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A Fortunate Age

3.05  ·  Rating Details ·  1,006 Ratings  ·  239 Reviews
Like The Group, Mary McCarthy's classic tale about coming of age in New York, Joanna Smith Rakoff 's richly drawn and immensely satisfying first novel details the lives of a group of Oberlin graduates whose ambitions and friendships threaten to unravel as they chase their dreams, shed their youth, and build their lives in Brooklyn during the late 1990s and the turn of the ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 7th 2009 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2009)
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Mar 18, 2009 Jackie rated it did not like it
Recommended to Jackie by: Wendy S (sorry I can't give it a better review!)
The folks at Scribner are really excited by this debut novel. IndieNext is really excited about this book. Me--not so much actually. It's clear that Rakoff can tell a story and create dimensional characters--I will absolutely give her points for that. The problem is that there are too many stories and too many characters seen in too short of glimpses to ever get attached to them. This is a story of several college friends in the 8 or so years after college who all seem to be just hanging around ...more
Mar 22, 2009 Colleen rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I got this book through the Barnes and Noble Book Club and really thought I was going to enjoy it. I'm the right age and education level to blend right in with these characters, and yet I felt not one ounce of connection to any of them. The book was long and frequently tedious, and characters veered off on major life diversions with never a hint of the underlying motivations.

I was extremely disappointed with this novel and didn't feel the narrative spoke to me at all. These characters seemed to
Apr 10, 2009 Nette rated it really liked it
This book was right in my wheelhouse-- next to medical memoirs and serial killer thrillers, I love nothing more than a big fat book that follows a group of friends over a period of years. I agree with some of the negative reviewers in that it was a bit hard keeping track of the characters, and some of them sort of disappeared halfway through, but I really liked the attention to the neighborhood detail (the park mommies, the yoga studios, the music scene), and also the very realistic dialog. (Lat ...more
Patrick Brown
Mar 11, 2010 Patrick Brown rated it really liked it
Recommended to Patrick by: Oberlin graduates, the spouses of Oberlin graduates, people who
Shelves: best-of-2009
I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I know some people will have trouble reading about the struggles of relatively privileged 20-somethings in New York -- if you're one of those people, then this book is not for you -- but I just devoured this book. The story of six Oberlin College graduates living their post-collegiate lives in New York, this book pulls off the considerable feat of shifting perspective between the characters. The jacket copy of the book described it as being in the trad ...more
Oct 08, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
"With her face in repose, Emily was alarmed to see that Lil looked old. Her bright beauty--black hair, fair skin, large eyes, like an Italian film star--appeared to be dissolving into a caricature of beauty: containing all the proper elements, but lacking the harmony to fuse them into a lovely whole. For years now, ever since college or marrying Tuck or leaving Columbia or something, she'd been in a state of constant movement, running glibly in conversation from one thing to another, eternally t ...more
May 16, 2009 Leslie rated it did not like it
I had to add a new bookshelf to categorize this book -- "can't possibly finish." I realized this morning, when I was a third of the way through the book, that I didn't need to subject myself to reading even another page!

This book is excruciating. I tried so hard to like it.
Jun 13, 2009 Jamie rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
Hmm. I don't know that I like this, but I also don't know that I disliked it either.

