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Queen of the Underworld

2.92 of 5 stars 2.92  ·  rating details  ·  441 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Here at last is the eagerly awaited new novel from New York Times bestselling author Gail Godwin. Queen of the Underworld is sweeping and sultry literary fiction, featuring a memorable young heroine and engaging characters whose intimate dramas interconnect with hers.
In the summer of 1959, as Castro clamps down on Cuba and its first wave of exiles flees to the States to w
Audio CD, Abridged, 0 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by RH Audio (first published January 1st 2006)
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aPriL eVoLvEs
It never pulls together, no focus. It seems like a cross between a diary with pages torn out at the end and a coming of age story that loses that angle mid way to meander off in dead ends. On top of that was a bizarre pointless Mitty kind of imagining of what might have happened to people she met day dreams that I kept waiting to have some kind of reason for being there but never did. Plus I began to dislike this young woman as the novel went on. Her ambition and overcoming childhood difficultie ...more
I have loved many of Gail Godwin's other books, but this one somehow isn't in the same league as "A Southern Family" and "Father Melancholy's Daughter." Nevertheless, it was a very interesting portrait of life in Miami in 1959 when the heroine, fresh from Chapel Hill, arrives in Miami to start a job as a reporter. Her aunt finds her a place to stay in a residential hotel on Miami Beach that happens to be a magnet for wealthy Cuban refugees from Castro.
I probably could give it 4 stars for engagin
Liddy Barlow
I had high hopes for this, since I'd really enjoyed Gail Godwin's Father Melancholy's Daughter, but I was not at all impressed. The narrator is not particularly sympathetic or believable (you're complaining about what assignments you're given on your first day working at a newspaper after graduating from college? whatever) and pretty much none of the plot lines are resolved in the slightest by the end of the book.
Normally I like Gail Godwin. Not this time. This one felt both unedited and pointless. There was a lot of repetition, giving information about something that we'd all ready read--- and given in the identical way, as if the passage had been cut and pasted from one section of the book to the other. And no resolution to particular story lines. Too bad. A disappointment from an otherwise fine writer.
Claudia Putnam
I love Gail Godwin, but this is not my favorite. I loved what I learned about Miami and the way it was being affected by the Cuban Revolution in real time. The repetition was annoying--a couple reminiscing about how they met, followed a few chapters later by a flashback to how they met which gives the same information--or information we already knew then written in a letter. Also, too much of the story's information is conveyed through dialogue--in fact, almost all of the action takes place thro ...more
I see why people feel that this book lacks focus in terms of a central story line. But that's exactly why I loved it. Emma Gant is the storyline and her growth and exploration are what pulls the reader along. The many different facets of the plot, including the Cuban revolution provide a perfect backdrop for a rich, lively, and unpretentious young heroine. If you are looking for a detailed historical fiction, a suspenseful scandal story, or a profound romance, then you may be disappointed - but ...more
I know that Gail Godwin's name is on the cover but I'm struggling to believe she wrote this. My Gail Goodwin can spin phrases that stop me in my tracks. The depth of her characters blows me away. That's why I can't believe she wrote this book. The only thing positive is that she used a straight forward newspaper style. The style works in this context because the heroine is a new college grad in her first week as reporter. It's appropriate but not engaging. I don't have to be afraid of spoilers b ...more
Utterly disappointing. The central character was white bread vanilla, though she made noises about amounting to something. all the interesting characters swirled around her, but with not enough face time in the story. I was left hanging as to what happened to everyone. Feh.

