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On Green Dolphin Street

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  2,953 Ratings  ·  210 Reviews
The bestselling author of Birdsong and Charlotte Gray delivers an enthralling, vibrantly evocative novel set in America in 1960, when the country stood poised between the paranoia of the Cold War and the ebullience of the New Frontier.

Faulks' heroine is Mary Van der Linden, a pretty, reserved Englishwoman whose husband, Charlie, is posted to the British embassy in Washingt
Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 28, 2015 Trelawn rated it really liked it
I was beginning to despair slightly of Sebastian Faulks. After being bowled over by Charlotte Gray and Birdsong I was underwhelmed by Engleby and The Girl at the Lion d'Or. They had vivid scenery and beautiful language but I could never quite connect with the characters in a way that compelled me to keep picking up the book. On Green Dolphin Street was completely compelling. I got completely wrapped up in the tangled lives of Charlie and Mary van der Linden and Frank Renzo. I grabbed every oppor ...more
Richda Mcnutt
Aug 18, 2012 Richda Mcnutt rated it it was amazing
One of the most heartbreaking novels I have read - and I mean that in a good way. His character development was masterful, and I was drawn totally into their separate lives. To call this a romance or a love story is almost an insult to the deeper themes of the novel: familial unity; the role that morality, integrity, and responsibility plays in our lives; the occurrences in our lives that tear us apart mentally and emotionally. Faulks expressed the conflicting emotions of the lovers beautifully ...more
Apr 24, 2011 Heather rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish this. From the self-centered characters to the slow-paced plot, I found nothing about this book enjoyable. I loved Birdsong and Charlotte Grey but I really couldn't get through this
Dec 22, 2007 Amy rated it liked it
This was the first Faulks book I've read, although I know we have the French trilogy. The writing was gorgeous, which is good, because it wasn't the greatest story ever. It's about a British diplomat's wife who has an affair while living with her husband in Washington DC. I did like the depictions of the emotions involved in infidelity. She loves her--(Non sequitor: Hey, there's no male word for mistress, is there? That's weird, there should be. Mister? Master? Neither of those are right. It's l ...more
Jan 22, 2014 Jon rated it really liked it
My first Sebastian Faulks, and I'm looking forward to more. Another Goodreads reader described it as "a complex and genuine love watching real life unfold"--which seems pretty accurate to me. I don't usually read straight romance stories, and I guess this one is a bit more than that--but in any case it caught me from the first page. I thought it sagged a bit in the middle, when none of the relationships seemed to be moving anywhere, but the described world was shifting in ways that ...more
Sep 28, 2008 Mathew rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
I am a big fan of Sebastian Faulks, and I think this may be his finest effort to date. Like all his novels, this one is first and foremost an old-fashioned love story. As in Birdsong, this novel seamlessly weaves the personal and very intimate story of an accidental affair into a larger milieu of fairly grand (but always understated) significance. Indeed, it's impossible to imagine this story occuring in any other time, or any other way. The story alternates between Washington, DC and New York C ...more
Jul 18, 2010 Jeremy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in 1959 USA during the Kennedy /Nixon campaign Mary is the wife of Charlie Van der Linden – an emissary in the British Embassy in Washington – whose life is one long round of parties and lunch meetings and general socialising. You’d think she’d have a great life but Charlie is slowly disappearing into the bottle (3 dry martinis before lunch?) and she has attracted the attentions of one of the many American journalists who attend the parties at the Van der lindens home. When Mary and Charlie ...more
Dec 03, 2010 Lis rated it liked it
Enjoyable book but not really one of Faulk's best. Good things about the book were how well written it was and the style of the language that I have come to expect and truly adore from a Faulks novel. As usual his way of invoking the sense of place is outstanding, got a real feel for Washington D.C and particularly 1950's New York. The development of character and story was also decent although both the characters and the storyline was not as memorable, thought provoking or in some ways as beaut ...more
Rob Tapper
Feb 09, 2015 Rob Tapper rated it really liked it
This was a "Back to the Future" experience for me; the era of my youth as a nine to ten year old, height of the developing cold war, immersed in the WWII war weary, the advance of communism and fronts (for New Zealand) in Korea, Malaysia, and Viet Nam emerging -- a powerful and accurate portrayal of the adult world I inherited and was moving with.
Initially I anticipated a John Le Carre type spy intrigue, and lack of this was a continuing disappointment until I was gripped by the deja vu unfoldin
Jemma Jeanes
Mar 22, 2015 Jemma Jeanes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book that was a very thoughtful gift. There is so much to recommend this book that I do not have the words to describe so my review is simply that this will go into my top 20 books ever.
Jan 24, 2009 Thandi rated it it was amazing
Sebastian Faulks is a superb writer - he feeds his readers bit by bit, and just when you think you can read his mind, he changes course. I loved every paragraph.
Lisa Stewart
Jul 12, 2016 Lisa Stewart rated it it was ok
I really disliked this book and dragged myself through it. The characters are self absorbed and impossible to like or care about. Worse than that, I felt like I was drowning in the turgid details.
Nov 09, 2013 LindyLouMac rated it really liked it
I read this in 2001
Jul 08, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Early Sebastian Faulks novels convey a wonderful sense of time and place and ‘On Green Dolphin Street’ set in 1959, evokes perfectly the period of the later Cold War, the insidious investigations of the FBI, McCarthyism, U2 Spy Planes, the rise of JFK and his historic election victory of Nixon, Race Riots in Mississippi. This is a wonderful read - and for my money, this is easily Faulks' best novel – as, against this ground breaking backdrop he explores one of Life's most dangerous imponderables ...more
Aug 18, 2014 Rachel rated it did not like it
I full-on hated this book and I will never forgive Britain's Top 100 Favourites for making me read it, never.(view spoiler) ...more
Stephen Hayes
I didn't like this book. I really didn't like this book. But I couldn't stop reading it.

