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On Green Dolphin Street

3.49  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,650 Ratings  ·  187 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

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Nov 08, 2014 Martinxo rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2014
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...
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
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
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 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
Graham Crawford
Jan 28, 2015 Graham Crawford rated it it was amazing
I can see why many people think this is Faulks' best novel! It's a piece of great literature, so it's not really about any one thing - it's about itself. When I open it in the future I am sure to experience a new and wondrous thing.

I don't think I have read a better dissection of an affair. When I saw where this was heading I cringed, but Faulks was able to tease something universal and new out of the tired old love triangle. His writing in the love scenes transcended passionate - moving me so
Apr 26, 2014 Jenny rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Dona Matthews
Dec 16, 2010 Dona Matthews rated it really liked it
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
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.
Bev Taylor
Jan 02, 2015 Bev Taylor rated it really liked it
mary is married to charlie who works at the british embassy in washington. they have travelled all over the world together and have two great kids

life revolve around parties, jazz and plenty of booze but their perfect life is about to be shattered when frank walks into their lives.

all changes and the paths of various characters overlap, mixed with the election between nixon and kennedy, the fbi and wars

to be honest i was not too impressed with the story but the prose grips u - a real professi
Nov 03, 2014 Barb rated it liked it
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
Nov 09, 2013 LindyLouMac rated it really liked it
I read this in 2001
Nov 03, 2008 Elaine rated it liked it
Shelves: book-clubs
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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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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