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Unfinished Desires

3.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,295 Ratings  ·  310 Reviews
BONUS: This edition contains an Unfinished Desires discussion guide.

From Gail Godwin, three-time National Book Award finalist and acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Evensong and The Finishing School, comes a sweeping new novel of friendship, loyalty, rivalries, redemption, and memory.

It is the fall of 1951 at Mount St. Gabriel’s, an all-girls school tucked aw
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Published January 5th 2010 by Random House
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(showing 1-30 of 2,737)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I read the Advanced Reader's Edition, which I won here on Good Reads. The book is due out on December 29. The letter that came with the book encourages me to "share candid thoughts with fellow readers" on Good Reads. Okey doke. My candid thoughts, coming right up.

Gail Godwin is certainly one of the queens of character development. She takes you deep into the minds and motivations of the people in a way few authors even attempt. In Unfinished Desires, Godwin is especially skillful in her present
Linda C
Jul 20, 2010 Linda C rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hated
This book proved to be ultimately to be a disappointment. It seemed to be a book in search of an identity. If it had been a 200 page memoir on growing up Catholic in the south, it would have been a very good book. Much of the writing was lovely and depicted the era (from 1930-1950ish) very well.

However, THAT story could have been told in about 200 pages. So what occupied the remaining 200 pages? Ah, but that is the weakness in the book. The plot, loosely, centered around an event that occurred d
Jan 10, 2010 Faith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the time I finished reading this novel, I didn't particularly care for any of the characters. I didn't dislike them all, but I found them annoying. I was looking for a noble character -- not necessarily bigger than life. Ordinary is fine, but even those characters who showed potential to be bigger than life, in the end, were just very ordinary, interesting only in the way observing strangers is interesting.

Unfinished Desires is the story of a pivotal year in the life of Mother Ravenel. The st
Neide Parafitas
Mount St. Gabriel's é um colégio feminino de prestígio. Todos os anos lectivos conta uma história... mas a aqui retratada data de 1951, um ano terrível que despoletou uma série de acontecimentos que vieram a alterar profundamente a história do colégio!

Alternando o passado com o presente, a história é-nos contada pela madre Suzanne Ravenel que tenta reconciliar-se com as dramáticas origens do que ficou conhecido por "ano tóxico".

Este é um livro para ser lido com calma e paciência. Apesar de consi
Feb 15, 2016 Maria rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: emprestado
Não consegui acabar de ler. Não me estava a prender minimamente. E é pena, porque a sinopse prometia... Mas com tantos livros que tenho para ler, não vale a pena forçar
switterbug (Betsey)
This is a mature, adult book about adolescent girl behavior. Not since Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye have I read such a powerful novel about teenage feminine conformity, coercion, betrayal, jealousy, secrets, and love. Godwin creates a labyrinth that begins with a simple layer and gradually builds to a complex and knotted snare. I was pulled in from the opening pages as this rich, multi-generational tapestry is woven as if from the loom. The book never loses steam, and the lyrical rhythm amplifies ...more
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Jan 10, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gail Godwin’s Unfinished Desires is in the league with some of her best work (for instance my favorite Evensong). Desires is set nearly entirely in an elite Catholic Girl’s school only its time frame spans nearly a century. We get the perspective and stories of the schools inception into 2008 and those who shaped the school’s history (a lot of nuns, girls, and parents). Only we don’t get the story chronologically, but instead Godwin builds up a little momentum settling with one time period and n ...more
Feb 18, 2010 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first novel I've read by this author, and although I loved the setting, and the novel is beautifully written, it was not an easy read.

Briefly, the story begins in 2001, Mother Suzanne Ravenel is an 85 year old, former headmistress of Mount St. Gabriel's, Roman Catholic boarding school for girls. The school was founded in 1910, and closed in 1990, and the school is located in the mountains of North Carolina. The school serves as the background for the well written novel.

