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On Green Dolphin Street

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  2,219 ratings  ·  166 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
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

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Amy
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
Richda Mcnutt
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
Mathew
Sep 28, 2008 Mathew rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Jon
My first Sebastian Faulks, and I'm looking forward to more. Another Goodreads reader described it as "a complex and genuine love story...like 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
Jeremy
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
Heather
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
Thandi
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.
Tony Nielsen
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
Lis
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
Al
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
BookAmbler
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
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Mark
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
Siria
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
Martinxo
My first novel by Faulks and it's a good one. Set in the 50s US, has a backdrop of great jazz. Well told story, actually it's a love story and I felt very sad at the end...
Rebecca
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
Rachel
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
Jenny
My first thoughts were that I had heard good reviews of Sebastian Faulks but had only read 'A Week In December', which I wasn't that excited by. However, I do love books set in this era and thought it looked an interesting read. I then got to the point of thinking, just what I need, yet another book/story of someone dying of cancer, however unlike the usual dramatic and unrealistic ways of dealing with this subject, I thought it was dealt with quite sensitively and in some aspects I could sympat ...more
Jane

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
...more
Dona Matthews
imperfectly written-- moments of brilliant insight into people's motivations, inner lives, and self-destructive behaviours, and some sloppy writing that feels as if it was impatiently done with insufficent thought or editing; some interesting observations of english perceptions of americans, and vice versa
David
Mary and Charlie are an English couple living in Washington in 1959 as John F. Kennedy battles for the Presidency and the Cold War continues to heat up. Charlie is not Mary's first love as he died in the Second World War, the other global collision that continues to loom large in the lives of the principal characters. Mary is content though, at the age of forty, she is really feeling the dual pressure of caring for her children and for her parents back in Britain. Charlie struggles with life and ...more
Barb
Mary van der Linden, the wife of a British diplomat during the election of Kennedy and Nixon, finds herself in Washington, DC. Through the social life of Washington, she meets Frank, a reporter working on the election, They begin a love affair. The book chronicles Mary's struggle to make a decision between her alcoholic husband, her children, her lover, and her life in London with her elderly parents.
The author does a great job of describing the sights and sound of the streets of New York City i
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Elaine
Well, Faulks' "Birdsong" is one of my all-time favorites. I enjoyed this one, but it certainly didn't have the intensity of "Birdsong". Interestingly, the few minor war scenes in this novel were very vivid -- perhaps Faulks is a real "war novel" kind of guy.

The central story here is of a wife, her formerly delightful (and now mentally ill and alcoholic) husband and diplomat, and a NY-based journalist who becomes the woman's lover. There are beautifully rendered scenes of Mary and Frank's time to
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Matt Haydon
I wrote an initial review on this one that said "I think I might sit on the fence with this one. I am undecided if I liked it or not". Well, after giving it a couple of days thought I have decided that I did in fact enjoy it. I find myself still thinking about the story and the characters and can't help but wish that there was a little bit more and so come to the conclusion that yes, I liked it.

I normally like the kind of story that has a beginning, a middle and an end and everything gets tied
...more
Cindy
I love Sebastian Faulks and Birdsong is on my top ten list. On Green Dolphin Street is a good book but fell short of Faulk's greatness for this reader. The ambiance is there, the heartbreak, and the heady politics of the early 1960s is told in realistic detail, but there was something predictable about the book, and I don't mean about Kennedy winning. It's all a very heartwrenching story, and a good one, but to me, Sebastian just didn't live up to his unique talents. The story he was telling was ...more
Michael Nutt

You could never accuse Sebastian Faulks of playing on past successes or staying to mine a particularly profitable seam. The diversity of his stories, set in a variety of periods and locations, with their different styles and themes, means you never know what his next work will be like. I came to Faulks through his 'Engelby' of 2007, an unusual and gripping story set in Cambridge University in the 1970s and told from the first person perspective of a disordered mind - while the central mystery of
...more
Alison
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Barbara
Another great novel by Sebastian Faulks!
Although Birdsong is still my favorite ,once again he captures an era with attention to detail. this time it's the 60's - Communism is a big threat, America is recovering from the scars of the McCarthy era, and the characters are all influenced by their past experiences in the War. two relationships are the central focus, one quite passionate and the other having become motivated more by attachment and duty. The novel is about what happens against the back
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Peter Harben
This was an extremely solid read in so many ways. Set in Washington DC at the end of the 1950s it revolves around a British couple at the embassy. It covers the events and feelings of the times, the McCarthy era, the morals, the Cold War, and Kennedy vs Nixon election, the hope and the dreams. It weaves aspects of time, the lack or it and waste of it, how some individuals occupy their lives with responsibility, family, friends, country, beliefs, and passion while others see the end coming and re ...more
Dee Sweitzer
This is a love story and a story of the effects of WWII on the men who served and on their loved ones. The novel is set in Washington D. C., New York and mainly revolves around 3 characters: Charlie, who is posted to the British Embassy, his wife Mary and her lover Frank, a journalist. It is set in 1960 when the Eisenhower years were drawing to a close and the ruthlessly competitive Nixon/Kennedy presidential campaign signaled the beginning of a different decade. This is the world of martinis, c ...more
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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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