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Arcadia

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  10,571 ratings  ·  1,810 reviews
In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. The story is ...more
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Hyperion (first published 2012)
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The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenInsurgent by Veronica RothGone Girl by Gillian FlynnCity of Lost Souls by Cassandra ClarePandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Best Books of 2012
179th out of 3,012 books — 9,281 voters
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2013 Tournament of Books Watch List
15th out of 63 books — 376 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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karen

i had reservations about this book because, well, look at that cover. fucking hippies.

but i should have known that lauren groff would write a spectacular book even if it was about fucking hippies. i have read all three of her books now, and while monsters of templeton is still far and away the winner in the "books by lauren groff" award ceremonies, this one is very very good.

this novel focuses on bit, a child born into a hippie commune, and checks in with him during four periods in his life.

whe
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Am I just the buzzkill who wouldn't drop acid at the party? Did someone shut off the volcano that fueled my lava lamp? How do I explain my huge disappointment in this book?

I, who loved The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds, found Arcadia unreadable. Why? The story is slave to the style. Groff uses a floaty, present tense, semi-random flow that very nearly resembles a plot, but not quite. Everything is seen through the eyes of Bit, a little boy who somehow doesn't seem to be "all t
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Joanne  Clarke Gunter
Oh what a fine novel this is, one of the few I feel is worthy of the 5-star rating. This is a book that leaves you sad because it has ended, but also happy because you have read it and got to know Bit, his mother Hannah, and his father Abe, whom I wish could be real people who are greatly admired friends of mine living their lives of clarity and substance somewhere in the wilds of upstate New York, not so far from me.

This is a finely crafted, exquisitely written, and particularly interesting nov
...more
Suzanne
There were parts of Arcadia I liked very much, especially the language and themes, but overall, I found it uneven. The first part, particularly, was a bit tough to get through, an overlong history of the commune Arcadia, told in the voice of a child whose parents helped found it under the leadership of a sketchy character named Handy. The fact there was little conflict in this first half of the book, along with the narrator’s voice, describing much but perceiving little, made this section less c ...more
Kylie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
B the BookAddict
Sep 06, 2014 B the BookAddict rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: highly recommended
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: GR - I think
Shelves: fiction

Arcadia (Greek: Ἀρκαδία) refers to a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature.

Our narrator is Ridley Stoner – Bit or Little Bit as he is known, who is born to Hannah and Abe in their car as they are travelling with a group of idealists to Arcadia House. Arcadia House is the derelict mansion and it's surrounding fields, pastures and river which has been bequeathed to one of the group. Ridley was premature and weighed 3lbs; hence the name Bit. Arcadia whose vision is to “live with the land, n
...more
Elaine
Feb 27, 2013 Elaine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This is really like a 3.5 or a 3.7.

Groff is an astonishingly gifted writer. She conveys atmosphere like no one else, and as in The Monsters of Templeton, she creates a world and then moves through time with it. (Also like Monsters, you may think she's juggling too many characters and that detracts from the overall impact.)

She does a marvelous job though creating the commune of Arcadia, shown in its heyday, its Reagan-era decline, its diaspora, and then its slightly futuristic (2018) new incarnat
...more
Lisa Maruca
The first two quarters of this book were beautifully rendered. The first, told from the point of view of the naive yet sensitive and often frightened five-year-old, Bit, describes his growing up in the eponymous hippie commune. Despite apparent flaws and personal trauma, it is an idyllic childhood, and this section is the novel's heart as well as Bit's sustenance as he moves through life. The second part describes, through the adolescent Bit's eyes, the decline and fall of Arcadia, pressured by ...more
Anne
So, the first section, experiencing that world through Bit, was emotionally provocative, well-written, sad, but deeply insightful into the emotional life of that sensitive boy. Beyond that, the book became somewhat formulaic for me and lost the thing that made it special. I was still interested in the story - in a beach-read, what-happens-next kind of way - but not engaged by the characters in the same way.

One more criticism - beyond the main characters, there are so many others, especially amo
...more
George Clack
Your view of this book is likely to turn on two things: 1) whether you find the mystical and deeply sensitive hippie/child protagonist Bit a credible character, one worth spending 289 pages with; and 2) how much of Lauren Goff's vivid prose style you can stomach. Here's a good test. Try these four passages below; they nicely encapsulate Bit's musing mind. If they intrigue you, join the crowds of ecstatic reviewers. If their windy phoniness makes you retch, then don't bother.