I read the first chapter, and thought "this is not my cup of tea". I read another chapter, and thought I can dtop reading it at any time. I don't have to plough my way through it. But I read another chapter anyway.

I don't like this book. I don't like the characters, or the clothes they wear. They are the wrong generation, my parents generation. But still I read. Why? It's 1960, the election campaign in whic
Aug 22, 2016 DGT rated it liked it
Near the end of this novel, while Mary Van der Linden and Frank Renzo are in a New York City diner wondering whether to continue their affair, Sebastian Faulks describes a man in his thirties with his son, and their awkward behavior suggests an access weekend after a divorce. Mary also thinks of her recently widowed father, back in London. Both of these instances, it occurred to me, could have been written about to make different novels entirely, so easily does Faulks write and research his fict ...more
Robert Ronsson
Oct 14, 2015 Robert Ronsson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main fault of this book is that it's too true to life - it's not in any way 'novelistic'. This means that the main characters act out their lives solipsistically. They skid over the top of the momentous events of their time hardly noticing what is happening around them, even though one of them is close to the epicentre of the Presidential election and the another is a reluctant pawn in the Cold War.
This may make for realism but it lacks the excitement that a less literary writer would have i
Apr 28, 2011 BookAmbler rated it really liked it
Faulks is best known for "Birdsong" and "Charlotte Gray" both of which I enjoyed. I’ve also read, but found disappointing, "A Fool’s Alphabet" so I was keen to see what I thought of this book.

Blurb from back cover:
America, 1959. With two young children she adores and an admired husband, Charlie, working at the British Embassy in Washington, the world seems an effervescent place of parties, jazz and family happiness to Mary Van der Linden. But when Frank, an American newspaper reporter, enters th
Oct 06, 2011 Al rated it really liked it
From the author of Birdsong, one of my all-time favorites, and of other books which were also good if not great. So I tried it, although I had been warned that it's a romance. So it is, and beautifully done at that. Set during the cold war era and presidential campaign of 1960, a happily married woman meets her soul mate and enters into an agonizing affair. The refreshing thing about this book is the depth of the characters, although I do think that, of the two main characters, Faulks does the ...more
Nick Duretta
Dec 24, 2015 Nick Duretta rated it it was amazing
The plot is simple: Mary, a British diplomat's wife living in Washington D.C., enters into an affair with Frank, a newspaper reporter covering the 1960 presidential campaign. Yet in Faulks' skillful hands, the story is anything but simple. We see in Mary a complex woman: a dutiful mother, wife and daughter torn between the residual love she feels for her husband (a man tortured by his war experience and disappointments of his career) and the passion she feels for her lover, also a war veteran bu ...more
Tony Nielsen
Jan 28, 2013 Tony Nielsen rated it it was amazing
Sure I have been a fan of Sebastian Faulks for awhile but I really wasn't prepared for how GOOD "On Green Dolphin Street" would be. Granted there are some specific touchstones for me, including the title which comes from a Miles Davis tune, and he's my fall time favourite jazz musician. And I have always had a fixation on the early sixties as Kenedy came to power. But really it's the writing that drew me in. Faulks is so descriptive in a really lyrical way, without laying it on too thick. This i ...more
Becky Motew
Apr 26, 2016 Becky Motew rated it liked it
I like a man who's not afraid to write a love story.

