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Golden Days

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  190 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Available again in paperback, Golden Days is a major novel from one of the most provocative voices on the American literary scene. Linking the recent past with an imagined future, Carolyn See captures life in Los Angeles in the 70s and 80s. This marvelously imaginative, hilarious, and original work offers fresh insights into the way we were, the way we are, and the way we ...more
Paperback, 196 pages
Published October 6th 1996 by University of California Press (first published October 1st 1986)
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The Stand by Stephen KingThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsWorld War Z by Max Brooks1984 by George Orwell
Best Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
244th out of 768 books — 2,338 voters
One Second After by William R. ForstchenAlas, Babylon by Pat FrankThe Road by Cormac McCarthySwan Song by Robert McCammonOn the Beach by Nevil Shute
Nuclear Apocalypse
19th out of 39 books — 91 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 681)
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Kim Fay
I love this book, reread it regularly and can't believe I haven't already reviewed it here. Of my three favorite LA writers --- Eve Babitz, Joan Didion and Carolyn See --- I think (dare I say this aloud) that See is the most creative, her sense of humor is the most subversive and in the long run, her early fiction is most telling of the time in which it was written. "Golden Days" spans time, from the 1950s to an apocalyptic present, telling the story of a wife, ex-wife, mother, lover and success ...more
wow, i bet this book drove a lot of people crazy. people who were looking for a good post-apocalyptic nightmare, people who were looking for death and devastation, people who were looking for a polemic, those who wanted to see good (sigh) triumph over evil.

this book isn't really any of those things, altho it contains events that would, among the unimaginative, be the perfect setup. but Golden Days gives us a nuclear holocaust with none of the above dressed in their usual attire.

this book does tw
One of a number of novels written in the 1980s shaped by the possibility of the "unthinkable," i.e. wide-scale nuclear war that would mean the end of civilization. See seems almost Nietzschean in her belief that nuclear war could be the source of renewal — her portrait of latter-day American civilization, a wasteland characterized by relentless desires and even more relentless fears, may be more bleak than her rather graphic description of life after nuclear war.
So far this book is SO weird. Carolyn See is sort of the grand dame of serious California/Los Angeles fiction. This book is one of those writers' writers unheralded classics, and I've been wanting to read it for a long time. It begins in Topanga Canyon in the summer of 1980, and it feels like the late 70s and early 80s. I mean, it is saturated with this uber authentic sunny narcissism that somehow believes itself to be feminism, and is also a bit classist and racist. It's creepy, truth be told. ...more
I love books that love Los Angeles.
It's so easy to just dismiss it as shallow and full of traffic and posers and smog, and it IS all that, but there's also that sense of possibility that comes with not having a huge weight of history slapping you in the face every time you turn a corner. And those beautiful mornings that smell like flowers.

I loved how much this book brought me back to my childhood years in southern CA, with my parents' kooky friends who were into self-actualization as well as m
What a strange reading experience this was. I spent the first three-fourths of this novel HATING it—I hated the narrator, who I found racist, classist, and just plain unpleasant; I hated the purported “feminism” the characters spouted, which to me boiled down to an icky “men are pricks, so let’s take ‘em for all they’re worth!” philosophy; I hated the depiction of L.A., which was not my L.A. at all (when is it ever?). But then, well…the world ends. All the apocalyptic anxiety that weaves its way ...more
Jason McKinney
If Thomas Pynchon had been born a woman, this might be what he would have sounded like, but without all of the Pynchonian craziness. See is much more grounded in her writing, but does take flights of fancy within reality. Although this book was written almost 30 years ago, it still feels incredibly relevant. Unlike anything I've read before but in an incredibly good way. High Feminism without male bashing.
Susan Eskander
One of the best books I've ever read. It's one of those "you have to read it to get it" type of novels. It's set in Los Angeles (Topanga Canyon) and takes us into the life of a divorcee with a knack for the jewelry trade who is trying to make ends meet servicing clients in Beverly Hills. She begins by carving out a niche business appraising jewelry for wives of wealthy men - and sometimes breaking the news when their husbands have gifted them zircons instead of diamonds. When disaster strikes, a ...more
This is very good post-apocalyptic fiction. Set in southern California in the recent past.
What I learned: don't bother with New Age philosophy, brush up on Stone Age philosophy.
Twylapumroy Pumroy
This book touched me in such a deep way. It actually spoke to me. It spoke to who I am, how quirky I can be and it spoke to who I would like to be: without worry. In the plot of the book one thing sang to me constantly: the people who were facing supremely troubled times decided to either be happy or panic. Those who opted for happiness left convention and went to those they loved - regardless of how that love was defined or manifested. This concept alone made this book worth reading and loving. ...more

There is something about this book that draws me back again and again. Apocalyptic, full of wish-fulfillment, and somehow, really steeped in Californianess. Holds up well, as magical realism apocalyptic fairytale. Some of the images still haunt me.

