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The Outside of August
by Joanna Hershon (Goodreads Author)
Critics and readers alike hailed Swimming, Joanna Hershon’s fiction debut. “Compelling,” said the Washington Post, while Vanity Fair called Swimming a “page-turning premiere.” Now Hershon brings us her anticipated second novel, in which she vividly explores the secrets of an American family. The Outside of August is a mesmerizing, beautifully written story that combs the e ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 27th 2004 by Ballantine Books
(first published 2003)
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I disliked this novel and basically stopped reading at about page 40 and began skimming through to uncover the secret to the mother's eccentricty. The characters were caricatures of ideas and not human beings. If the point of the novel was to feel outside of it, she succeeded beautifully. All the characters possess an elitist ennui and an attitude that their woes are the direct result of them being too intellectual and too philosophical for the mundane world they are unfortunate to have to exist ...more
I got to page 72 and couldn't bring myself to continue... reading about a dysfunctional family and a whore of a girl (her way of 'getting back' at her mother for being gone much of the time) is not how I want to spend my quiet evenings. I didn't sympathize with any of the characters... didn't want to get to know them... didn't care about what happened to them. So, I'm abandoning this book with no regrets. Yet another Ballantine Book that's been a disappointment. What's up with that?!?!
I find this story intriguing because it’s told from the point of view of a daughter whose mother, Charlotte, is always escaping to foreign lands. The family can’t really figure out what Charlotte does when she goes away, nor why she feels compelled to always leave. They feel the mother’s absence intensely when she’s absent, and they seem to always be waiting for her return. Of course, I can identify with this story as I can see a lot of myself in that mother. It’s interesting that it’s told fro ...more
This story of a dysfunctional family spans the decades from the early 70's to 2001. It starts out slowly and the first half of the novel, set on the North Shore of Long Island, is hard to put down. We are introduced to Alice, the daughter, who seems to be always waiting for her mother to return from one of her endless trips. Alice's father is a workoholic and she is very emotionally attached to her elusive brother, August. And then there's Charlotte - the selfish, irresponsible mother who is awa ...more
I was sort of bored with this book. I guess I'm not much for the heavy psychological machinations of family dynamics. I couldn't identify with any of the characters: the absent and totally self-centered mother; the absent and totally self-centered brother; the weak and long suffering father; the daughter who spends 30 years trying to get her mother's love instead of the name of a good therapist. This book seems to have been reviewed very highly, so it must just be me. Also, I had trouble getting ...more
In Outside of August, absence--both physical and emotional--drives obsessive need. Alice's often absent, and never-quite-present mother, leaves her with a hollowness she can't fill. She gives herself physically without compunction, but can never give herself emotionally to anyone outside of her family.