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White Oleander

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3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  227,249 Ratings  ·  5,327 Reviews
Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes--each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned--becomes a redeeming and surprising journey ...more
Paperback, 446 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 1999)
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MidnightMovieGay I think he was, yes. As for the Ingrid leaving Astrid, I don't think it was a postpartum issue. I think Ingrid was always a sociopath and abandoning…moreI think he was, yes. As for the Ingrid leaving Astrid, I don't think it was a postpartum issue. I think Ingrid was always a sociopath and abandoning her daughter was just another terrible thing she's done in a line of many.(less)
Maxine Hawker I found this character very difficult to deal with. I can't recall his exact words but he told Astrid he didn't want this to happen. Are we to believe…moreI found this character very difficult to deal with. I can't recall his exact words but he told Astrid he didn't want this to happen. Are we to believe that Astrid started the relationship and kept it going when she was a child? Paedophiles spruik that rhetoric and these relationships do exist. The perpetrator is not all evil, he is a weak man dominated and controlled so much so that he is able to resist sexual advances albeit from a minor. Astrid is desperate for affection and love and affection. Her upbringing was not permeated with Judeo-Christian moral codes so Astrid's attitude to sex was very free and uninhibited. (I am not saying by any means I condoned her having to sit up and wait for her mother to finish having sex with a lover).(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Faith-Anne
Jan 16, 2008 Faith-Anne rated it really liked it
If nothing else, read this book for the language. White Oleander reads like a poem. It's so beautifully crafted.
Janet
May 05, 2011 Janet rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Well, what was I supposed to rate it?
I did work awfully hard on W.O.... still like it. Sad to think Oprah's book club is all over, it was quite an experience.
Christina White
Dark, depressing, disturbing, and so beautiful! When the author described the August summer heat I felt it, like hot breath on my neck. I fell in love with Ingrid and her beauty and ideas of the world. Then I became Astrid, and I felt how much she loved her and how bad it hurt to also hate her, but hate Ingrid I did! I would walk away from long reading sessions feeling hardened and detached. It's not an easy read, but I find literature that can make me feel so strongly well deserving of praise. ...more
Maxwell
Nov 08, 2015 Maxwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
I have many thoughts that I'm having trouble putting into words. Before reading the final chapter of the book, I had to put it down, lean my head back against the couch and think about the experience I've had while reading this book. Astrid's journey, her development from girl to woman, is remarkably crafted. Fitch's writing paints the arid desert and mountain brush in such fine detail. Atmospherically, this story was superb. I was totally immersed in the story, in the physical spaces that Astri ...more
Matt
Jan 15, 2008 Matt rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: sad girls
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jessica
Nov 26, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it
Recommends it for: secret members of oprah's book club
There must be a reason why I've been able to recall many of the books I've read over the years, but that it took me until one of my most restless and procrastibatory nights in front of the blank Word doc to dredge this one up from the recesses of memory, even though I read it within the past year or two.

I'm pretty sure I know what that reason is, too: it's because on some level I'm embarrassed that I read this book, and that I actually really liked it.

I'm pretty sure I know where that embarrassm
...more
Arah-Lynda
Jun 23, 2014 Arah-Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top, i-said
This is Astrid’s story.

We meet her first when she is twelve and in Ingrid’s (her mother) care.

Ingrid is a woman of such rare, unearthly beauty as to be most likely found in dreams.

Fitch describes her through Astrid’s eyes, gradually, poetically, using very sparse language, as the story unfolds, with words that sing, the pages glistening with the image reflected from her eyes.

The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shrivelling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the
...more
Debbie "DJ"
May 16, 2016 Debbie "DJ" rated it it was amazing
This is some of the most beautiful writing I've ever encountered. It reminds me a little bit of Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype. It's language is deep and satisfying. The mother daughter relationship told in an almost mythical way. Loved it!
helen the bookowl
Jan 23, 2015 helen the bookowl rated it it was amazing
Wow, this is a BEAUTIFUL MASTERPIECE and an intelligent and heartbreaking, true and honest story.
When I was about 100 pages into the book, I already knew that this was going to be a new favourite of mine. Now that I've finished it, I can honestly say that this is one of the most raw books I've ever read.
What strikes me the most about this story is the impeccable writing style. The main character, Astrid, tells the story in a very impressionistic way and it was beautiful! Janet Fitch has a way
...more
Megan
Jan 12, 2013 Megan rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Megan by: Aunt Amy Jane
Shelves: favorites
My aunt bought me this book for Christmas one year and at first I was really disappointed. I thought "Oh, that's nice... because I like to read you just got me the Oprah book club book of the month... thanks." But then I read it, and I'm now convinced that my aunt knows me better than maybe many of my close friends or better than I know myself. Not to be all cheesy and over-identify with something that isn't about me; but this book REALLY hit home for me in describing my relationship with my mot ...more
Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)
I had heard previously how good/bad this book is. Most people have been powerfully affected by it. They either really liked it or really disliked it. After reading it, I could see how it could sway you in either ways. You could either take the story at face value and be swayed by it, as I did, or you could critically analyze it and call upon its credibility.

