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The Gate of Angels

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  751 ratings  ·  100 reviews
In 1912, rational Fred Fairly, one of Cambridge's best and brightest, crashes his bike and wakes up in bed with a stranger - fellow casualty Daisy Saunders, a charming, pretty, generous working-class nurse. So begins a series of complications - not only of the heart but also of the head - as Fred and Daisy take up each other's education and turn each other's philosophies u ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published April 3rd 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1990)
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Community Reviews

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Within the last year i've developed the nasty habit of doing two things in bed i never had before: eating and watching television. i know. Disgusting to read, debilitating to experience - as these can only be called habits by the kindest or least caring minds and are in fact addictions of the first order. They do only harm and as the compulsion becomes and less manageable, so the satisfactions become more and more illusory.
If i were a dog or some other trainable entity, the idea would be to rewa
Penelope Fitzgerald wrote such rare small gems,and there just are not enough of them, so I spread them out. This time I chose The Gate of Angels, a novel set in turn of the century Cambridge. The plot is slender,a simple love story,but it is the comic backdrop of a pre-war Cambridge with its silly clubs, long worn out traditions and eccentric personalities that makes this book something to cherish. Fred Fairly's college is having a remarkably difficult time crossing the bridge from the 19th to t ...more
The more you read Fitzgerald the more her habits become apparent: class anxieties, differences between the interplay of intelligence and education - although I've never yet read a character of hers for whom either is mutually exclusive - a stylistic brevity that like Daisy Saunders, this novel's heroine, comes down to the fact that quarrelling is a luxury reserved for those who can afford the time. The construction of the novel as short story, with the big final OH SNAP moment coming in three li ...more
Justin Evans
This could easily have turned into a fairly silly 'positivist-scientist comes to see that there's at least one thing that he can't explain positivistically, viz., love' kind of tale, which I'd be fine with under other circumstances, but I expect more from Fitzgerald. And she delivers more, much more--emotionally compelling, intellectually riveting, and told with her usual cold, charming narrator's voice. But most importantly she avoids the romantic-comedy category by making it very clear that Fr ...more
Rose Gowen
The title gave me pause.

But there were no supernatural chicks, so it was okay. This was my favorite of my Fitzgerald binge. Really good. Funny. Forster-ish.

Here's a quote:

"When the whole of the men's ward had been persuaded to face the morning, the patients washed, wounds dressed, the windows facing the world open an inch and a half, those away from the wind open six inches, all of them two inches less than in the night, when the gas jets were burning, the abdominal cases on their backs, the apo
At first I could not see (and therefore could not believe in) the attraction between Fred and Daisy. Beyond the circumstances of their meeting there seems not one common bond between them. No shared interests or values; no shared history or education. So what draws reticent, organized and practical, scientific-minded Fred who goes through life looking for rational explanations to free-spirit Daisy who accepts all that comes her way with direct, unapologetic honesty and never makes excuses or shi ...more
Superb book. Intelligent, very funny and poignant. Lovely clean clear writing style, very evocative without any purple prose. Perfect.
Though they are never referenced (that I remember) there is a trace of Dante and John Donne about this novel, set in the Cambridge of 1912. Fred Fairly, a rector’s son, has recently renounced religious faith in favor of the natural sciences and a career at St. Angelicus College. One day he is involved in a serious road accident with another cyclist and a horse-drawn farm cart. While recovering from the accident he meets the other cyclist, Daisy Saunders, for a mere half hour and falls hopelessly ...more
Loaned to me by my friend, Serena Sinclair Lesley, former fashion editor of the Daily Telegraph, "The Gate of Angels" is a mere 167 pages. It is a gem. Tells two stories: Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the staid, all-male Cambridge college of St. Angelicus ("Angels")and Daisy Saunders, a trainee nurse with undeniable chutzpah. It takes place at the turn of the 20th century. Fred is a scientist and has thrown over the religion of his father, a vicar. Daisy is a no-nonsense working-class girl who ...more
A deceptively slim and amiable volume. Fitzgerald writes engagingly, wittily but sparingly, to both devilish and angelic effect. All the world, in all its charm, weakness, intelligence, irrationality, hopefulness, and humanity lies between these pages; but be warned: to blink would be to miss it.

