Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Father Melancholy's Daughter” as Want to Read:
Father Melancholy's Daughter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Father Melancholy's Daughter (Margaret Bonner #1)

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  1,524 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
The novels of Gail Godwin are contemporary classics--evocative, powerfully affecting, beautifully crafted fiction alive with endearing, unforgettable characters. Her critically acclaimed work has placed her among the ranks of Eudora Welty, Pat Conroy, and Carson McCullers, firmly establishing Godwin as a Southern literary novelist for the ages.

Father Melancholy's Daughter
Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1991)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Father Melancholy's Daughter, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Father Melancholy's Daughter

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 28, 2008 Kristen rated it liked it
Very nicely written. Explores girl piecing together her mother's life after she leaves. Her mother dies before it is clear whether she meant to leave her depressed husband and daughter permanently. A little to sterile sensibility for my taste--characters disregard sex in the way many religious people do. Even so, I'll probably check out the other books in the series--the downplay of sex was very cleverly done and I can't help wondering if it wasn't meant to reflect the characters or whether it's ...more
Jul 06, 2008 Jenn rated it really liked it
A wonderful narrative story, told from the point of view of Margaret, who is the precocious and intellectual daughter of an Episcopalian minister. The story is intertwined with issues of a deeper spiritual nature, but there's nothing "preachy" about it -- just the true soul-searching of a young woman sifting through the stories of her past and the beliefs she was raised with to find her own place in the world.

This story hinges on the scene where young Margaret childishly tries to "punish" her mo
Phoebe Kate Foster
Aug 09, 2008 Phoebe Kate Foster rated it it was amazing
Arguably a candidate for one of the finest contemporary literary novels currently in print. Fascinating from the first sentence to the last, it has everything you could want in a piece of fiction -- finely nuanced and memorable characters, subtle and skillful plotting, splendid word craftsmanship, a keen sense of the importance of details, a writing style that is deeply moving without the taint of sentimentality, an unerring and empathetic portrayal of human nature and a delicate exploration int ...more
Oct 28, 2010 Amber rated it liked it
I am giving this one 3 stars ONLY because it took my like 6 weeks to read!!! It's long and it is dense-slow reading, but otherwise I really enjoyed it. The characters are so thoroughly developed that I easily fell in love with them and mourned for them, hated them, etc. An interesting story to read-the story of a girl whose mother left her and she was raised just by her father-an Episcopalian Rector. Kind of a stream of consciousness-she leaps around from one topic to another, but, like I said, ...more
Hannah  Messler
Feb 06, 2009 Hannah Messler rated it it was amazing
I had forgotten all about Gail Godwin until I saw this paperback on the dollar carts Tuesday night. What a little genius she is, so beautiful, so sweet.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
After several days of ponderation, I'm bumpin' this up to 5 stars. There were just so many things I loved about it, in spite of the two things that almost made me give up on it. I find myself already looking forward to re-reading it down the road, just to savor the best parts.

I am not the slightest bit religious. I'm a unbeliever in the truest sense of the word. So I think it says a lot for this novel that I loved it even though it's full of religious references. There's no preachiness to it. T
Jun 14, 2009 Lauren rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2009 Marvin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
One of my all-time favorites. The dust jacket barely mentions the book's secondary religious theme (it was primarily about a young woman coming to terms with her identity in relationship to her parents). But the book is very rich theologically, with a fairly traditional theological outlook embedded in a novel of unquestioned credentials as high quality contemporary fiction. The human relationships, too, between the father & daughter was one of deep respect & affection. A rare book, indee ...more
I read this book for my Literary Criticism class, and throughout the semester we applied different types of literary criticism to the book. I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, it was compelling and I loved the author's poetic prose that described the details of the main character. Once we were out of Margaret's childhood though, I didn't like the book nearly as much as in the beginning. I felt like something was missing and I wished that we could go back to when she was only six years ol ...more
Mar 08, 2010 Linda rated it liked it
Margaret Gower relates this rather rambling, nearly plot less novel about her childhood with her parents, Rev. Walter and Ruth Gower. Enter Madlyn Farley, and old school friend of Ruth’s who comes for a visit and takes Ruth with her when she leaves. Although supposedly just a “vacation” for Ruth, she never returns to her family, and is killed in an automobile accident a few years later. Margaret grows up with her father as her caregiver, and their lives and the lives of Walter’s congregation mak ...more
Mar 31, 2010 Eileen rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian, fiction
The inner life of a girl growing up the daughter of an Episcopal priest. The church and its rites and prayers are the comfortable background in the home of this little girl and her melancholy father. As she grows, she begins to feel different than others her age and wonders if she is normal. And so she appeals to all those, like her, who live on the margins in one way or another. By the end, I had grown quite fond of her and hated to say goodbye.
Aug 15, 2015 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“‘...I don’t know when I’ve seen such a collection of unfortunate physiognomies’” (204)
“And over the years, the neglected living room had gathered up its resentment and had made its umbrage felt. It had a static, abandoned air about it, like a person who has given up trying to be first in anybody’s life...More than any other room in the rectory, it protested the lack of a coordinating presence who would have kept it alive by letting it share fully in the ongoing life of the house and respecting
Jul 05, 2012 Lily rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Troubling account of what can happen when a mother leaves, at least that is the way I viewed it at the time I read it. I'd probably think about the issues from a different perspective these 17 years later. (when I wrote this paragraph in 2011.)