Mother Suzanne
Feb 20, 2016 Margarida rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wishlist
3,5* para ser mais justa!
Gostei da escrita da autora, gostei das personagens e a estória em si, apesar de um começo um pouco lento, acaba por nos envolver...
Apr 28, 2015 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Although I cringe at the title, better suited for a heaving-bosom cover, this book cements my earlier belief that no one--with the possible exception of Margaret Atwood in Cat's Eye--better understands or depicts the complex horror of teenage/adolescent female friendships than Godwin. Friendships that can turn on a dime, that can be the epitome of loyalty or of betrayal--all within a single day's time. Godwin creates such a detailed, believable setting in the nun-run girls' school located in th ...more
Feb 15, 2013 Callie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one is not for the faint of heart. All-girls Catholic school, the important action taking place in the 1950s. The machinations of 'mean girls' in ninth grade. Oh, it will take you back, my friends, back to when you were fourteen. Do you really want to revisit those days? You were either one of the queen bees inflicting pain on others or you were being tormented by your domineering best friend or you were too popular or you wanted desperately to be more popular or SOMETHING. But things were ...more
Sep 29, 2009 Mardel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Within this book is three stories, covering three timelines, cleverly weaved into one story. It's very easy to follow, as the author clearly notes which time and about who you are reading.

The main characters Mother Suzanne, Mother Malloy, Tildy, Madeline, Chloe, Henry Vick, Maude, and a few others all have very strong voices, and are all very different people. We learn about each character little by little as the book progresses, not only through their own pov, but through eac
Dec 15, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this with my book group, which met to discuss on December 12, so that's the date I "finished" this book, hearing the reactions of others added to my own. As one group member put it, "Not my favorite Godwin." Her favorite is Evensong, which we also read with the group, and I also liked Evensong and Father Melancholy's Daughter better. In all of these books, there is great compassion for all kinds of people--a sort of tolerance and forgiveness for human flaws and foibles, even as some chara ...more
Por entre segredos e mistérios, um colégio privado devoto a Deus tenta controlar a maçã podre escondida dentro de um cesto opulento e gracioso. Mas quando um grupo de jovens senhoras está em causa, uma turma que tanto tem de precioso como de singular, de inteligência como de mesquinhez, acertar na maçã certa será um desafio. Infelizmente, quando esta é descoberta, demasiado tempo passou e imensas desgraças tomaram o seu curso. Muitos destinos alterados, muitas medidas drásticas formadas. Porém, ...more
Aug 30, 2009 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 4 stars because the writing was exceptional. Godwin does an amazing job of developing these characters and bringing their personalities to life. This was no simple undertaking given that this story was filled with larger than life personalities that jumped off the page and grabbed your attention. Every character, dead or alive, spent time in the spotlight and fought for the reader's attention.

I found the early passages of Mother Ravenel's memoir a little tedious and boring but
Sep 17, 2010 Dee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel about a private Catholic girl's school in an imaginary town in North Carolina in the Smokies is lovely. Godwin creates a wonderful 20th century world of girls, nuns, and their families.

Generations of girls, (at least three are followed) go to this school. The history of the school is being writen by the retired headmistress after the school has been closed in the '90's.

