Something Red
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Something Red

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3.07 of 5 stars 3.07  ·  rating details  ·  217 ratings  ·  62 reviews
When Jennifer Gilmore’s first novel, Golden Country, was published, The New York Times Book Review called it "an ingeniously plotted family yarn" and praised her as an author who "enlivens the myth of the American Dream." Gilmore’s particular gift for distilling history into a hugely satisfying, multigenerational family story is taken to new levels in her second novel. In...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Scribner (first published March 15th 2010)
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Allyson
This was a little disjointed, haphazard. At the end, I said "so?" Not a desired response I would think. She developed her characters well, but it felt like a snapshot of a time and her late 1979/1980 did not feel like my 1979/1980 at all. Stock characters- the caterer wife, the bulemic dghtr, the jock/Grateful Deadhead, all uninteresting to me. I was a little surprised by the ending, but again underwhelmed and found it easily dismissed from my mind. She wrapped it all up too quickly and I would...more
Anne Van
I found this title on the NYT's list of 100 best books in 2010, and I enjoyed reading it. Similar in a way to "Freedom", it's the story of a husband, wife, nearly grown son and daughter, set in 1979/80 in Washington, DC. Each of the main characters have a running sort of stream of consciousness that surrounds the dialogue and storytelling, the present embedded in the past. And some of the chronology didn't quite fit together, if you ask me, combining the Old Left from the 1930's, Ethel Rosenberg...more
Ghita Schwarz
This was an excellent book in many ways, a very vivid and entertaining portrayal of a lefty but non-radical family wondering how their politics and sympathies can survive into the future. I thought the subject matter and the way Gilmore handled it were very original -- 1979 politics through the prism of food: the mom with her organic locavore catering business searching for something more through EST, the jaded and distant dad working in the US Department of Agriculture, the daughter going throu...more
Judy Mann
This is one really lousy book.I'm really starting to wonder if Christians are nervous of criticizing books about Jews. Well, I'm Jewish and I'll tell you- this is one really lousy book.
I am truly sorry to say this but the writing is atrocious.The sentences go on and on and on.In one sentence she covers 6 different topics - with 4 different points of view- and 3 different tenses.I swear that's true. After one sentence like that my head has been whipped around so many times that I have NO IDEA wha...more
Michelle
I really liked the author’s debut novel, Golden Country, but I did not care for this one. I loved the premise: a family living in DC during the Cold War, the father is a government lackey and has a Russian background. The first page was fantastic. Really, really great. Unfortunately it went downhill from there.

First of all the characters are all wretched people. Definitely not anyone I’d ever want to hang out with. Everyone in the family wants to be an “activist” so they’re all pretty much obses...more
Deborah
I heard Jennifer Gilmore speak and read from her recent book, "Something Red: A Novel," at the Miami Book Fair 2010, last Sunday. She was articulate, interesting and a showstopper! This story takes place in 1979 after the flurry of the '60's, the heat of the Viet Nam War, Judy Chicago's "Dinner Party," and Charlie Manson. And during the wheat embargo that was "the USA's first attempt to starve the world," as she quoted. I absolutely loved her readings from her book about the "ordinary" family ba...more
Kalen
Solid read, well-developed, and attention-grabbing. My only quibble (and if this sounds obtuse it's because I'm trying to avoid spoilers) is that the twist near the end came out of nowhere. Other potential twists had been hinted at, but not this one, so it seemed a bit odd that this is where the novel went. A bit of foreshadowing earlier on (and maybe it was there and I missed it? Don't think so, but....) would have made this a 4 1/2 or 5.

Overall, the characters and plot were well-developed and...more
Nick
I was just really bored. I kept waiting for more things, any thing, to happen. Gilmore isn't a bad writer by any means but she spends so much time giving backstory and describing various things that there isn't really much that actually happens (until the crazy thing at the end). I wanted more dialogue, more writing "in scene," as opposed to the endless description by the author. While some of the characters were interesting -- Sharon, especially -- I found others not very believable. And enough...more
Erika Dreifus
"Historical fiction" is often defined as fiction set in a time period before the author's birth/capacity to remember. Technically, Jennifer Gilmore can remember the late 1970s/early 1980s, but her novel certainly has an aura of the "historical" (in a good sense!). The author was a terrific guest at the Jewish Book Council Twitter Book Club meeting that featured her book (see the transcript here. One of the best discussions to date!
Cher
"Something Red" is full of contrasting viewpoints: socialism versus communism versus capitalism, straight edge punk rock vs. Grateful Dead college hippie love. A critical thing lacking for me was a likeable character for much of the story. I slogged on with the reading, because I hate to stop mid-story and I was ultimately rewarded with character growth and a surprise ending.
Deborah Previte
I met and heard Jennifer Gilmore discuss her book "Something Red..." at the Miami Book Fair in late 2010. She is a brilliant young woman with alot to say about the happenings of Washington, DC, during the Carter years. It's an odd time in American history, but a time that we will remember as ordinary families slightly jarred by the passing of the Viet Nam War, the Communist threat and parents beginning to bounce back into what they hope is the American Dream.