A book I have recommended for those adamant about the immorality of a mother who abandons her child for what she views to be the sake of her own well being. Even across all these years, the book is troubling, but has continued to challenge me to understand
Robyn Hansen
Jul 29, 2011 Robyn Hansen rated it did not like it
OK. This was the second time I tried this author, and we just do not mesh. I picked up this book second hand without realizing she wrote another book that I had to abandon about a year ago. Some people seem to love her writing so I will give her the benefit of a doubt and just say that she and I have different styles. This book (like the other one) just dragged on and went back in time to discuss boring events that seemed not to have a lot of relevance to what was happening in the story. I final ...more
Tracy Walters
Aug 14, 2011 Tracy Walters rated it really liked it
While it took me a long time to actually finish this book it was not a boring read. I enjoyed reading it when I had the time. The characters were written in such a way as it was easy to become attached to them. I loved the way that Father "Walter" Gower and Margaret Gower lived seperate lives but also lived together and knew each other so intimately and cared for each other so well. There was a lot of talk of religion and God and church but it had a purpose and it was to give reason to the way t ...more
Feb 24, 2012 Edith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story attracted me because it is about a “young girl’s devotion to her father, the rector of a small Virginia church” and the “betrayal and tragedy that will diminish their family.” (blurb on back cover) Does that pull you in?

Godwin has a steady slow-paced flow to her writing. She seems to be in no hurry, but takes her time to reveal often the smallest of details and the mental ruminations of her main character, the daughter Margaret. I liked that and it made the book feel leisurely, but a
Feb 04, 2012 Mel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is about depression, relationships, serving others, religion, personalities, God, Jesus, selfishness, finding purpose, love, searching for answers. It is hard to describe why I liked it so much. It just feels like I needed to read it.
Feb 20, 2012 Andrea added it
I read the sequel already. Funny to start reading about the child version of the character I already know as an adult. Gail Godwin reminds me of Anne Tyler in the way she creates not just characters but a whole universe that those characters inhabit. The characters in Father Melancholy's Daughter are framed by psychoanalysis and religion, so they frequently analyze themselves and others in a Christian or religious context. Very well done. Sometimes cloying for me but the good far outweighs the b ...more
May 28, 2012 Bivens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably would not have rated this book as highly were it not for two purely personal reasons. First, the Father is an Episcopal priest, and because I am a lifelong Episcopalian I relished the religious component. Second, the book centers on the close relationship between a father and daughter. Although our circumstances weren't the same, my father and I also enjoyed a close relationship.This boo brought back many fond memories.
Gale Godwin writes beautifully, but I found the pacing to be a bit
Jenalyn C
Aug 11, 2012 Jenalyn C rated it really liked it
Gail Godwin is an excellent writer and I was mesmerized as I read this book. Margaret is the daughter of a minister in Romulus, Virgina, who suffers from bouts of depression. This book may not be for everyone because of the presence of his illness. But it was a wonderful journey of self-discovery for Margaret and Godwin captured the essence of so many personalities and made them live. The relationship of father-daughter was at first glance sweet but as the reader learns more and more about their ...more
Sarah Beth
Nov 08, 2012 Sarah Beth rated it really liked it
"Utterly taken by surprise, I felt his fingers firmly on my elbow as he led me away. That was the way it went, wasn't it? You had to stop wanting something, or at least forget you wanted it for a minute, before it would come to you on its own."