"A Fortunate Age" follows the lives of six (five, really, but we'll get to that in a moment) Oberlin grads as they make their respective ways in New York from 1998 to 2004 (such strange timing, really, though I'm imagining that's when Rakoff herself - also a young Oberlin grad - was a 20-something living in New York). And therein - having six main characters - lies the problem. Rakoff spends a chapter with each
Dec 05, 2008 Sara rated it liked it
A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff, approaches a group of post-graduate Gen-Xers as they begin their adult lives tackling friendship, coupling, love and sex. Rackoff is a tactical author who employs fresh methods of story telling to establish excitement and interest. For example, instead of getting a narrative of events central to the story, we get character reactions to some of these events, as the group tries to relate major events to how they may affect their own lives. To accomplish this ...more
Oct 07, 2008 Margaret rated it liked it
Recommends it for: liberal arts majors, early '90's vintage
I read an advance copy of this book, which is blurbed as being reminiscent of Mary McCarthy's "The Group," a book I haven't actually read but which rings true. What's good about this book: Ms. Rakoff writes well - interesting style, more literary than "beach read," understands her characters well (how they think, the thoughts behind what's actually said, their motivations), good sense of place that feels accurate (NYC / Brooklyn). These are all well done and kept me reading the book. However, th ...more
Dec 18, 2008 Sue rated it really liked it
I read an advanced copy for a book club. For her first novel, it was extremely well written. I perhaps left me wanting more in the end....doesn't necessarily tie up lose ends but then again, this type of story was meant to elicit memories of your past groups of friends and how they have progressed into the future (or not progressed). Set in NYC, I can understand why the social and political climate was so important but honestly it made me feel like a complete idiot most of the time, like I was d ...more
Rashmi Tiwari
Jul 17, 2015 Rashmi Tiwari rated it did not like it
So 2015 may go down as the year that I finally decided that books that suck aren't worth my time to finish. Which was officially confirmed with this monstrosity that I stopped reading on page 100. For the record, I loved The Group and was hopeful about this homage. Don't bother picking it up. It's like reading the diaries of the most annoying of your most privileged college classmates in the five years post-graduation. You have Facebook. You definitely don't need this drivel.
Mar 11, 2009 Lara rated it really liked it
In the spirit of Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children", this New York story of a group of college friends who move through life and grapple with the world from dot.coms to 9/11. If you're 30 to 45- you will think of your own friends, your own recollections of this time, and how the world formed your outlook. It's well written and a great read for a first novel.
Mar 28, 2009 Rachel rated it really liked it
I would definitely recommend reading this book in tandem with "The Group" by Mary McCarthy. The structure of "A Fortunate Age" is directly related to "The Group", and if you are familiar with the earlier novel it is fun to see how Smith-Rakoff updates the story for our time. I was always a little jealous of my grandmother that "The Group" was written about her generation; now I have my own.
Apr 21, 2009 Wendy rated it it was ok
Upon completing about a third of this book, I had the feeling that I had read it before. Sure enough, I had read Mary McCarthy's the Group the previous summer. Rakoff calls her novel an homage to McCarthy's novel, the NY Times calls it a redecoration, I call it copying.