“The women washed clo
...more
Julie
Lauren Groff’s lovely and poignant Arcadia is a novel of sublime sensuality. It is redolent of the ripe, husky scent of pot and unwashed bodies, the strumming of guitars and gasps of lovemaking, the taste of warm blackberries plucked from the bush and popped into the mouth, the glow of naked flesh in moonlight, the feel of a mother’s soft, full breast, of a father’s muscled, callused hands.

The key to the novel’s earthy nature is its narrator, Bit, who begins his story at the age of five. Childr
...more
Suzanne
I really enjoyed this book. The description of the Hippies was just as I remembered them. I am a bit too young to have been one, but I remember meeting them in the late 70's while I lived in the Catskills which is a few hours from Arcadia, the setting of the commune and setting of much of the novel.
Bit, the narrator, is a great story teller. At the start of Arcadia he's very young and innocent. His observations are child like and honest. As he grows up, he begins to be more judgmental, but it's
...more
Holly Robinson
We read books to be entertained, to be informed, to have a laugh, to escape the day-to-day. And then, every now and then, we stumble across a book that we read at just the right moment in our lives for us to be bewitched, transported and transformed.

That just happened to me while reading Arcadia by Lauren Groff. This isn't a new novel—it was first published by Hyperion in 2012—and the fact of the matter is that I tried reading it four separate times before I finally was able to become absorbed b
...more
Angela
I don't know about this, you guys. I've heard good things about "Monsters of Templeton," so I was excited to read this, but I kind of have to say it left me going "so what?" This review is kind of spoiler-heavy, because I can't think of anything to do but say what happened, because I didn't love anything in particular enough to talk about it.
SPOILERS!
The first couple of sections deal with a boy growing up in a commune, which is fairly interesting, but certainly not a topic that hasn't been dealt
...more
Melki
...what we wanted to do was unusual. Pure. Live with the land, not on it. Live outside the evil of commerce and make our own lives from scratch. Let our love be a beacon to light up the world.


Oh, silly, silly hippies...thinkin' you can change the world by doin' lots of drugs and not bathing...

Welcome to Arcadia, the finest in communal living!

Here you'll get to ride out a New York winter in a tent, quonset hut or bread truck, while waiting for your Utopian palace to be restored.

Prepare to put all
...more
Jennifer D
okay, so this book surprised me a little bit. (heh.) i was keen to read it and i am excited it has made it into the 2013 tournament of books, but even with those giddy-making, anticipatory things....i was still a little hesitant to actually jump into this book. i don't have a problem with hippies. in fact, being born during the summer of love i often wonder if i was predisposed to hippiedom. i'm not totally crunchy-granola-tree-hugging in my ways...but i get it. i really get it. i decided, durin ...more
Callie
On audio!

...gold dust is sprinkled on memories, so that they shine..."

Arcadia is the story of Bit, who grows up on a commune in upstate New York. The story begins when Bit (who is so called because he is very little, the "littlest bit of a hippie") is just 4 years old, living in a bread truck with his parents in "Ersatz Arcadia", the group of tents, lean-to's, vans, and other temporary houses that house the commune until the mansion on the land, Arcadia house, is restored. The story follows Bit
...more
René
(Finally got to reading the whole thing)

So it’s the end of the sixties, and in New York State a group of hippies have founded a commune. They’ve agreed on the principles of their society, egalitarianism, collectivism, free love, bla bla bla, and they’re trying to make a go of it on a large parcel of land that they’ve gotten from one of their member’s guilt-ridden parents. Life is shaky at first, because the immense house of Arcadia that overlooks the land isn’t habitable in its downtrodden state
...more
Amy Rutten
There are some books that you mourn the ending of as you come to the final pages. Arcadia was not one of those books for me. It is a testament to the author that I made it to the end at all. If you decide to read Arcadia (and I recommend you do, for Lauren Groff is an amazing writer), be prepared to struggle. But also be prepared to be moved profoundly by a story of true depth and power.
The Arcadia that Lauren Groff imagines is a 1970’s hippie commune populated with full, rounded characters tha
...more
Austin
The first 50 pages slowly but surely hooked my interest: the story centers around a small boy with a 'bit' of The Tin Drum to him, born in a VW van to a couple that are part of a band of free spirits, who find a farm called Arcadia to settle down on and live off the land. Set in the early 70's, the child,Bit, is born premature and tiny for his age, doesn't speak, but is the center of a narration full of wonder, apprehension, and love that makes up the early struggle to live off the land and endu ...more
Judy
Mar 13, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: former hippies, children of hippies
This book is amazing! Because I had reservations about her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, I was wary but Lauren Groff has exceeded the promise I felt in one of her early short stories and has broken the spell of the sophomore novel curse.