Anyone who knows Cambridge (England) will recognise the breath-taking precision in astute and experienced observation which anchors lines such as “There was a hint of coming weakness in his voice, just a
A simple and elegant book, with attractive characters and real ideas. In 1912 Cambridge, Fred Fairly coasts along as a college junior fellow, following science and believing in reason. A bicycle accident propels Daisy, a failed nurse of the working class and passing wonder and faith, into his life. Fitzgerald focuses on the lives of each, her chapters short vignettes. Fred is handled with gentle humor, almost in the manner of academic farce, while Daisy's life follows more tragic paths. But they ...more
Dan Dwyer
We can only guess at the ending

Normally, I feel very unsatisfied when I read an ending that leaves a reader up in the air, but not in the case of this refreshing though at times aggravating book. Let me clear up the aggravating business first. Half the book was taken up with a young student/professor type and the second half by a prospective nurse who fails for thinking she is doing something good when she commits the unfathomable sin of going to the press for the sake of a patient. These unlike
Not so good as I expected. From the scientific point of view, a disaster, Dame Fitzgerald didn't find the right point in my humble opinion.
I confess I was disappointed by this book. That is not to say I disliked it, but the Penelope Fitzgerald books I haven't read are dwindling, and I begin each remaining one with almost juvenile anticipation. I will delay Innocence as I did The Gate of Angels but will try to keep my expectations for the former in check after the mere adequacy of the latter.

It's a neo-Victorian (Edwardian?) story told in her usual wry and delicate style but it doesn't have quite the deft touch of The Blue Flower o
Beautifully written novel, set in pre-WW1 Cambridge. Tells the stories of Fred Farley, a Fellow in Physics at Cambridge, and Daisy, a working-class Londoner who aspires to become a nurse. While Farley and his colleagues have their heads in the clouds debating the intellectual questions of the period, Daisy lives and suffers the consequences of being a poor woman in 1912 England. When Daisy and Fred quite literally run into each other in a biking accident, Fred resolves to give up his fellowship ...more
I was going to say that this was a love story, but then I remembered that only one of the protagonists is in love with the other. This is, I find, the more usual state of affairs. However this is a short, witty story with a happy ending set in Cambridge and London at the beginning of the 20th century.

Cambridge and London are not to be understood as high falutin'. This is an archaic Cambridge with male only colleges with celibate staff at the birth of modern physics and a London, well like it is,
A charming -- and unexpectedly sombre -- pre-WWI set-piece, a love story that could seem slight but is enriched throughout by an awareness of the struggle of women to find fulfilling jobs, educations, and lives in a culture designed to belittle, confine, and exclude them. The novel charts the concentric circuits of ideas about knowledge and ignorance, about honesty and concealment, about "unobservables" and how they affect the trajectories of atoms and of lives. Much quiet humour and an enjoyabl ...more
Richard Moss
Another quietly brilliant novel by Penelope Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald loves an underdog - and in The Gate of Angels she alights on two - Fred and Daisy, brought together in a bicycling accident in Cambridge.

On the face of it, Fred - a Junior Fellow at the fictional St Angelicus College - seems to have the advantages, over the working class, penniless Daisy. But it's Fred who ends up as the pursuer after their accidental brief encounter.

The time is significant - it's 1912 with the Edwardian era neari
Glen Engel-Cox
I can't remember where I first heard of Fitzgerald, although I suspect it was from one of the well-read subscribers to Rondua, the Jonathan Carroll mailing list. She is not a magic realist or fantasy author (as far as I can tell from reviews of her work and the present volume), although the book in question could be considered a ghost story it one wanted to interpret it that way. Of the authors of my acquaintance, she most resembles Robertson Davies in style and form. I don't think that I am cre ...more
This is the second novel by Penelope Fitzgerald I have read. I very much enjoyed "The Bookshop". I think I gave it 5 stars out of 5. "The Gate of Angels" has a very slow start. It takes place in 1912 Cambridge and is the story of Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the college of St Angelicus, where for centuries no female has been allowed to set foot. He falls in love with Daisy after crashing into her while they are both bicycling. This is when the story really picks up with the introduction of Da ...more
Steve Mayer
Like The Only Problem, this addresses issues, such as the disjunction between faith and science, that i couldn't care less about. Interesting in spots, especially for an anglophile, but there are too many odd digressions. The end is first-rate, but the love affair isn't developed enough to be interesting. The best part of the novel is the description of Daisy's London life, which gives a vivid sense of what it must have been like to be a poor young orphaned woman in London at the turn of the cen ...more
Penelope Fitzgerald is the greatest novelist you've probably not read at all, save you Amanda. The efficiency of words rivals Coetzee. The humor and despair match Joyce and Beckett. The echoes and recollections of memory of time feel like - do I even need to say it? - Woolf. This book is a love story that refuses to do anything by the book (thanks Juliet Capulet). Mops isn't sentimental. Like with the previous book she writes before this, The Beginning of Spring, she leaves the ending wonderfull ...more
Carey Combe
Confusing, boring and uninteresting
A very close look at a very particular setting and time period. I wanted a bit more of the 'modern age knocking at the gate' debate with regards to the nature of science and the integrity of theology/faith. The 'academical exchanges' were fun as were the social exchanges - esp. when lines were blurred/barriers dropped between socio-economic status.

