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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  20,641 ratings  ·  2,867 reviews
In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House.

Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. The story is
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Hachette Books
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KATHLEEN My version has no quotes. It doesn't bother me, but I have read many books over the years that were the same format. I save my inner grammar-Nazi for …moreMy version has no quotes. It doesn't bother me, but I have read many books over the years that were the same format. I save my inner grammar-Nazi for internet posts.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Barbara Fraser I was disappointed about that also. I like everything tired up at the end .
I was disappointed about that also. I like everything tired up at the end .

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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  20,641 ratings  ·  2,867 reviews

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Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
i had reservations about this book because, well, look at that cover. fucking hippies.

but i should have known that lauren groff would write a spectacular book even if it was about fucking hippies. i have read all three of her books now, and while monsters of templeton is still far and away the winner in the "books by lauren groff" award ceremonies, this one is very very good.

this novel focuses on bit, a child born into a hippie commune, and checks in with him during four periods in his life.

Jeanette (Again)
Aug 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
Am I just the buzzkill who wouldn't drop acid at the party? Did someone shut off the volcano that fueled my lava lamp? How do I explain my huge disappointment in this book?

I, who loved The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds, found Arcadia unreadable. Why? The story is slave to the style. Groff uses a floaty, present tense, semi-random flow that very nearly resembles a plot, but not quite. Everything is seen through the eyes of Bit, a little boy who somehow doesn't seem to be "all t
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Arcadia takes us from an enactment of utopia to the dawning of a dystopian nightmare in the span of its 280 pages. It focuses on Bit, the first child born into a 1960s hippy commune which begins with only a few charismatic acolytes and ends with thousands. We see Arcadia through his eyes, and he in turn sees it through the filter of Grimm’s fairy stories, the only book he has access to as a child. Groff does a really good job of showing us the world through a child’s sensibility – the wonder and ...more
B the BookAddict
Mar 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: highly recommended
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: GR - I think
Shelves: fiction
Our narrator is Ridley Stoner – Bit or Little Bit as he is known, who is born to Hannah and Abe in their car as they are travelling with a group of idealists to Arcadia House. Arcadia House is the derelict mansion and it's surrounding fields, pastures and river which has been bequeathed to one of the group. Ridley was premature and weighed 3lbs; hence the name Bit. Arcadia whose vision is to “live with the land, not on land”, will be a true commune; you pool your resources, your goods, your food ...more
George Clack
May 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
Your view of this book is likely to turn on two things: 1) whether you find the mystical and deeply sensitive hippie/child protagonist Bit a credible character, one worth spending 289 pages with; and 2) how much of Lauren Goff's vivid prose style you can stomach. Here's a good test. Try these four passages below; they nicely encapsulate Bit's musing mind. If they intrigue you, join the crowds of ecstatic reviewers. If their windy phoniness makes you retch, then don't bother.

“The women washed clo
Julie Christine
Lauren Groff’s lovely and poignant Arcadia is a novel of sublime sensuality. It is redolent of the ripe, husky scent of pot and unwashed bodies, the strumming of guitars and gasps of lovemaking, the taste of warm blackberries plucked from the bush and popped into the mouth, the glow of naked flesh in moonlight, the feel of a mother’s soft, full breast, of a father’s muscled, callused hands.

The key to the novel’s earthy nature is its narrator, Bit, who begins his story at the age of five. Childr
Joanne  Clarke Gunter
Oh what a fine novel this is, one of the few I feel is worthy of the 5-star rating. This is a book that leaves you sad because it has ended, but also happy because you have read it and got to know Bit, his mother Hannah, and his father Abe, whom I wish could be real people who are greatly admired friends of mine living their lives of clarity and substance somewhere in the wilds of upstate New York, not so far from me.

This is a finely crafted, exquisitely written, and particularly interesting nov
Lisa Maruca
May 02, 2012 rated it liked it
The first two quarters of this book were beautifully rendered. The first, told from the point of view of the naive yet sensitive and often frightened five-year-old, Bit, describes his growing up in the eponymous hippie commune. Despite apparent flaws and personal trauma, it is an idyllic childhood, and this section is the novel's heart as well as Bit's sustenance as he moves through life. The second part describes, through the adolescent Bit's eyes, the decline and fall of Arcadia, pressured by ...more
Jul 02, 2016 rated it really liked it

