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The Golden Gate

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  3,137 Ratings  ·  313 Reviews
This is the story of a group of young and not-so-young people living within reach of the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1980s. There is John, a successful young executive in Silicon Valley who is unaccountably lonely; his loyal ex-girlfriend Janet, a sculptor and drummer in the band Liquid Sheep, who places an ad in the personal columns on his behalf; Liz, the young lawyer whom ...more
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published March 12th 1986 by Random House (first published January 1st 1986)
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Lynne King
This book seemed to be the natural follow on from my recent amazing couplet experience with Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Why you may wonder? Well for the simple reason The Golden Gate is a twentieth century novel with a unique difference in that it has been written in verse, not with couplets but with sonnets in such a way as to be an uplifting experience, be it poignant, humorous, bitter-sweet, nostalgic, tragic…You name it; every conceivable emotion has been magnificently portrayed b ...more
Completely unique book, as far as I know the only major verse novel written in English during the last 100 years. The life and loves of a bunch of 80s yuppies in Silicon Valley, told in Petrarchan sonnets. It should be a catastrophe, but in fact it's a brilliant success - funny, romantic, tragic, witty, you name it.

"To make a start more swift than weighty
Hail Muse. Dear Reader, once upon
A time, say, circa 1980,
There lived a man. His name was John..."


So I w
3 October 2013
I'm finished! Now to write some sonnets
For a review I hope you'll like.
No mean feat, so give me time on it--
It's not like riding on a bike!
Perhaps I'll post something by Sunday.
(Which means you'll have to wait 'til Monday
Or Tuesday instead, or later--
Call me King Procrastinator!)
And if you think this plan improper,
You have my sad regrets, so choose
Instead to read other reviews.
My muse, although I tried to stop her,
Demanded this. I must appease!
Now, back to that review I teased...

Although this novel is written in verse, the reader almost forgets that fact after a while because in all other respects, this is just like any other novel with a well paced plot, varied cast of characters, plenty of dialogue and the usual suspense about who is going to hook up with who plus some wry commentary from the author about the challenges of writing in verse.
Mar 17, 2008 Molly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Molly by: Phil Zeyliger
I was expecting to enjoy this book, but even so it really knocked my socks off.

Total times I missed my bus stop as a result of this book and had to walk home from Bosworth and Mission: 2.

Total times I have ever missed that bus stop: 3.

That will tell you how involved I got reading this book. Seth is a charming writer. The characters were fully-fleshed-out and interesting to read about, the places were very real (as a Bay Area resident, it was very exciting to see places like the Cafe Trieste show
Mar 03, 2016 Teresa rated it really liked it
I read A Suitable Boy years ago and loved it. Because I did, I then read An Equal Music, which I liked a lot. But knowing Seth's first novel, this one, was in verse, I put it off. If I'd remembered it, after reading its inspiration, Eugene Onegin, I may have read it sooner, but at least the mention of ASB by a non-GR friend got me to take this out of the library.

It took a little while to get into the rhythm, so to speak, but once I did, it was smooth sailing. (I was even dreaming in rhymed sente
May 24, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: San Franciscans
Recommended to Miriam by: Ceridwen Christensen
Shelves: poetry, cover-love
The main problem with Vikram Seth's exquisitely crafted verse novel about the personal lives of yuppies in the Bay Area of the 1980s is, well, the personal lives of yuppies. They're just not that interesting. Not even the most beautifully turned phrases, the most glowing imagery, can keep over 300 pages of rather shallow individuals and their quotidian concerns from occasionally dragging. In fact, I think Seth did this intentionally, contrasting the the elevation of the poetry with the banality ...more
James Barker

It seems a bit crazy to read a book written wholly in sonnets, although not as crazy as choosing to write one. At least that's what I thought when I stumbled on 'The Golden Gate' in a charity shop. I still felt it 10 pages in.. this wasn't going to work for me… A verse novel of the late twentieth century recording a few years in the life of yuppies in early 80s San Fran, all in soapy sonnets that range the gamete from humorous to tragic? But this work, treading the fine line between madness and
Feb 15, 2011 Mykle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's one of those Goodreads non-reviews in which the author uses a Great Work of Literature as a platform to talk about himself. Ready? Here goes:

When I was a high school student in Palo Alto, I used to go to Printer's Ink Bookstore Cafe on California Ave to visit my friend Gregory, who had a job slinging coffee there.

Blah blah blah, personal anecdote et cetera. The point is: there were many regulars at this place. One of them was Vikram Seth. I believe he describes the coffee bar in one of t
Feb 15, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite possibly, this book is why I'm married to the person I married.