Main characters were distinct and interesting to follow. I think I'd have liked a longer book so more depth could be shared. Ending a bit 'meh' for me
As a lover of lists - not the real-life kinds of to-dos and groceries, etc. - but of trivial things, I needed to stop and re-read several dazzling paragraphs of lists used to transport the reader to life one hundred years ago.

And I love chapter headings. Why don't more authors do that nowdays? Several times I flipped back to check something because the headings made that easy to do.

My second Fitzgerald and life-long readers know this feeling - book 1 was good, book 2 you find yourself attracted
In 1911 Fred Fairly is involved in a bicycle crash with two other cyclists, one of whom identifies herself as Daisy Saunders. After some confusion as to her marital status (although she wears a wedding-ring, she has not married yet), the two of them seem to hit it off - but only briefly. The two of them part, but Fred cannot forget her.

The plot unfolds in two parallel strands: one involving Fred, the other Daisy. Fred is a Junior Fellow at St. Angelicus College in Cambridge, a physicist with wha
The Gate of Angels follows the lives of Fred Fairly, Junior Fellow at a fictional Cambridge college, and Daisy Saunders, by turns nurse probationer, house maid, and ward maid. Predictably the lives of Fred and Daisy intersect by accident during a bike accident on a country road. The novel centers around the cause and effect of the accident.
Although one of the more skeptical members of my Women Fiction Writers class likened it to a Harlequin doctor-nurse romance (and she's right,in a practical s
Christine Martin
Interesting story, basically just a how two people met. What I liked was how richly she developed the characters, and her wonderful dialogue. Penelope Fitzgerald really is a talent. My only real complaint was that I didn't connect with the characters. I enjoyed the journey, but I wasn't deeply concerned for this couple. I honestly wasn't torn up at the idea of them not being together. I wanted them to be, but I was okay with them being apart too. Again, it was the journey of these too took, not ...more
I didn't get this book at all. I even had to have the ending explained to me because it seemed like the book I had was a misprint and I thought the book got cut off before the story was finished!

Fred Fairly and Daisy Saunders are the main characters in this love affair/novel....Fred is a Cambridge student questioning faith and in search of science and "truths". Daisy is a nurse who seems to have lots of bad luck but is apparently very attractive because men are always falling for her. Fred is on
"Some of the eighteen other second-year (Nurse) probationers - but not all of them, some were cautious- bought a leaving present for her. There was not much time, and they had to settle for a traveling salt-and pepper set, said to be new china, and decorated with a view of the coronation of George V. Daisy was grateful. Disgrace contaminates, even though it makes everyone else feel a little safer."
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Penelope Fitzgerald was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. In 2008, The Times included her in a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". In 2012, The Observer named her final novel, The Blue Flower, as one of "the ten best historical novels".

Fitzgerald was the author of nine novels. Her novel Offshore was the winner of the Booker Prize. A further three novels — The B
More about Penelope Fitzgerald...
The Bookshop The Blue Flower Offshore The Beginning of Spring Human Voices

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“To every separate person a thing is what he thinks it is – in other words, not a thing, but a think.” 1044 likes
“More than that, I believe that the grass is green because green is restful to the human eye, that the sky is blue to give us an idea of the infinite. And that blood is red so that murder will be more easily detected and criminals will be brought to justice. Yes, and I believe that I shall live forever, but I shall live without reason.” 5 likes
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