This novel floats through the air and over the earth in three discrete sections (past/present/future? paradise/expulsion/return?), all filtered through the senses of the sensitive Bit, all cohering in unsentimental, muted tones. Though I enjoyed Groff’s first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, (which, to her credit, is very different from this, though both have a powerful sense of place), I put off reading this, her second, because I thought I wouldn’t be interested in the setting of a hippie
Jun 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
There were parts of Arcadia I liked very much, especially the language and themes, but overall, I found it uneven. The first part, particularly, was a bit tough to get through, an overlong history of the commune Arcadia, told in the voice of a child whose parents helped found it under the leadership of a sketchy character named Handy. The fact there was little conflict in this first half of the book, along with the narrator’s voice, describing much but perceiving little, made this section less c ...more
Ron Charles
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Page by page through Lauren Groff’s story about a hippie commune in western New York, I kept worrying that it was too good to last. Not the commune — it’s a mess from the start — I’m talking about the novel, which unfolds one moment of mournful beauty after another. As she did in her inventive debut, “The Monsters of Templeton” (2008), Groff once again gives us a young person — in this case a boy — struggling to understand himself and his peculiar history. But this time, she’s moved beyond the l ...more
Feb 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
. . .what we wanted to do was unusual. Pure. Live with the land, not on it. Live outside the evil of commerce and make our own lives from scratch. Let our love be a beacon to light up the world.

Oh, silly, silly hippies . . . thinkin' you can change the world by doin' lots of drugs and not bathing . . .

Welcome to Arcadia, the finest in communal living!

Here you'll get to ride out a New York winter in a tent, quonset hut, or bread truck while waiting for your Utopian palace to be restored.

Prepare t
Kylie Sparks
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Holly Robinson
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We read books to be entertained, to be informed, to have a laugh, to escape the day-to-day. And then, every now and then, we stumble across a book that we read at just the right moment in our lives for us to be bewitched, transported and transformed.

That just happened to me while reading Arcadia by Lauren Groff. This isn't a new novel—it was first published by Hyperion in 2012—and the fact of the matter is that I tried reading it four separate times before I finally was able to become absorbed b
Larry H
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some books grab you from the get-go, while some take a little time before they hook you completely. Lauren Groff's wonderful Arcadia fell in the latter category for me, but it was an investment well worth my time. This was a beautifully written book about family (biological and otherwise), love, responsibility, relationships, and the unique pull of one's upbringing.

Arcadia is a commune that develops in the early 1970s in upstate New York, built around a dilapidated mansion called Arcadia House.
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
So, the first section, experiencing that world through Bit, was emotionally provocative, well-written, sad, but deeply insightful into the emotional life of that sensitive boy. Beyond that, the book became somewhat formulaic for me and lost the thing that made it special. I was still interested in the story - in a beach-read, what-happens-next kind of way - but not engaged by the characters in the same way.

One more criticism - beyond the main characters, there are so many others, especially amo
Jessica Sullivan
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Oh, Lauren Groff. Your purple prose. Your absence of quotation marks. Your writing is actually quite beautiful, but that isn't good enough for you, apparently. What does it mean for a girl to have a "sweet cupcake face" anyway?

I went back and forth between feeling like this book was a total slog and finding it utterly compelling. This is my second Lauren Groff book. With Fates and Furies, I loathed the first half and loved the second half. With Arcadia, my emotions didn't reach such extremes, bu
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
This is really like a 3.5 or a 3.7.

Groff is an astonishingly gifted writer. She conveys atmosphere like no one else, and as in The Monsters of Templeton, she creates a world and then moves through time with it. (Also like Monsters, you may think she's juggling too many characters and that detracts from the overall impact.)

She does a marvelous job though creating the commune of Arcadia, shown in its heyday, its Reagan-era decline, its diaspora, and then its slightly futuristic (2018) new incarna
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ala-2012
I don't know about this, you guys. I've heard good things about "Monsters of Templeton," so I was excited to read this, but I kind of have to say it left me going "so what?" This review is kind of spoiler-heavy, because I can't think of anything to do but say what happened, because I didn't love anything in particular enough to talk about it.
The first couple of sections deal with a boy growing up in a commune, which is fairly interesting, but certainly not a topic that hasn't been dealt
Mark Landmann
Feb 24, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I am struggling for my review of this one. For most of the book I found it a tough slog and was seldom eager to get back to it. But I could see that the writing was far too good to quit reading. So I just didn't worry when I couldn't keep track of all the characters and my mind wandered here and there. And then the last section of the book was my favourite and very beautiful, and it's left me feeling quite different - not at all the relief I'd thought I'd feel to be done. And the think the autho ...more
okay, so this book surprised me a little bit. (heh.) i was keen to read it and i am excited it has made it into the 2013 tournament of books, but even with those giddy-making, anticipatory things....i was still a little hesitant to actually jump into this book. i don't have a problem with hippies. in fact, being born during the summer of love i often wonder if i was predisposed to hippiedom. i'm not totally crunchy-granola-tree-hugging in my ways...but i get it. i really get it. i decided, durin ...more
Dec 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. The description of the Hippies was just as I remembered them. I am a bit too young to have been one, but I remember meeting them in the late 70's while I lived in the Catskills which is a few hours from Arcadia, the setting of the commune and setting of much of the novel.
Bit, the narrator, is a great story teller. At the start of Arcadia he's very young and innocent. His observations are child like and honest. As he grows up, he begins to be more judgmental, but it's
My feelings for Arcadia snuck up on me. Groff is a wonderful writer and I found the first part of the novel, set on a commune in upstate NY, fascinating. As the novel progressed and focused more and more on Bit growing into a man - it shifted for me. I fell in love with him (and the novel). At the end, I couldn't bear that it was over. So I listened to the last 15 minutes 3 times and cried - not because it was sad but because I was so sorry to leave Bit and Arcadia.
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel by Lauren Groff takes place in western New York in the late 1960's. It is the story of a group of several dozen people who decide to come together and live self-sufficiently off the land... yes, a commune! This commune takes shape around an old, falling down house which the group comes into possession of and is called Arcadia House.