But this one is a little low-key, a little wandering and dull, though I hate to say it about any SF book. He is one of my favorite writers and I read this book because it's the only one I haven't.

Brits in DC in the JFK era and I enjoyed some of the complaints they had, such as American coffee being too hot and too weak? I didn't know that. Maybe that's why Starbucks caught on. Also Mary notes how many monuments there are in DC when the US after
On Green Dolphin Street began strongly, with all the sense of period and the kind of photographic impressionism which marks Faulks' writing at its best. He is very good at capturing a sense of the time and place in which the van der Lindens were living—Washington and New York and London in the heady days of Kennedy's race for the White House, a world of embassy parties and diplomatic intrigues and beat poets—as well as sketching out the kinds of people which they were. And yet as the novel progr ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Jane rated it liked it

Birdsong, another book by this author, was one of my favorite books of all time so when I saw this book in a thrift store, I grabbed it. I found myself being mildly disappointed by this novel, set during the Kennedy-Nixon campaign, and against a background of the US-Soviet cold war. This book was about an affair between the wife of a British diplomat and an American news reporter. I wanted to care deeply about these characters, who dealt with pressures both from the outside and from within. But
Apr 27, 2016 Alan rated it liked it
An intense romance back by historical events. After Birdsong and Charlotte Grey which could be described as historical events backed by intense romances, this was unexpected even though the back cover did explain that this novel was a new departure for Faulks.

Did not disappoint although I found it did not flow smoothly in places - much as with A Week in December. Nevertheless definitely compulsive reading as it drew to a close and apart from the romance, an effective depiction of the political
Hmmm. If I could give 3 and a half I'd give it. I liked the beginning and the ending but got a bit lost somewhere in the middle, just after married heroine starts her doomed love affair. Then it all got a bit wallowy/thinky, interspersed with politics. Then it started getting better again when she had to go to horrible late fifties/sixties Commie Russia to rescue her husband. War, (cold and vietnam), doomed love affairs - maybe I've just read a bit too much Mr Faulks in too close a dose recently ...more
Apr 22, 2016 Popup-ch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, fiction, 2016
Love, briefly glimpsed, in an otherwise unremarkable life.

Mary, the diplomat's wife leads a dull, but fulfilling life, taking care of her drunkard husband and kids, when she encounters Frank and falls in love.

Ultimately she chooses duty over desire, and they both regret it.

It's not a new story, nor are there any overly unexpected plot twists, but Faulks manages to give meaning to the mundane and charisma to his characters.

I'm not familiar with Miles Davis, or the song with the same title as the
Robert Ditterich
Apr 07, 2016 Robert Ditterich rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
One of my favourite authors, Faulks has given me much to think about over the years, and this certainly delivers on that score.

Outwardly the story takes characters on the periphery of political and international tension in the 1960's, using the events of upheaval as a backdrop for some otherwise ordinary lives.

His objects though are to explore meanings of fidelity, personality, mortality and death. It is in the last of these that he moved me the most. The narrative itself left me a little frustr
Angela Brooks
Mar 04, 2015 Angela Brooks rated it it was amazing
On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks: A wonderful book, set during the cold war in the late 1950's, and an important American election campaign, an enduring love affair develops between married Mary and journalist Frank. The writing captures the morality of the times bringing the characters alive and holding the readers attention with every phrase, every word. The tension and the romance combine, drawing one in compellingly. No spoilers here - but a recommendation. Unputdownable!
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Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independe ...more
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“Until she had had children of her own she had not been able to contemplate the death of either of her parents; when the subject had arisen, in conversation or in her own imagining, she had said only: I just don't know what I'd do.” 1 likes
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