A couple of good points about the book though: It filled me in on Miami history and the Cuban revolution at the time it was happening and I learned a lot about perfume making (though not so much about newspaper writing.)
I read Gail Godwin's books back in the early '90s and loved them so I was looking forward to reading this book. She started out okay and introduced several possible plot lines but she didn't deliver. The author could have done so much more with this book. Whoever did the editing didn't do their job. This looks more like a first draft instead of a published novel. There was much repetition and musings of trivial events and there were several threads left dangling. I probably would not have finish ...more
Monica Tomasello
While I loved the characters in this book, especially Emma, and I enjoyed the historical education, I found the ending unsatisfactory. It was as though Godwin decided that she was tired of writing and just decided to stop. Nothing was wrapped up. I liked learning about the history of the Jewish faction and the Cuban refugees in Miami, but I didn't really like the way she inserted some of Emma's articles into the story. The longer ones detracted from the flow of the story. It felt choppy and disj ...more
I had the audio version of this book, so my inability to finish had as much, or more, to do with problems with the format than with the qualities of the book, itself. When changing from disk to disk (even though it was an electronic download rather than actual disks) it seemed to skip entire sections of the story. There was enough revisiting of previously detailed scenes that I was never quite sure whether there was actual skipping, or whether the author was using sudden stops in the action, and ...more
Amanda Hankins
“Queen of the Underworld” is Gail Godwin’s highly anticipated novel that centers on a female protagonist with naïve tendencies. As a Florida Native and Gail Godwin enthusiast, I was very jazzed about reading this. However I had a hard time connecting to the characters and plots. Emma Gant a flighty young southern author who makes her way to the debauchery that is Miami to spend time working for pennies as a newspaper reporter. Her dream of becoming a writer is quickly overshadowed with her Jane ...more
Diane A Brown
Young Emma Gant, a new graduate from J school, has recently received her first assignment, working as the Miami Star’s newest reporter. This is her chance to break free from a small town existence, a controlling step father and to live her dream. Following an interesting train ride she arrives at her hotel, escorted by her aunt Tess. The surroundings are not what she expected, not even a view of the beach. Disappointed yet pleased with its potential, the Julia Tuttle becomes her sanctuary, her c ...more
This is the story of a girl who graduates from college and sets out to start her new life as a reporter at the Miami Star. She's full of ambition and starts off running with the job. She's also in love with a married man named Paul who lives in Miami part of the year. It's an enjoyable tale as she quickly makes friends with a lot of people, including a large number of Cuban refugees in the hotel where she stays.

However, just when it seems like she's got a great start on building her new life, sh
Linda Meg
not my favorite Gail Godwin novel. in fact this is the second time I have read it, not because it was so good but because it was so forgettable. I read about 1/3 of it before I realized I had read it previously and since I couldn't remember the ending I just continued to read. when I reached the last period on the last page I understood why I hadn't remembered the ending. the book doesn't so much reach a conclusion. it just stops.
Jacki Nelson
Although this I didn't think this was the best written work of Gail Godwin what she did well was to put some insight into what it was like for a Cuban family fleeing Cuba and how the expanded Miami Cuban community began. Having grown up with a friend from this era, I believe she captured it beautifully.
Jenny Yates
In this novel, set in Miami in the early 60s, just after Castro took power in Cuba, the characters are interesting, the writing good, and the plot minimalist. The protagonist, Emma Gant, is a young journalist, just moved to Miami, flirting with being a femme fatale, and at the same time, trying to be taken seriously by the old dogs at the newspaper. She develops a fascination for a local character, a woman who is now respectable but has a colorful past as a madam in a brothel.