A big secret, (the headmistress and her best friend exchanged a passionate kiss when they were students (Seniors?)
Sep 08, 2009 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
The scope of Unfinished Desires is simultaneously epic and claustrophobic. Set at a Catholic girls' school in the North Carolina mountains, the novel traces the lives of several of the students in the 1950s, their families, and the nuns who run the school. Using a somewhat common plot device, Godwin sends the reader back in time and into the future to understand her characters and the impact of their relationships and choices. It works as much more than a gimmick in this case: the students, teac ...more
Mar 06, 2010 judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I was so excited reading this book. I had forgotten what a remarkable writer Goodwin is. Her character development is second to none. The complexity of the characters and their interaction had that all important book club word "Discussable" woven into every line. I wanted to talk about this female coming-of-age novel with a room full of intelligent women. I could imagine us still debating as we walked out the door. My euphoria continued until the end of the book--or what I thought was the end. I ...more
Nov 07, 2009 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is based on Godwin's own experiences at a Catholic day school in North Carolina. The retired headmistress is writing a memoir /historyof the school and is drawn back to a certain incident in the early 1950s that caused the expulsion of several students as well as her own leave of absence. But it is as much about the relationships between women - mothers and daughters, teachers and students, and the passionate friendships that exist between adolscent girls. In some ways, it is a very c ...more
Sharon Stockham
Jun 11, 2010 Sharon Stockham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up used because the author's name resonated. It seems I had read "A Mother and Two Daughters" and "The Finishing School" in the past. This story takes place in a Catholic high school in the mountains of North Carolina. It spans three generations of students, focusing on the school's matriarch. The story moves between the memoisr of the school she is writing and the mothers and daughters who were students in 1931 and 1952. Taken from the jacket: "In Unfinished Dreams" a beloved ...more
Sep 05, 2009 Lenoir rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
Despite the length of time it took me to read this book I really did like it. This was a pretty complex story that jumps back and forth in time and between narrators. In the beginning I got a little confused about who was who because there is a very large cast. Ultimately, this is the story of a nun who is the retired former head of a Catholic school. She was asked to write a memoir of the school had finally deal with some events from her past. The changes in point of view where excellent for ma ...more
Dec 30, 2015 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those guilty indulgence reads....and considering this is about a Catholic girls school the irony of all that is not lost on me.
Jan 30, 2010 Krob rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although I ordinarily enjoy books about schools and boarding schools in particular, this book really failed to deliver a very good story. The novel toggles between the memoirs of a retired Mother Superior of a girls' school in 1951 and the current lives of the characters. It also occasionally delves back to the girlhood of the Mother Superior. I disliked the back and forth narrative; it wasn't done very well. The story could have been much better.
Jun 03, 2015 Alli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, asheville
I love Gail Godwin, a writer who grew up in Asheville, N.C. Like many of her books, this one is set in Mountain City, which is a fictional Asheville. In fact, there are building and street names taken directly from Asheville. But the story mostly takes place at a Catholic boarding school in the 1950s, which seems miles away from the Asheville I know.

The story moves back and forth through time, between the 1950s and early 2000s. It's mainly based around a group of 14 year old girls who cause some
Sep 17, 2015 Pam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What a 400 page mish mash! I suppose I was a more accomplished reader or had a lot of time on my hands or was brought up in the Catholic faith, I would have enjoyed this novel but, all I can say now is that I finished it and got the gist of the story (which could have been told more succinctly). Way too much repetition because it was one of these novels that has everyone in it tell the same story, to the point that you don't care. I ended up listening to most of it while I did other things; coul ...more
Dec 25, 2014 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Um livro com uma premissa muito interessante e com uma escrita fluida.

Lembram-se do filme Mean Girls? Pois, então preparem-se para uma viagenzinha até esse mundo maravilhoso de colegio interno de raparigas, cujas protagonistas estão na faixa dos 14 anos. De certeza que vão ver muitos joguinhos de poder ganharem vida, novamente. Mas a intriga é vivida por várias gerações de raparigas de 14 anos, em diferentes anos de finalista, envolvendo portanto várias gerações - mãe, filhas, tias, sobrinhas -
Sep 08, 2009 Jana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like this author's style of writing. She is very talented at creating and describing characters. Although I was enjoying the book, I decided to stop reading when there was a lesbian kiss which involved one of the nuns (before she became a nun.) I just thought that was completely unnecessary. I was afraid where the book was headed, so I just stopped reading.
Dec 26, 2015 Sarina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Told from the point of a nun who was principal of a private Catholic girls school. She tells about each generation coming to the school as having groups of girls who stick together and sometimes cause trouble. There is a back story of her and a close friend wanting to become nuns at the same time, but she snuck off to become one first and her friend changed her mind, got married, and died in an accident on her honeymoon. Some people believe she regretted her decision not to become a nun, and thi ...more
Elizabeth Moeller
In thinking about this book I can't decide whether the large amount of specific foreshadowing the author engages in makes this a stronger narrative, or if not being surprised by the any of the plot resolutions takes away from the overall power of the story. The only thing I can determine for sure is that the author is an impressive architect of the story created by bringing together all of the various threads at play.
The thing that interested me the most was the through story of Mother Ravenal,
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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...

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“Discontent,” Father Maturin said, enunciating the word with a strange vigor and looking straight at Elizabeth, “may be God’s catapult, His way of saying: ‘Go and try yourself now.” 0 likes
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