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The Nightingales of Troy

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  157 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
In 1908, Mamie Garrahan faces childbirth aided by her arsenic-eating sister-in-law Kitty, a nun who grows opium poppies, and a doctor who prescribes Bayer Heroin. "In the twentieth century, I believe there are no saints left," Mamie remarks. But her daughters and granddaughter test this notion with far-reaching consequences. Kitty's arsenic reappears sixty years later in t ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published February 15th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published July 7th 2008)
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Jul 14, 2008 Zed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults, esp women
Recommended to Zed by: Monica Twillinger
This is a new form of fiction - the connected short story collection. The first book I read using this structure was Andrea Barrett's "Servants Of The Map", which was excellent. Fulton has stretched the form a little further by setting each of ten stories in a successive decade of the 1900's. There are a few common characters but the stories all involve members of a single Irish-American family, the Garrahans, living in the upper Hudson Valley, especially the city of Troy and environs. The men i ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review-copy
BookBrowse interview with Alice Fulton.

"The world presented here is a dark one, punctuated as it is with madness, a drowning, hospitalization, unfulfilled desires, and an unhappy marriage, but realism is never used for the sake of preventing nostalgia, and never overwhelms. Moments of genuine humor are juxtaposed with seriousness. Though you may find yourself wishing the characters would emerge unscarred, happiness is not found in the avoidance of pain. It's found, wisely, in the midst of it—thr
This book will haunt me for a long time because it's about the inevitable, and will delight for a long time with its humor and celebration of people and their will to live. It is "hardy but not comely," as Mamie Garrahan says of herself; it is not pretty, but it's striking and beautiful. As Mamie says, "Happiness is nothing but God's presence in the silence of the nerves." And as Father Jolley observes, "All education which does not soften the heart is wasted."

Fulton shows her characters' natur
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
There were a lot of things I liked about these stories, and I wish I had written a review right after I finished them. But I didn't, so a few quotes I copied from the book will have to suffice.

"Never a Dull Moment...What did people have against dull moments, anyway? The best things in life were dull."

"All education which does not soften the heart is wasted."

"Silence is so steadfast, you know. It is so ample, after all."
Jane Johnson
Fulton is a magician. Like Louise Erdrich, she has POV chapters that let you see much more than the individual characters but on top of that she spreads these lives and stories over the last century. Each chapter feels like the time period, especially the dialogue. I remember those WTRY jingles, and I love the Hudson River in this book. No one else has brought this area alive like these stories. Wow.
Aug 03, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alice Fulton steps from poet to short story collection with grace and beauty. The Nightingales of Troy is deftly constructed and introduced the reader to several generations of women from one family living in Troy NY from 1909-1999. Moving from laughter to tears, often in the same story, Fulton depicts fully drawn characters that the reader will not soon forget.
Nov 18, 2008 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
This novel is written in a great way--from many different points of view, many different narrators. It follows the lives of a family over a generation. The chapters are 'mini stories' narrated by different characters in the story. It gives a great view of relationships from different perspectives.
Sep 26, 2008 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've only read half this book so far, but I have to say that these are some of the most brilliant, well-crafted, original, and interesting stories I've read in a loooong time. Highly recommended!
Apr 22, 2009 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: serious-fiction
To get the full force of this book, read it slowly, read it aloud to yourself or to someone else. There's great pain here, but this book also celebrates the beautiful, funny, weirdness of life.
Amanda Miller
Apr 15, 2009 Amanda Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I highly recommend these connected stories! An excellent read with really beautiful writing!
Nov 18, 2008 Rae rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"That night, Ruth lay awake, obsessing. They were entering the last day of the century, and she had no plan. You must change your life!...
Ruth sometimes composed imaginary perfumes to put herself to sleep. Now she thought of a fragrance that smelled only of water, a perfume that had forgotten its flowers. Lethe. That's what she'd name it." (p. 246-247, "L'Air du Temps")