Aug 03, 2014 A rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
3.5. Wanted to love love love this book because it was basically my post-college and early-NYC life, down to going to Oznot's Dish way too many times in the early 00s. But agree with the other reviewers that the reader's sympathies were spread so thin among so many characters, that you ended up caring about none of them, or feeling emotional but not really remembering why those emotions mattered in the context of the larger story. Definitely got a little more intense (in a good way) at the end - ...more
Sep 21, 2009 Ellen rated it it was ok
Shelves: character-study
A Fortunate Age was an exhausting book to read. A group of friends from Oberlin all move to New York City after college. From the very beginning, I had a sense that these characters felt the world owed them something. They all seemed to be rather whiny. They were forced to grow up, in spite of themselves, and always seemed surprised when unprotected sex resulted in pregnancy, not working full time resulted in being poor (this was prior to the current economic crisis), and that not finishing a pr ...more
Dec 13, 2008 Elaine rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009, january
I finished this book several weeks ago and have delayed writing my review because I wanted to see if my reaction to this story changed any over time. Nope. This book is a huge undertaking (both from the author's point of view and the reader's). The story follows a group of college friends as they leave college face the real world. The author writes this epic from the point of view of 5 of the 6 members of the group. The writing is good, the flow of the story is the ultimate problem. More than a ...more
May 11, 2009 Cathyb rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, firstlook
I read this book as part of the Barnes & Noble First Look Program. I was excited to participate in the reading of this book. The premise sounded interesting – following the lives of a group of friends who graduated college together; however, I was disappointed during and after reading it. For me, the writing did not flow. The novel jumped from very detailed descriptions of one character to another character, each of which went back to their college days and up to ‘present’ day. In essence, s ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
This novel is about a group of Oberlin graduates who are navigating their changing lives during the late nineties, early 2000s. The book had problems on several levels. I disliked the way Rakoff dealt with one character (roughly) per chapter and left huge cliffhangers at the end of chapters without later resolving them. Major plot developments were casually mentioned in subsequent pages. It left me wondering how much time she spent to mapping out her story. Similarly, the September 11th attack w ...more
Jul 06, 2009 Kelly rated it it was ok
A Fortunate Age kept me interested for a while, but the excitment that is emenating around this particular title is beyond me. Rakoff does know how to tell a tale, and keep you interested in it, but I am not so sure about her abilities do I put this? Juggle different aspects of the book. For one,I kind of had to struggle to get past the first sentance. It lacked a hook, and when a book lacks that I find myself pushing my eyes along the page promising myself it is better than this. And w ...more
May 27, 2015 Christine rated it it was amazing
This novel is the work of a large, generous, contemplative mind. The events take place over the course of six years, beginning in 1998 and the narrative follows the trajectories of several characters who were friends at Oberlin. Rakoff changes point of view from character to character and these alternations are deft and seamless. The novel addresses love, personal and career ambition, politics, literature, child-rearing, mental illness, the bonds of family and obligations related to family and f ...more
Apr 16, 2009 Maria rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, american
Ugh. I wanted to like this book! I like this genre (I enjoyed "the group" )--- and Rakoff can write. But this novel does not work. We get chapter after chapter of carefully written prose -- mostly descriptions of an individual character-- some of it lovely. And yet --the chapters don't really link together---the story is not cohesive -- there is no sense of who these people really are -- how deep/shallow their relationships with each other are --- and why we should care. I feel there is a novel ...more
Aug 10, 2008 Sharon rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sharon by: Kara
Shelves: fiction
this was one of those books i wish i had done for book club. it reads really quickly and makes you think about it afterwards. the story of four not-yet-women and two of their dudes graduate from oberlin (obviously) and move to nyc after college-w'burg, les, (obviously)--and the book tracks their lives and choices throughout their 20's. they're your friends and the people you hate all at once (obvioiusly).
i couldn't tell if it was a book guys would like to, but i would highly recommend to most o
Jan 05, 2010 Nicholas rated it liked it
This is certainly fun to read and I love the genre -- who wouldn't love a novel loosely based on McCarthy's masterful The Group? However, I also didn't really like ANY of these characters and they all took themselves way too seriously. Also: is it just me or is it weird that the novel is about six Oberlin grads and none are gay? Or non-white? And all are Jewish and no one even bothers to mention the fact that this is so? That is not any Oberlin I'm familiar with.
Apr 08, 2009 Kate rated it liked it
the problem with this book is that there are too many characters/plotlines to follow and you never really end up caring about any of them -- except Sadie, I could've read a whole book about her. but the book gets so bogged down in the minutiae of everyday life that when something grand/huge happens, you barely know the character it happens to, so you don't care at all. i wanted to like this so much more.
Jan 22, 2009 Linda rated it liked it
This book was on Barnes and Noble's First Look Club. This was the author's first novel. It was a story about a group of friends from college. It starts when the first marries after swearing a few years back that she would never wed because she didn't believe in marriage. All of the old friends attend the wedding and then their stories of their life after college is told. I enjoyed the book and it kept me focused on it through the entire book.
Oct 08, 2015 Darcie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, young-adult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 07, 2009 Natasha marked it as to-read
Shelves: this-modern-life
I added this book to my queue out of mere curiosity. It seems as if the subject of "wandering gen-x souls trying to themselves in a post-yuppie society" has been fairly over played. We'll see if there is a new spin in this tale.
Julie Franki
May 18, 2010 Julie Franki rated it did not like it
I read this book hoping to find some existential exploration of my generation and socio-economic class, but all I got was cheesy soap-opera and whining. Ugh. I have no desire to relate to these characters, and this book is insufferable.
Dec 13, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Recommended to John by: Advance Readers Copy from publisher
This is an advanced readers copy and I cannot post a review of this book until after January 5th when the book discussion with the author begins. Please check back for the review as you won't be disappointed!
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