The novel presents a daunting challenge to readers, because it consists of sonnets - 14 lines per, babe. I recall that Seth doesn't adhere closely to iambic pentameter, which is fine - there's a good tradition of poets being flexible with verse. (See Shakespeare, William.)

This is a book of love and loss, friendship and loss, and San Francisco.
May 28, 2008 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was fabulous - imagine an entire novel written in verse! How could you? when I started, I couldn't imagine that I would finish it. But Seth does such a fabulous job with the rhyme scheme, with choices of words, and with the story itself that I couldn't put it down. It actually worked best when my wife and I took turns reading it aloud to one another. Then you can really "hear" the poetry in it as well as enjoy the story.

Seth said that he was inspired by Eugene Onegin by Pushkin - using
Thrupthi (Trips) Reddy
To write a contemporary love story, intertwining the lives of 6 people that you and me can completely relate to, and delving deep into their everyday lives, struggles, loves and lamentations...and to be able to do this entirely using sonnets and poetry....simply UNBELIEVABLE! This poem/story/work of fiction is a must read for anyone that thought poerty is hard to read or too hard to understand. The simple language, yet strong prose makes this book a delightful, magical read. You'll fall in love ...more
J.Z. Bingham
Oct 22, 2013 J.Z. Bingham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For Vikram Seth’s, The Golden Gate, a novel set in verse,
I stayed up late and found it to be anything but terse.
His style of writing, quite exciting, kept me in my seat.
I found myself begin reciting to his funky beat.

While not all styles of poetry are easily construed,
his fluid verbal mastery was elegantly brewed.
I knew I’d write, with keen insight, my thoughts in metered rhyme;
although this isn’t what he’d want, it’s all I could opine.

His story opens with the tale
of John, a lonely single male,
Mar 21, 2007 Kay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who can write an entire novel in sonnet form in this day and age and still weave a story that taps into the complex core of the heart and love is, simply put, amazing.
Eric Hendrixson
Feb 14, 2011 Eric Hendrixson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I reread this book every five years or so, and I always do it when nobody is around because, really, I look like an idiot when I cry in public, and the last chapter of this book does it to me every time.

This is a novel about San Francisco in the 80s, written completely in verse. The plot is fairly simple. It's a little soap opera about a few friends looking for love, success, and their places in the world. However, it's all written in what I'll call Onegin stanzas, that tetrameter sonnet form Pu
Tejas Janet
May 08, 2013 Tejas Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a surprise to discover this gem, over twenty-five years after its original publication. Unique and breath-taking, written entirely in verse, this novel was inspired by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin's novel Eugene Onegin, also written entirely in verse. Set in 1980's San Francisco rather than Pushkin’s Imperial Russian cities of 1820’s St. Petersburg and Moscow, The Golden Gate is written by Vikram Seth, author of the highly regarded A Suitable Boy.