Ms Gilmore has a wry sense of humor....more
Janice
Aug 13, 2013 Janice added it
The book before this was Blood Meridian, and although I was knocked out by it, it didn't give me that pleasure of immersing myself in the world of a novel. Thank you, Jennifer Gilmore, for Something Red. The book takes place in 1979-80, and everyone in the Goldstein family - mom, dad, son, and daughter - missed out on the 1960's. The parents were a little too old, and the kids too young; Benji, a college freshman, takes a class called "American Protest!" (exclamation point included) and longs to...more
Grace
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marnie Kaplan
This book is a tremendous feat. I can only imagine the level of research required to accurately portray various historical and cultural details from the late 1970s. It is a time period I never fully examined before. Even as an American history major (who focused on modern America), I barely made it beyond 1972. But this book - with its lyrical language and richly developed characters-captures the zeitgeist of the time period. I greatly enjoyed the multi-faceted experience of reading this book: I...more
Mollie
I had this book on my "to read" shelf for so long. Finally got it from the library, and then slogged (seriously slogged) through it. Oh my dull. This is a very boring, slow-paced book. I have great tolerance for wordy, descriptive passages, but this was just too boring. None of the characters felt particularly sympathetic; I guess Benji seemed ok, and his girlfriend was pretty great, but all the others were mostly irritating in their hand-wringing and general disastrousness. Gilmore does not wri...more
Sheila
This is one of those books I had to force myself to read. It was a good story and the writing wasn't terrible I just wasn't invested in the story so much that I was dying to know what would happen next. The family is no more dysfunctional than any other. The context is very interesting, I liked immersing myself in the 80's and the cold war but I was way too young to really have much of a clue about the depth of the fears many adults felt at the time. I think everyone can relate to the teens in t...more
Amy Rose
I can't remember the last time I felt so connected to so many characters in one book. Although the POV switches and ordering of events were a little confusing at times, the book was fantastic.
Snem
I liked the minor threads of themes that were shared by the main characters (ex: food, music and sex). I appreciated the different characters' perspectives. There was a serious lack of plot until almost 80% into the book. I kept looking for something to happen. The characters were so wrapped up in their own crap they were very unlikeable. I got the impression the ending was supposed to be very shocking, but I felt really blasé about it. The cagey way it developed didn't appeal to me either. Eh,...more
Becky
Just finished Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore and all I can say is meh. It is a family saga (not my favorite) about parents who attended college in the late 50s (not my time period) with the story taking placed as children leave for college in the late 70s (again, not my time period). The background of the Carter administration/Washington D.C./music of the period brings the characters some interest, but overall I found the story uninspired and the characters not well developed. The author is a...more
Callin Henry
A little slow so far, but rarely have I met a book I didn't like!
Catherine Woodman
WA very good book, set in the late 70's (during the Carter Administration and the hostage crisis). The family is Jewish Russian immigrants, and this fact remains of great importance throughout the novel. The perspective on America, socialism, religion, all of it is shaped by where they come from and their culture--mixed with the culture of their adopted country. Which some of them adopt better than others of them. Beautifully written and a good story, start to finish. This is a talented writer.
Lynn
I thought this book was alright, and a different type of story trying to blend fiction with the historical events at the time. However, I felt the book was a little draggy, too wordy and not enough action. But that's just my opinion, I also found the twist at the end a little far-fetched. I don't want to spoil it for someone looking to read it so I won't say any more. It was an alright read, not the best.
Ray
I think Gilmore may have been better off to have focused attention on telling this story from just one character's perspective. Splitting the narrative up between all four family members slowed the pace and exposed weakness in character development.

I am not really sure what the political or life message here was supposed to be but I enjoyed the middle. I found the Sharon character depressing.
Lauren Albert
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pmcdnld2
Interesting novel set in 1979. Denis and Sharon are the children of immigrants;Russian/Polish Jews. The grew up n the 60's and comsidered themselves rebels. Now he works for the government; she is a caterer; their son is going to college and their 16 year old daughter is a mess. Family drama: husbands and wives; parents and children with an overtone of the Cold War.
Emily
Excellent review in the NY Times... Loved this book about a family in DC in the late 70s, during the Cold War, hostages, grain embargo and Olympic Boycott. They are have deceptions and truth and are coming to terms with the choices they have made and will make in their lives. Really terrific (and not just because I think the author is awesome!)
Esil
I really liked this book. The time and social/political context really spoke to me. My main criticism is that the somewhat sensationalist denouement at the end was unnecessary. The characters and their ongoing struggle to come to terms with the disconnect between their political beliefs and their real life we good enough to sustain the book.
Shelie
We picked this for my book club and I tried to read it. Nobody could get into it so we decided to skip it. I gave it a good try, getting about 1/4 to 1/3 the way through and just didn't get it. It is rare that I don't finish a book and I couldn't find anyone who read it to actually give me encouragement to finish it.
Phyllis
I can't believe I actually finished such an awful book. I don't blame the writer; anyone can write. But why would a company publish such a horribly written novel? And why would they not fire the editor of this disaster?
Courtney Sieloff
I really enjoyed this book. I love anyone who can put DC into words, but what was particularly interesting was how the author portrayed not only DC in the early 80s, but also the times and the culture. The characters were rich and interesting, and the ending was a bit of a surprise. I really enjoyed this book.
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Jennifer Gilmore is the author of two novels, Golden Country, a 2006 New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Jewish Book Award, and Something Red , a New York Times Notable Book of 2010. Her new novel, The Mothers, will be published by Scribner in April 2013.

Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in magazines and journals including Allure,...more
More about Jennifer Gilmore...
The Mothers Golden Country The Mothers: A Novel the mothers Golden Country: A Novel

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