I should say I'm kind of uninterested in family epics in general - there always seems to be something strange about the fact tha
Jul 01, 2013 Eva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who enjoys good fiction
Recommended to Eva by: a friend who reads
My favorite character is this lovely book is a funny, eccentric, willful, and dedicated nurse called Annie (named after Anne of Green Gables). The book begins with her birth and traverses the 20th century, showing her (and other characters) at different life stages. The title story, set in the 1930s, focuses on Annie's nursing, and Nightingales refers to Florence Nightingales (and to the bird in other parts of the book.) Annie's mother, her sisters, and her daughter are strong characters, too. O ...more
Apr 25, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, local-authors
Alice Fulton had me just twelve pages into her collection, when Mamie, a rural housewife in 1908 who is pregnant with her fifth child, begins to feel labor pains. “I stopped scrubbing the floor,” she says, “and began scouring buckets and bowls. I pumped water for boiling and placed torn strips of cloth in the oven to bake clean. A woman in labor should have plenty fixed for others to eat, yet I was caught short. I could only put a big plate of bread and butter on the table.” She ties towels to t ...more
Aug 26, 2009 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes great stories with lovely sentences
Alice Fulton is brilliant, a find, one of the most exciting contemporary writers I've read, right up there with Anthony Doerr, Lorrie Moore, and Annie Proulx. Fulton's character development is enviable, and the weaving of characters and themes through these interrelated stories is knockout good. She knows story. Example: her subtle allusion to Bartleby in "Not too Much to Ask," If you don't know Melville's story you'll miss just how effective this is. Even if you don't get the allusions (I doubt ...more
Shawn Adams
Dec 15, 2009 Shawn Adams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First time I read this was a year ago, and I just read it again. These stories remind me of Flannery O'Connor. All of them are wicked good. Fulton's the best short fiction writer I've read in years- and I read a lot of stories.
Michelle Wilson
Nov 13, 2009 Michelle Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The thing that I have most enjoyed is how these interlocking stories give a more intimate portrait of this family than a novel would. The writing is also tremendous.
Dec 29, 2014 Nora rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-physical
Although I liked the writing, characters, and story of this book just fine, it disappointed me because it hardly overlapped at all with the Troy that I have lived in while studying at RPI. What about the Troy picking itself up out of the post-industrial slump, the public library, the huge farmers' market, the vegan bakery, Sage College? Granted, the book ends in 1999, and most of that didn't exist yet. But the first two women to attend RPI graduated in 1946. They would have fit perfectly into th ...more
Carole Van domelen
connected stories that were beautifully written.
A quick read. Quirky characters. Fulton has a gift for creating distinctive voices and compelling the stories. She knit doesn't things up too tightly across stories, but leaves it to the reader to make those connections.

I don't have many complaints about the writing - except that in the early stories - maybe the first 1/3 of the book, there would be a line here or there that strained the narrative. The wording would be a little too eccentric and I wasn't sure whether it was the character who had
Jul 16, 2011 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was rather strange. I also found it difficult to follow the family line as the book progressed and kept turning back to figure out who the next story was about. Although when the story got to Annie, the nurse, it seemed that the stories unfolded more clearly. I didn't really care for some of the stories, but there were a few that tickled me!! The story about the girl who had problems and escaped from the mental institution was a favorite - especially when she put her sister's ...more
Jun 09, 2014 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. It had good moments, but the story collection format made it difficult to really get to know the characters. I liked some characters and others were boring. I prefer novels that take you deep into a person's life.
Apr 25, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First collection of linked stories, by my favorite contemporary poet.
Mar 25, 2015 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: A good review in the Seattle Times
I liked this book more as it went on; the last stories definitely had more of an impact. I greatly enjoyed the references to Troy and the Troy area: characters reading The Evangelist, ski bums flying up Hoosick St. to the slopes of Vermont, fish fries, St. Patrick's, Lord & Tann, Frear Park, along with many references to the Hudson River and its bridges. Fulton tells the stories with a tender heart. I laughed out loud many times, but also shed a tear for the hardships endured.
I liked the premise of this book: the story of a family over the last century based in Troy, NY (a local city for me), with different members of the family represented over time -- not really a chronology, but always moving forward in time. There was a fair amount of humor and some interesting characters, but it lacked something for me to get excited about.
Jan 19, 2010 Liz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book that spans generations of the same family. Each chapter looking at the life of different women from the family, and how they love, support and care for each other, sometimes in a dysfunctional way. It was enjoyable, at times funny, and also sad.
Abby Sominski
I was fascinated with this book from the first story, I felt like I was reading a new Jane Austen! I really enjoyed how the storytelling as well as the characters slowly modernized throughout the book and felt I knew the women in this family very well by it's end.
Dec 31, 2010 Terry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Lovely, I think, although I definitely liked some stories more than others--in the sense that I felt some stories were more carefully edited than others. Reminded me quite a bit of Melissa Banks, and that's a big compliment from me.
Jan 27, 2009 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
You could tell that this book was written by a poet. It had some one-of-a-kind, often hilarious turns of phrase, but I really had to concentrate to follow the author's train of thought (in the same way that I do when I read poetry).
Oct 07, 2008 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A set of stories with an interesting structure--each story advances 7-10 years in time and shifts perspective within an extended family. Some chapters are better than others, so that's why just three stars...
I just couldn't get into this book so I'm doing something I almost never do, which is just taking it back to the library without even finishing it.
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“Silence is so steadfast, you know. It is so ample, after all.” 4 likes
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