Arcadia is a hippie commune in upstate New York. The founders spent some time as nomads, traveling around the country in a calvalcade of broken down trucks and vans, until one of the members inherited the New York property. How we did relive the caveman
...more
Carla Lowe Baku
My rating for this fine novel is a solid 4.5. It is the story of Ridley Stone--called Bit for reasons that are made clear during the story--and his life growing up in, growing out of, and growing to understand (mostly) a counterculture commune founded at the time of his birth: 1968.

Lauren Groff's prose, at its best is breathy and luminous. The early part of the novel is told from a very young child's perspective, though not precisely in a child's voice. The result is a sense, almost, of magical
...more
Edan
This book is so deeply imagined and the prose is so beautiful and specific and different. The second half wasn't as perfect as the first, but I couldn't stop reading, couldn't stop thinking about this book when I wasn't reading it.

Interview with Ms. Groff forthcoming on The Millions!
Leah
What a beautiful book, I loved it. I liked Monsters of Templeton a lot, but this one reached down my throat and grabbed my heart and squeezed it, hard.
Cristina
Una lettura che ho trovato al limite del tollerabile, tanto che le ultime 15 pagine le ho sfogliate per andare diritta come un treno all'ultima riga.
Ho faticato non poco a leggere la prima parte del libro, quella ambientata ad Arcadia, che avrebbe dovuto essere la più interessante e non lo è. Una discreta noia mi ha accompagnata, con punte di vera irritazione laddove l'autrice, in modo disorganizzato ed inutile buttava qua e là frasi di una banalità sconcertante ( Il presidente Reagan e' un atto
...more
Carole
This book, which was on the Washington Post's list of best fiction of 2012, is beautifully written. Especially the first part. It describes the life of a commune of young people in the 70's in upstate New York from the point of view of the protagonst as a small child. A small group of misfits with varying issues and motives attempt a life away from the corruptions of current society in a rural area, experiencing malnutrition and continual cold in a constant struggle for basic survival. Groff acc ...more
Ron Charles
Page by page through Lauren Groff’s story about a hippie commune in western New York, I kept worrying that it was too good to last. Not the commune — it’s a mess from the start — I’m talking about the novel, which unfolds one moment of mournful beauty after another. As she did in her inventive debut, “The Monsters of Templeton” (2008), Groff once again gives us a young person — in this case a boy — struggling to understand himself and his peculiar history. But this time, she’s moved beyond the l ...more
Mark Landmann
I am struggling for my review of this one. For most of the book I found it a tough slog and was seldom eager to get back to it. But I could see that the writing was far too good to quit reading. So I just didn't worry when I couldn't keep track of all the characters and my mind wandered here and there. And then the last section of the book was my favourite and very beautiful, and it's left me feeling quite different - not at all the relief I'd thought I'd feel to be done. And the think the autho ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've had this on my to-read list for a while, but the fact that it was listed on the Tournament of Books pushed me into moving it up on the list.

As a librarian, one of the worst sins to encounter in writing is using someone else's work without crediting it. Groff has some very poetic language in parts of this book, an element of the novel that many reviewers keep mentioning as one of the good parts. Too bad it isn't always hers. She must have used the "center cannot hold" at least twice, it may
...more
Amy
My first thought when I finish reading something written by Lauren Groff is always “how long will I have to wait to read something else by her?” Yes, her writing is that good! Groff’s latest, Arcadia, does not disappoint. It is a stunningly written, thought-provoking read. The novel opens in upstate NY in the late 1960s as the Free People are struggling to establish their Utopian commune. The story follows Bit, the Littlest Bit of Hippie, from his early childhood through his middle age. Bit’s jo ...more
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Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, N.Y. and grew up one block from the Baseball Hall of Fame. She graduated from Amherst College and has an MFA in fiction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Hobart, and Five Points as well as in the anthologies Best Amer
...more
More about Lauren Groff...
The Monsters Of Templeton Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories The Masters Review: 2012 Savages The Common: A Modern Sense of Place: Issue 01

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“Childhood is such a delicate tissue; what they had done this morning could snag somewhere in the little ones, make a dull, small pain that will circle back again and again, and hurt them in small ways for the rest of their lives.” 12 likes
“Freedom or community, community or freedom. One must decide the way one wants to live. I chose community.” 7 likes
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