And isn't it weird to look back at a time when I fully believed a nuclear holocaust was coming, would come, any day? I kind of wish I knew when that particular fear left me.
Hanje Richards
Having recently read two other Carolyn See books (a memoir and a novel) I found this novel disappointing. Carolyn See has moments of brilliance in this book (including the last 30 pages), but for me, reading this relatively short novel was a bit of a slog. I am glad I didn't give up and stop reading it, because the last 30 pages were so worth it. I felt like See was trying to tell too many stories in this book, and all of them suffered as a result. One of the highlights of the book, as with the ...more
Thought-provoking, bur very weird. And I can't decide if I like her writing style. A novel from the mid-80s, set in the then present-day of Los Angeles. Captures a picture of the beauty and sunniness of L.A. of that time. Then a nuclear war happens in 1987 and the last quarter of the book addresses the main character's acceptance, and almost happiness, at the 'new' world she is forced to live in. The end of the book has an interesting image at the end as a small band of people come down from the ...more
Ruth Gibian
Goes down easy for the first half or so, and then takes the surprising turn of becoming a post-apocalyptic fantasy. There is humor throughout, quite wry, in fact, even with the serious subject matter. It's about Southern California, and the narrator never quites takes anything completely seriously. I'll probably forget everything about this book within a year, but it was an interesting read. Can't remember how I came to it -- perhaps a Maureen Corrigan recommendation from NPR? She did a list of ...more
Mad weird. There were some moments I really liked, some beautifully phrased passages that really made one think, but overall it was kind of all over the place. She jumped from explaining her modern day situation with men and her daughters; to the world suddenly ending and her shoving jewels in her hand. Strange.
Another Jennifer
I agree with many of the reviews here. A very bizarre book that took me on a wild ride. Parts of it were hateful. See's language was snappy and sometimes hard to follow. I finished it confused, surprised and intrigued. It made me want to read more of See's work but not right away. I need to recover from this one.
Kosh Koshover
I think the best way to describe this book would be to perhaps call it a feminine version of American Psycho (w/o the violence). But that is really what this book reminded me of, lost of 80s materialism and narcissism with a mixture of unreliable narrator and imagined futures. Just an overall weird book.
I thought this would be more enlightening and funny, but I just found it sad and a little scary. Guess I should listen to Lorna. The best part was the small moment when Edie was a teenager, always walking and bumping with her friends, told before the nuclear bit. Manic bit of story-telling.
Interesting read. I almost didn't finish it but it has a bit of a payoff at the end. i heard about the book on NPR and was intrigued enough to find it at the library. I'm still digesting it. I think it definitely stays with you.
Read this for the first time many years ago and again several times since.

I love this book, along with See's later one, The Handyman. This is smart, funny, inspired fiction with a genuine beating heart.
Mary Richardson
This one was a hard read. At times, I was so drawn into the stream of consciousness meets end of the world fiction, but just as often I was completely confused. The ending was hopeful though.
Lindsey Pollard
I really enjoyed this book, but it's bizarre and unsettling. Los Angeles seems to inspire a lot of hallucinogenic writing, and I am more than happy to read it because it feels like home.
Kinda like 2 books. One, a very 80's-ish feminist type thing which kinda irritated me and two, a novel about an apocalyptic los angeles, which is hard to resist, so I was kinda conflicted.
Forced myself through this because of high praise. Less than a post-nuclear war book but more of a chick book, most of it ruminating about two failed marriages. No plot.
this is another one of those 'only four stars because it was so utterly terrifying' books. but don't let that stop you, it's also utterly brilliant.
This one rocked my world. I'm going to read it again over the turkey day break.
Popular culture and the nuclear apocalypse. Humor and Hell.
Los Angeles in all in LA-ness in the 1980s. And then the bomb drops.
Bizarre, experimental exercise. Still captivating.
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Carolyn See is the author of nine books, including the memoir, Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America, an advice book on writing, Making a Literary Life, and the novels There Will Never Be Another You and The Handyman.

She is the Friday-morning reviewer for The Washington Post, and she has been on the boards of the National Book Critics Circle and PENWest International. She has won both the
More about Carolyn See...
Making a Literary Life The Handyman There Will Never Be Another You: A Novel Dreaming: Hard Luck And Good Times In America Making History

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