My opinion
Janet Fitch writes White Oleander in a very eloquent style. Poetic writing is not some thing I enjoy usually (since I'm pathetic i
...more
Niya
Aug 18, 2007 Niya rated it it was amazing
This is my all time favorite book. I love the character Astrid, and enjoyed seeing her played by Alison Lohman in the movie. I wish there were more books like this one.
Nateah
Feb 16, 2008 Nateah rated it it was amazing
I can't forget her story. It's like a precise etching tatooed on the center of my brain. Her pain is my pain, her fears are my fears, her life...becomes mine. I take every word from her illustrated existance, using it as my own bible to crawl through this enraged wilderness where the grass is made of needles, the trees are crawling with serpants, and the water is too tanged to drink....
I taste the saltiness of her tears as they stream down her face, burning, leaving behind scars of inevitable
...more
Caroline
***NO SPOILERS***

White Oleander is a pretty flower--and it's poisonous. Fitch's title for her gorgeously written, gripping literary fiction novel will become clearer and clearer the deeper one gets into the story. Suffice it to say a pretty, poisonous flower is the perfect metaphor for this coming-of-age, against-all-odds tale.

Fitch is an author to admire not just because of the story she crafted but because of exactly how she told it. There's so much artistry in her words. (As evidence one nee
...more
Michael
Jun 10, 2007 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Gritted my teeth to get through this and see what happened. The story itself is interesting, but the writing was so fussy and melodramatically overwrought that I wanted to toss the book away. Kept going only because I wanted to understand people's strong response to it.
S.R. Grey
Edit--re-read March 2013

One of the best books I've ever read...still. In fact...

 photo tumblr_mbswavveUu1r83eiuo1_500_zpsea9ccfee.gif

The writing is very descriptive, lyrical and poetic. The metaphors (and there are a lot) are spot on-perfect. I highlighted s-o-o-o many passages, and they hit me every time I re-read them.
The story itself is dark and often depressing in the examination of a young girl's relationship with her disturbed mother, and her subsequent journey through the foster care system. And though her mother is cruel, I swear she has
...more
Cat
Jul 10, 2008 Cat rated it it was ok
Shelves: escapism, meh
Due in part, perhaps, to the influx of "unfortunate teenage girl" novels in the mid-to-late nineties (I think here of books like _She's Come Undone_ and _The Virgin Suicides_), I avoided Fitch's book for a while (the Oprah's Book Club stigma also contributed). And while the story line did manage to keep me up and at it until 2 am last night, I must say: I'm unconvinced.

Also, spoilers. I don't review books to keep them a secret from people who haven't read them; I review them to share my opinion
...more
Kelly
Aug 26, 2008 Kelly rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: enemies
Recommended to Kelly by: Oprah
I only wish there were a star less than one. I wish I could remove stars. I wish there were a star deficit rating.

This book almost made me give up reading all together. It is definitely the last book I trusted from Oprah. I still think she owes me money and those days of my life back.

It was page after page of the most depressing writing I've ever read with absolutely no pay off.
Chloe
Jun 28, 2007 Chloe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I am normally exceedingly wary of anything that Oprah puts her mark on and avoid it like the plague. However, after years of being recommended this book by many people who's opinions on such things I respect I finally pulled it off the bookshelf. Let me be the first to tell you: I have never been more appreciative of my friends. This book was phenomenal!

Following the trials and tribulations of one Astrid Magnusson, the book takes you first from her idyllic life with her poet/ice queen mother, I
...more
TL
Oct 29, 2015 TL rated it really liked it
Recommended to TL by: Caroline
A work of art of a novel with complex characters. Slow paced at times but I was never bored. I love how the author wasn't afraid to show Ingrid's dark side and not shy away from it... or to show Astrid in different lights.

