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A Taxonomy of Barnacles
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A Taxonomy of Barnacles

2.79  ·  Rating details ·  594 ratings  ·  107 reviews
Set in the baronial Upper East Side apartment of Barry Barnacle, among giant aquariums, a sprawling shell collection, and a jungle room with a three-toed sloth and a macaque, this is the story of the six Barnacle daughters, aged ten to twenty-nine. As the story begins, one daughter has returned home secretly pregnant, and she and her sister are sneaking out at night to mee ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 12th 2006 by Picador (first published 2005)
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2.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  594 ratings  ·  107 reviews

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Mar 19, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You know what? Don't read this. Just go out and rent The Royal Tenenbaums. This is just a shoddy imitation that lined the wallets of yet another useless MFA grad with rich parents and an overly complicated name.

Jackie Marrs
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
The whole time I was reading this, I kept picturing people from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and the Royal Tenenbaums playing these characters. I feel that it could be a great movie for Wes Anderson to direct.

Very quirky and Steve Zissou'esque'.
Leyla H.
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Natural history, weird family dynamics, New's sounds like it should be the best book ever but it is not. There is no sense of urgency or plot, the characters flounder about in their quirky descriptions rather than doing something, and there is no arc whatsoever. For any of the oh, twelve main characters. Also, there is such things as symbolism and subtext. The author clearly took her creative writing classes to heart because there is nothing subtle about any of the themes, she just pou ...more
Jun 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: elib-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Do you see the illustration on the cover? The six sisters lined up on the couch, beautifully drawn and then numbered as if in a scientific diagram? Enjoy it, because that's far and away the best thing about this cloying, inept attempt at vaudevillian romance.

The book takes place in the sort of hermetically sealed idea of New York that populates Woody Allen's worst films; it focuses on the Barnacle family, all of whose first names begin with 'B' (red flag). There is a raging philosophical battle
Book Concierge
Barry Barnacle has issued a challenge to his offspring. In a move that reminds one of a Jane Austen novel, Barry has told his six daughters that since he has no son, whichever one of them can find a way to immortalize the family name will be named the sole heir to the family fortune. If there wasn’t already enough sibling rivalry between Bell, Bridget, Beth, Belinda, Beryl and Benita, this new mandate is sure to create havoc. Add to the mix their mother Bella’s (Barry’s ex-wife) adopted son, Lat ...more
Feb 27, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Danielle Calhoun
Oct 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Maybe I'm missing something because I am not a member of the privileged class that is described so often in this book. I've never even been to NYC - so perhaps a lot of it is lost on me. I simply could not believe any of the characters. Even Trot, who was a shout out to the starving artist middle class kid trying to make it in the big city, had so much inner turmoil over simple things that it was laughable. Despite not being able to believe the characters or feel very connected to them, I would ...more
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
My friend gave me this book, she said "because I really can't decide how I feel about it. I think it was a little pretentious, so read it and tell me what you think." I did. And I was not impressed.

The book seemed to start off with a slow beginning, but I kept reading thinking that not only would the characters become less confusing (when would it ever be a good idea to have everyone's names start with B?), but that the pace would pick up. Sadly, it did not. After spending an entire Saturday spe
Kaycie Hall
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Something about this book pulled me out of a reading slump, and I read the first 180 pages in one night. After that, though, I got a bit bored and it was slow-going. Niederhoffer introduces too many characters (though it didn't really bother me that all of their names started with a 'B' as it seems to have bothered the rest of Goodreads), but then spends the majority of the novel centered around four of them. It makes the rest of the storylines, which could all be quite good and interesting, see ...more
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
A book for sophisticated readers familiar with New York (I probably wouldn't classify myself as such). It is similar in many ways to Royal Tennenbaums---quirky NYC family, a little cynical. Basically, dad pits seven sisters, his current wife and ex-wife against each other in a contest for his inheritance. Each of the sisters responds to this differently; most see it as a ploy for dad’s love. There really isn’t a plot until the end, when various secrets are revealed. Getting through all of the ba ...more
Aug 17, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: general-fiction
50 pages in, I couldn't keep anyone straight. Seriously, nine "B" family members plus two "B" neighbor-slash-love interests, a list of "B" ex-boyfriends, all with a list of quirks that, taken en masse, would make Pippi Longstocking roll her eyes in disbelief and demand that someone needs to grow up already.