Despite being skeptical going in, I was q
Aug 18, 2016 Ankita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Today I wish to review my very latest read for you
It’s a novel in verse by the inimitable Vikram Seth
About young pals-John, Liz, Janet, Ed, Phil and Sue
Set in 1980’s, it unfolds in city of ‘The Golden Gate’
When a lonely John sets out to look for an apt partner
Pressed by Janet, his ex-a sculptor and band drummer
They come across a plethora of people and situations
Find old friends, heartbreaks, odd and taboo relations
Apart from jealous cats, wines, iguana, art, revolution,
Sleights, breakups, confe
I got this book as a gift and was honestly a bit wary at first because the concept—a novel told entirely in sonnets!—seemed a bit hokey and pretentious to me. But in general it's really quite lovely and clever, even if the plot is a bit thin (with the exception of one incredibly shocking moment toward the end). Plus, Seth captures the feel of the Bay Area really well. You were right, dear gift-giver!
Nandakishore Varma
This is an excellent effort - a novel entirely in sonnet format (including the chapter titles). I read this ages back, and was not very impressed. Since then I have become a fan of Seth's poetry, and I think if I read this now, it will go up by one star.
Jul 15, 2013 Vishy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ and ‘An Equal Music’ and liked both of them very much. ‘A Suitable Boy’ was the longest book that I had ever read at the time I read it – at 1360 pages, it comfortably beat its competition which included ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell (1106 pages) and ‘Destiny’ by Sally Beauman (960 pages). I think it still is the longest I have ever read. However after reading ‘An Equal Music’, I liked it a little bit more. I have wanted to read his novel in ...more
Apr 13, 2013 Vismay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Insuperable the task seemed, at library,
Should I give a shot to this masterpiece literary?
To linguistic excellence, I lay no claim,
Should I read Vikram Seth, a writer basking in worldly fame?
Choice, why do you inundate a man with your potpourri-
‘Carrie’, ‘The Golden Gate’ or ‘The Great Train Robbery’?
To quote an adage, too much sugar spoils the broth,
Indecisive, sullen and morose, your variety makes a man with frustration, froth.
Yes, I eventually and apprehensively did pick up ‘The Golden Gate’,
Jun 16, 2011 LG rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poetry lovers
To state the obvious, Seth is a renowned genius. However, most readers seem to base this judgment on his 1500-page opus, A Suitable Boy, whereas I’m one of those who would say this book, published some seven years earlier, is truer proof. The number to marvel at here is 690 – and it’s sonnets, not pages. Yes, sonnets. And this is not a book of poetry; it’s fiction. Read out this excerpt:
John stands beside his phone, recalling Janet’s warm beauty, smiling calm, her dark eyes, high-boned features,
Oct 06, 2010 Elaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had the skill and time
I'd put this review in rhyme
Superlatives I'd strew galore
Gorgeous, fabulous and more.
Vikram turns to poetry
to render all life's this-and-thats
coastal flowers,
budding friendships
lovers' spats.
I thought I'd be intimidated
by literary references
Versified sentences
But the tale's easy to follow
Not a character is hollow
And snobbishness is overrated,
So as for author Vikram Seth,
I just think that he's the beth!
Dec 12, 2007 Terry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Note: this is actually one sustained story, not a collection of poems. This is my #1 favorite book for both "literary" and personal reasons. It's beautifully written. The characters became a part of my life. I can't say enough good things about this book.
Kayleigh Patel
May 09, 2016 Kayleigh Patel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. The sonnet is my favorite classical form of poetry, and Seth's dexterity in weaving them into an entire novel is amazing. Form aside, this is a story that covers a range of emotions--sweet, funny, and sad. And, of course, the cats were a bonus!
Mar 06, 2007 Johnathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I claimed I didn't like poetry until my ex-bf made me read this. It's a fantastic epic poem about several couples (one gay, I think) in modern(ish) day San Francisco. Seth has an incredible and enviable vocabulary and, to bank on that cliche, he makes writing verse seem easy.
When I stop crying I'll review this.

PS: I'm not going to stop crying. On reflection this fact is the review.

PPS: I'm so grateful to have been given this book.
Feb 15, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading this book my mind is set to think at the rythm of Seth's poetry. How amazed I was when I found out such an amazing writer – I had only read 'A Suitable Boy' by him, but it was enough to hold him in high regard –had also loved 'Eugene Onegin' and, even more, was inspired to write a novel in verso of his own. I admit it's quite a challenge to top Pushkin's masterpiece, but he does a very good job.
Of course it's not the same, he only imitates the form, not the content. John, a twenty
Tanya Sen
Feb 08, 2014 Tanya Sen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A novel in verse is an astonishing accomplishment, really.

Vikram Seth is a true wordsmith. He has crafted together a book full of witty, pithy verses - the unusual pictures he paints and the unusual words he chooses to paint them with make you smile every so often. "Flatness" of character might have been forgiven in a novel that was constrained by a rhyme scheme throughout - yet, Seth has created a set of vivid people who you really get to know and love, and whose idiosyncrasies and virtues and
Nov 15, 2007 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is my favorite novel. I discovered it by way of Douglas Hofstadter's "Le Ton Beau de Marot" (a non-fiction treatise on translating the untranslatable, which is pretty amazing on its own). "The Golden Gate" had me hooked from the Table of Contents. The whole novel is written in verse -- as a series of sonnets, in the style of Aleksandr Pushkin's iambic tetrameter stanzas in the Russian classic novel in verse, "Eugene Onegin." Instead of wealthy Russians of the early 1800s, the characters and ...more
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gold gate 1 28 Jul 26, 2011 09:03PM  
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Vikram Seth is an Indian poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children's writer, biographer and memoirist.

During the course of his doctorate studies at Stanford, he did his field work in China and translated Hindi and Chinese poetry into English. He returned to Delhi via Xinjiang and Tibet which led to a travel narrative From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet (1983) which won
More about Vikram Seth...

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“In life's brief game to be a winner
A man must have...oh yes, above
All else, of course, someone to love.”
“Workers of lungless labs- when dying
Will you be proud you were midwife
To implements exemplifying
Assaults against the heart of life?
You knew their purpose, yet you made them.
If you had scruples, you betrayed them.
What pastoral response acquits
Those who made ovens for Auschwitz?
Indeed it is said that the banality
Of evil is its greatest shock.
It jokes. It punches its time clock,
Plays with its kids. The triviality
Of slaughtering millions can't impinge
Upon its peace, or make it cringe.”
More quotes…