This novel is full of many colorful characters with equally colorful names; but the main focus of the story is on a particular family unit... Abe, Hannah a
Julie Ehlers
Feb 29, 2012 rated it liked it
The structure of this book reminded me of the two John Irving novels I’ve read: The first half of the book was about the childhood of the main character, Bit; the second half was about his adulthood, and the two halves were so different they felt almost like two different books.

I liked the first part, detailing Bit’s childhood in the upstate New York commune of Arcadia, even though I hadn’t been sure I would—I don’t usually like books that eschew quotation marks, tending to feel that this partic
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Arcadia, the utopian hippie paradise, is shown to us through the eyes of Bit, first as a child, then adolescent... It's obvious from the beginning that it will fall, and it definitely does, for many reasons, but this idealistic community is quite beautiful in their intentions and their commitment to living 'freely'. With much toiling, they refurbish a derelict mansion where they live together in a commune. But growing numbers, free love and drugs, and disillusionment in their leader Handy, ultim ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
I'm currently on a Lauren Groff bender. Her prose makes me drunk with pleasure. Her uncanny ability to marry setting with POV with description is sheer genius. The seemingly small ideas that turn into massive ideas as she carefully structures her story are extraordinary; they leave me breathless at the scope and the layers she creates. Her imagery, here (as elsewhere) overtly informed by fairy tale and Greek myth, nature both beautiful and hostile, utopian dreams confronting worldly realities, ...more
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book, I loved it. I liked Monsters of Templeton a lot, but this one reached down my throat and grabbed my heart and squeezed it, hard.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it

(but first, a propos of nothing, my feelings about Arcadia, California):

Growing up in the working-class-turned-barrio section of southeast LA, I was rather intrigued by Arcadia, a seemingly perfect suburban wonder, a Sierra Madre (the town next door) writ a little larger, but not too large to dispel the Mayberry-meets-LA vibe. My first memories of Arcadia were of my father taking me several times to Santa Anita racetrack, an absolutely breathtaking horse racing venue, perfectly preserved and hor
Carla Baku
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
My rating for this fine novel is a solid 4.5. It is the story of Ridley Stone--called Bit for reasons that are made clear during the story--and his life growing up in, growing out of, and growing to understand (mostly) a counterculture commune founded at the time of his birth: 1968.

Lauren Groff's prose, at its best is breathy and luminous. The early part of the novel is told from a very young child's perspective, though not precisely in a child's voice. The result is a sense, almost, of magical
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Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, N.Y. and grew up one block from the Baseball Hall of Fame. She graduated from Amherst College and has an MFA in fiction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, Hobart, and Five Points as well as in the anthologies Best Amer

Articles featuring this book

Her Favorite Books About Utopia: Vicariously join a commune in her new novel, Arcadia, and seek perfection from these recs that attempt paradise on...
16 likes · 23 comments
“They sit here in the darkness, trusting. That the coffee will be hot and unpoisoned. That no raging madman will come in with a gun or bomb.

It leaves him breathless at times, how much faith people put in one another. So fragile, the social contract: we will all stand by the rules, move with care and gentleness, invest in the infrastructure, agree with the penalties of failure. That this man driving his truck down the street won't, on a whim, angle into the plate glass and end things. That the president won't let his hand hover over the red button and, in moment of rage or weakness, explode the world. The invisible tissue of civilization: so thin, so easily rendable. It's a miracle that it exists at all.”
“Childhood is such a delicate tissue; what they had done this morning could snag somewhere in the little ones, make a dull, small pain that will circle back again and again, and hurt them in small ways for the rest of their lives.” 20 likes
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