Not a novel for everyone (I didn't expect to love it) but I highly recommend trying it.
Aoibhínn
Jun 05, 2012 Aoibhínn rated it it was amazing
White Oleander is a very unique and amazing piece of literature. The novel is beautifully written with a passionate and enthralling plot and incredibly vivid descriptions which make it easy for the reader to visualise every person and place Astrid encounters. I was overwhelmed and deeply touched by Janet Fitch's wonderful prose, the intensity of her descriptions, and the incredible insight into each of her characters. I adored the protagonist, Astrid. I cried with her, sobbed with her and laughe ...more
Bonnie
Feb 20, 2008 Bonnie rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, abandoned
After hearing so much about this Oprah-acclaimed book, I finally sat down to read it. The plot had some major potential and I was getting really interested, right when the protagonist landed in a horrible foster home where she began an illicit affair with her foster mom's 40-year-old boyfriend (did i mention the main character is about 14?). The author vividly describes the sexual details of this relationship, as well as the mom and boyfriend's bedroom behaviors. If that wasn't enough, the day t ...more
Beatrice
Nov 29, 2015 Beatrice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the most beautiful writing styles I have come across. White Oleander is truthful. It does not hold back nor censor the events of young Astrid's life. A broken mother, a poet, an aesthete who cannot overcome her passions. A child pushed into an adult life, a man's world. Feminism, survivalism, religion. Family. A plethora of captivating themes and allusions. I felt as if I'd become Astrid herself. Janet Fitch has written a work of art.

---

Re-read this for a writing project. Still brilliant,
...more
Madeline
Sep 03, 2007 Madeline rated it it was amazing
Janet Fitch has an amazing gift for writing novels centered around protagonists that are flawed and scarred, while at the same time making her audience identify with and even love these characters because of their imperfections. Take Astrid, the main character of White Oleander. At the beginning of the story, Astrid's mother goes to jail for poisoning an ex-boyfriend and Astrid is placed in a series of foster homes. During the course of the story, Astrid sleeps with her foster father (at age thi ...more
R * A Reader Obsessed *
Mar 24, 2016 R * A Reader Obsessed * rated it liked it
Shelves: not-m-m
A poignant, harsh look at surviving, discovering, and overcoming painful truths about the person who should love you the most. Beautifully and descriptively written, this definitely shows the complexities of relationships, especially that of between a mother and her daughter.
J. Trott
Sep 03, 2008 J. Trott rated it it was amazing
This book is the tale of a girl with a warrior poetess for a mother. When her mother kills a boyfriend and is imprisoned the girl is thrown into California's foster care system. There she experiences ignorance, abuse, and need, and love in equal measure, and tries to grow up, while struggling with her anger with her mother for abandoning her.

Orphans generally make sympathetic protagonists. One can't help but hope things will get better for someone who has lost everything, who is at the bottom o
...more
Bethany (endpages)
4.5/5 Stars

This is the type of book that will stay with you for a long time, long after you finished it. The reviews are all true. Once you start, you'll never stop reading, unless of course you have work/school. The setting is very atmospheric and the characters are fleshed out. They have substance. They're the type that you'll love to hate but still end up loving/rooting for. It's a mess, but it's really good. I can't really even tell you how good it is. I tried though.

If you are a fan of lit
...more
Savannah
I feel like at this moment I can't rate it because I need to collect some feelings. But more to come
Xavier Guillaume
Jul 08, 2012 Xavier Guillaume rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those not afraid to cry
Recommended to Xavier by: Rahdne
White Oleander. Oleander is a beautiful flower. It's whiteness suggests a pure, innocent quality, but it is anything but innocent. Oleander is an extremely poisonous plant, and it works as a good symbol of Astrid's mother Ingrid. Ingrid is extremely beautiful, blonde, pale, tall, graceful. She makes men's heads turn. But she is also wrathful, manipulative, and a murderer. It's hard to see the good in Ingrid, but this book is so complex that the lines between good and bad blur.

What is known is th
...more
Smash
This book was an escape from my usual paranormal smut and urban fantasy adventures, and it is so worth the change in scenery. I had to read the book for my Vulnerable Children class, where I am learning about the child welfare system. It was a poignant tale of one girl’s tumultuous journey through the foster care system and will no doubt leave your jaw hanging on many occasion. As a human being, you will be horrified at the life that Astrid must endure after her mother is sent to prison for murd ...more
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Ladies & Literature: Official May 2012 Book Discussion: White Oleander 77 80 Jul 30, 2015 03:15PM  
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Janet Fitch was born in Los Angeles, a third-generation native, and grew up in a family of voracious readers. As an undergraduate at Reed College, Fitch had decided to become an historian, attracted to its powerful narratives, the scope of events, the colossal personalities, and the potency and breadth of its themes. But when she won a student exchange to Keele University in England, where her pas ...more
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“
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find people who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle stand in your way.” 2299 likes
“Always learn poems by heart. They have to become the marrow in your bones. Like fluoride in the water, they'll make your soul impervious to the world's soft decay.” 670 likes
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