remembering who some characters were because I forgot about them. I feel this book is more about a time period than about an actual story. This easily could have been a riveting short story by eliminating everything but the last ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Chip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hemingway (yes, that one): "[O'Hara is] a man who knows exactly what he is writing about and has written it marvellously well." As it turns out, Papa Hemingway was right and almost right. Based loosely on the true story of Starr Faithfull, O'Hara weaves the unblinkered tale of a young woman discovering herself in the forbidden world of illicit sex and illegal booze in 1930's New York City. The title, carefully chosen, was synonymous with the wealthiest addresses in the country at that time, as r ...more
Jan 17, 2016 LadyCalico rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poor John O'Hara! I must say what he probably heard way too often--that was such a great book, but it wasn't any Appointment in Samarra! But I still see it as a solid 4.5. The two novels had many similarities including a similar emotional wallop in that I wanted to reach into the pages, grab the protagonists by the neck and scream, "stop being so stupid, you are only making things worse!" However, there were two things IMHO that made this book pack a lesser wallop. The Character of Gloria lacked ...more
Mar 01, 2016 Mbrentmurphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible book. I doubt I'll read better this year. Where has this author been my whole life! Incredible grasp of dialogue and scene. Eye-opening look into depression-era America. Cannot wait to read all of his works. Just incredible!!!
Mary Peck
Sep 26, 2007 Mary Peck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloria's story is rather like watching a tragedy unfold. You know it's coming, and you know it's going to hurt, but you just can't seem to look away. From her first action (taking the coat as repayment for past sins) the story rolls along and picks up momentum until there's only one possible end. Do you see it coming? Sure. But you're still going to enjoy the trip.
Wendy Migdal
One of the biggest things I noticed about this book was how different it felt from the movie, which I had seen first. The movie is set in the 50's, so there isn't any of the speakeasy element to it. But the characters felt completely different. Elizabeth Taylor did not seem anything to me like the Gloria Wandrous in the book. I actually liked the book better than the movie - the writing style was very lively and vivid, and since most movies lack narration, that major element was missing from the ...more
Alia S
He was getting a little tired of all but the freedom part of his freedom.

I’ve never read O’Hara but have heard him called the poor man’s Fitzgerald. That’s fine by me—I love Fitzgerald and long ago ran out of him. The substitute material definitely has less money and more sex, and whether O’Hara’s intention here was to sell books or to tell the truth, it must have been a complete scandal at the time. I kept checking the copyright date: 1935 for casual reference to BDSM parties and softball lesbi
Nick Duretta
Oct 31, 2015 Nick Duretta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first exposure to O'Hara. I'd seen the film of "Butterfield 8" and thought it rather trashy, so that's what I was expecting from the novel. By contrast, it is a well-crafted indictment of New York society in the early 1930s, and a book well ahead of its time in its frankness about sex and generally libidinous lifestyles. Loose-moraled Gloria Wandrous is still the main focus, and I couldn't help but picture Liz Taylor as I read about her, but here she's a far more nuanced and sympathe ...more
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John Henry O'Hara was an American writer born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He initially became known for his short stories and later became a best-selling novelist whose works include Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8. He was particularly known for an uncannily accurate ear for dialogue. O'Hara was a keen observer of social status and class differences, and wrote frequently about the social ...more
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