This book tries too hard to be...something. I'm not sure what, and don't care. I didn't like any of the characters except the dog, and found that I couldn't root for anyone in a story about a
Amy Cousins
Dec 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Althought there were passages of very enjoyable writing in this book, it was also so self-consciously artificial that I was constantly pulled out of the story. All of the six daughters of Bella and Barry Barnacle have names starting with the letter B, which I might be able to get past, as the parents are beyond eccentric. But when one daughter reflects on her dating history, all of her ex boyfriends also have names that start with the letter B, and that is where it starts to get a little silly. ...more
Julia Gay
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
I thought this book would be better. I felt like the author just watched "The Royal Tenenbaums" too much and decided that a wacky, eccentric family with a absent father sounded like a good idea.
The real frustrating thing is that this book has lots of potential. But all the characters are shallow. The only interesting aspects, which are the house and the science, are barely discussed. I finished it, hoping there would be a change in the tone, but was sorely disappointed and felt like I had waste
Oct 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
I tried liking this one. I really did. But the characters are actually caricatures, awful, exaggerated, and boring. Developing 12 characters in 300 pages is an impossible task, so most of them are flat and uninteresting. The ones that have potential are self-indulgent and quite unlikable. The only character of the entire book that was described with much love and care is New York City. Really made me want to go back and explore it some more, but I sincerely hope that this was not based on real c ...more
Mar 13, 2007 rated it liked it
The premise is great- crazy tells his 6 (equally crazy) daughters that the first to make their family name immortal wins the inheritance. I think this is an ambitious novel. Not perfect, but an enjoyable read (once you get over the fact that nearly every character's name starts with a B just for the hell of it). It's hard to tell folks apart at every turn but there are some great characters (the most interesting-slash-evil 10 year old I've read about, for example). Let's put it this way- I'm gla ...more
Joy Urban
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: formative
This is actually my favorite book. I've always been a big fan of the whole Nature vs. Nurture debate, and I liked that all the sisters were so unique. Benita was a terror, Beryl was interesting, Belinda was annoying, Beth was too strange, Bridget was my favorite (I think) and I really felt for Bell. Also I love Billy Finch. Upper East Side, Darwinism, gigantic sibling dynamic, lots of things I think are cool.

Kelly if you're reading this give me my book back.

Update: It's been three years so I bou
Jul 23, 2008 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book but I don't think it was meant to be overly intellectual or have a deeper meaning than to entertain. Yes, I agree with the multitudes of reviewers that compare this book to The Royal Tenenbaums, however, I think the characters in this novel are slightly less screwed up and have more affection for their family. So, if you enjoy books about privileged New Yorkers written by an Ivy Leaguer (Harvard I believe), than you will find this novel interesting.
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
you know what, as a sixteen year old reader. I LOVED this book. it sometimes made me annoyed because of all the different characters I had to remember but other than that it was drama filled, funny, sad, crazy and all that one needs for a good read. Now the writing may be a little off don't get me wrong and the story starts off impossibly slow for my taste. The Barnacles stole my heart and held until the very last page all 6 girls and 4 boys plus parents! lol
Oct 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Oh my gosh. I've been trying to get through this book for about 6 months, and I'm not sure why I'm pushing myself. See, it's a terribly annoying and frustrating book. The characters are one-dimensional, and there are too many of them with similar names so I can't remember who is who.

I bought this book because it had a really nice matte paper pseudo-scientific cover. But since it sucks so bad, when I finish it it's going straight to the Strand.
Jan 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book more than I did; the premise was so interesting, what with all of the sisters and the kooky parents and the upper east side apartment ... unfortunately, it tended to drag on and i didn't care much about the characters by the time it was all over. However, as a possibly glimpse into the author's real life (although it's not supposed to be autobiographical, parts of it definitely seem like they are?) - it's sorta fascinating. From that angle anyway.
Jun 08, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
I hated this book so very much. I found myself simply not caring about any of the girls or what kind of silly day to day decisions they made. I kept reading anticipating a culmination of each story or for anything to happen really, and it never really does. I guess this is just one of those stories about life and the way things play out in sometimes the dullest way.

Sep 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
This is a fairly recent read but I can't even remember what month I read this book because it was that unmemorable. Really kind of a ridiculous story, nothing about it felt genuine. I think one of the reviews called it a Royal Tenenbaums wanna be and that is so right. It had all of the quirkiness but none of the heart or intelligence.
May 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
Dumb. Characters not very interesting. Premise was promising but didn't go anywhere. Wealthy family with six daughters in New York City. The father challenges them to immortalize the Barnacle family name somehow and the winner inherits the fortune. Guess who wins? The sister who gets pregnant out of wedlock and provides an heir. Boring.
Jan 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I liked the idea of this book much more than the book itself. Perhaps the back's description just got me too excited for the novel, but I was disappointed with the work. Nevertheless, the characters were extremely original and have stayed with me long past finishing the last page. It was still amusing and charming.
Mar 31, 2015 rated it did not like it
Tried twice to read this book and really wanted it to be good. Couldn't finish it. Couldn't read it. Couldn't abide these awful people. Instead of being charmed by all the hi-jinks, I was just very very irritated. So disappointing. This book is a reminder of exactly how difficult social comedy is, and why Jane Austen novels and 30s screwball movies are such rare treasures.
Nov 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
One word, I think, perfectly sums up this book, and explains why it is a tremendous failure: pretentious. In every possible way. Don't waste your time . . . unless, of course, you feel there's a lack of pretentiousness in your life, and you're aching to fill the void. This book will do that for you marvelously.
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