Father Melancholy's Daughter is about an Episcopal priest's daughter growing up in Virginia in the 1970s. The tragedy of Margaret's life is that when she is a young girl, her mother leaves for a few days of vacation which gradually extends to a year away f
Apr 03, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it
Father Melancholy is Father Walter Gower, an Episcopal priest in Virginia in the 1970s, who is a victim of acute depression. The plot revolves around "Father Melancholy's" daughter, Margaret, who is growing up in a family claimed by tragedy. Margaret's mother went on a short vacation with a friend when Margaret was a young girl and the days turned into weeks, and then months without her mother's return. Finally, a year after she left, Margaret's mother is killed in a car accident and Margaret is ...more
Nov 05, 2013 Wendy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Wendy by: KBM
A lovely setting and lots of characters who are described in just enough detail. I was both sorry and relieved about the resolution of Margaret's romances; I liked that part, and her ultimate decision was interesting and thought-provoking, but hated that she ended up spending all that time with someone I really couldn't stand--I wasn't sure what I was supposed to think of her.
Sep 01, 2013 Melody rated it liked it
Reading this book was so strange for me. I kept thinking it was set in England, because all of the books I've ever read with priest or vicars or what-have-you-Christian-guys were English. It was jarring every single time someone said something that made me remember we were in the States.

I like the characters well enough, it's just that nearly all of their experiences were completely outside of my own that I couldn't quite find common ground. I'm fairly certain that I'd have liked this better if
Jodi Bowman
Oct 21, 2013 Jodi Bowman rated it liked it
Story of a young girl's relationship with her father, an Episcopial priest in a small Virginia town. You meet her mother, Ruth in the beginning. She weds young and hs a child and never really has the chance to live on her own and find out who she is. She goes off on a vacation with an old school friend and nver returns. The rest of the book talks about this and how it impacts Margaret's life. I felt it was long and very detailed, bogged down with theology and Philosophy. I found myself skipping ...more
Feb 03, 2015 Penny rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite books. Insightful, tender and intelligent, Gail Godwin's characters are human and fallible, and therefore loveable.
Jun 13, 2015 Lenore rated it really liked it
June 13, 2015 my early summer read was, Father Melancholy's Daughter. I'm on a Gail Goodwin kick.
The book seemed awfully long. I did consider not finishing it. But I never STOP reading a book even if I hate it. I liked the 2nd 1/2 of the book better than the entro. As I reflect on the book it was a little peculiar. I kept thinking something GRAND was going to happen but it never did. Margaret is raised by her priest father after her mother leaves with her college girlfriend when Margaret was 8
Mar 05, 2016 Arlene rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
When have I last read a book that touched my heart on so many levels? Margaret Gower is deprived of her mother at the tender age of six when Ruth Gower leaves Romulus, Va for a life with her good friend, Madelyn. Being the Rector's Wife, this decampment caused tongues to wag. Margaret is left to be raised by her father, Walter. Walter tries to put a good face on this separation, sure that Ruth will return when she has had a chance to live for a while out of the fishbowl of parish life. When Ruth ...more
Aug 11, 2016 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a re-read, and Goodreads, you need a re-read tab!

Thanks to the priest at my Episcopal school for reminding me to revisit this. Some books are worth reading more than once, and this is one of them :)
Mary Sewell
Not as good as some of her others. Well written but depressing.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • In a Child's Name: The Legacy of a Mother's Murder
  • From Death to Morning
  • North of Hope
  • The Lone Pilgrim
  • All New People
  • The Mirror
  • Undrawn
  • Red Grass River: A Legend
  • Some Can Whistle
  • Selected Stories of Eudora Welty: A Curtain of Green And Other Stories / The Wide Net and Other Stories
  • The Dolphin People
  • Where Trouble Sleeps
  • Kafka's House
  • The Names of the Dead
  • Roxanna Slade
  • The Fall
  • Family Pictures
  • The Rise of Life on Earth
Gail Kathleen Godwin is an American novelist and short story writer. She has published one non-fiction work, two collections of short stories, and eleven novels, three of which have been nominated for the National Book Award and five of which have made the New York Times Bestseller List.

Godwin's body of work has garnered many honors, including three National Book Award nominations, a Guggenheim Fe
More about Gail Godwin...

Other Books in the Series

Margaret Bonner (2 books)
  • Evensong

Share This Book