The historical and
A disappointment from one of my favorite authors. Right through to the last page, it felt like she was setting up a story that never took off. A young woman who, in the first pages, has just graduated from the journalism school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, takes a job at the Miami Star (in part because the 40+-year-old married man with whom she began an affair when she worked for him the previous summer), and a room in a hotel in 1959 occupied mostly by Cuban exiles as the ...more
I'm kind of torn on this book. I picked it up at Goodwill because the jacket cover and description interested me. It's set in 1959 Miami as Castro is taking over Cuba and wealthy refugees are fleeing to the United States. This is a topic that is always of interest to me. There are just too many loose ends. The author lays the groundwork for many dramas then just leaves them and doesn't come back to them ever! A fresh out of college young woman moves to Miami to go to work as a reported for the n ...more
NOT your typical Gail Godwin. This story of a young newspaper reporter in 1959 Miami is interesting for its treatment of the newspaper business in an earlier era and the situation in Miami at a time when formerly wealthy Cuban refugees are camping the hotels of south Florida to "wait out" Castro. But the end of the book leaves you asking "What -- it that all there is?"
This is another historical fiction book club selection that I wanted to love. Women's lib in 1959 and the expatriation of Cubans after Castro took the helm had potential for some great conflicts and lessons. My theory about Queen of the Underworld is that the author had one of those typical, but important transitions from college to the working world and decided that; even though her tale had no plot whatsoever; because the era and locale were globally significant, that her story would be as wel ...more
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#16 02/07/06 QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD by Gail Godwin
RATING: 4.5/B+
GENRE/PUB DATE/ # OF CD's: Fiction, 2006, 10 cd's
TIME/PLACE: Late 1950's/Early 1960's, Miami, FL
CHARACTERS: Emma Gant/journalist
COMMENTS: Emma graduates from college in North Carolina & moves to Miami for a job w/ the Miami Star newspaper. Emma's 1st week on the job is filled w/ news stories from
a tornado, a Cuban dentist smuggling arms, and meeting Genevra, the Queen of the Underworld. Genevra, is now married to a doctor but w
Disappointing. Appealing main character--a North Carolina girl with an abusive stepfather starts a new life as a "cub reporter" in MIami and lives in a Miami hotel run by and catering to exiles from Castro's Cuba. There are a lot of vivid characters--an older Jewish man she has an affair with; the Jewish lover's aunt, who makes custom perfumes and survived a Nazi camp during the Holocaust; a Georgia country girl who is groomed to be the madam of an upscale bordello. Any one of these could have m ...more
Sharman Egan
This review is for the book on tape. Maybe the book on paper was better. I'll never know. After listening to Stephanie Zimbalist do her version of a Southern accent for thirty minutes, I was done. What is it about Southern accents? If I pick up a book on tape set in Brooklyn, will the reader use an offensive, overdone, fake accent? If so, I don't remember it. (Yes, they do the hard-on-the-ears NY accents on TV, but that's TV. I'd like to think that the publisher of this BOT would have slightly h ...more
I enjoyed this book very much finished it in just a few sittings. I was drawn in by the protagonist, Emma. Reading other Good Reads reviews, it seems some found it harder to relate to Emma. I thought her ambitions and expectations were " larger than life" but believable; like the "Queen of the Underworld" character who fascinates her, Emma is determined to leave her humble roots (and soul-crushing step-father) behind and become a success whatever the cost. Meanwhile, she strives to learn all she ...more
I felt pretty indifferent about this when I finished it, but found myself reading reviews and interviews about it, and decided I was affronted, a little, but people's negative responses to the protagonist, and that I really liked its depictions of its Miami setting. So, the critics seem to really dislike the main character, but I was sympathetic toward her. The author seemed to be, also (I'm getting that Gail Godwin's themes are fairly autobiographical). If you read it, please let me know what y ...more
Michelle Canick
A good book, but I never warmed up to the main character. Most interesting aspect to me was the setting - south Florida during the initial influx of Cubans fleeing Castro.
Bonnie G
I hadn't read anything by Gail Godwin for a long time, but I did remember she was a good storyteller and character creator. This book did not disappoint. I immediately liked the main character Emma who is just starting out as a journalist for a MIami newspaper. She is both naive and savvy when interacting with the other characters. I also liked the time period, just after Castro came to power in Cuba. The characters in the novel have no idea what will develop in Cuba and MIami while we the reade ...more
Emma Gant graduates college and moves to Miami to pursue a career in journalism as well as access to her married lover. Set in the time of the Cuban Revolution, around 1959 (my guess).

The Emma character was very real to me and I could really relate to her ambition and expectations. I loved the way the character studies the older women who come into her life and takes on parts of their personalities in different situations.

The novel is probably chick lit but it isn't cute. I will definitely be re
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Queen of the Underwold by Gail Godwin 1 12 Mar 23, 2008 01:26PM  
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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
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