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Green Girl

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,761 ratings  ·  293 reviews
With the fierce emotional and intellectual power of such classics as Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star, Kate Zambreno's novel Green Girl is a provocative, sharply etched portrait of a young woman navigating the spectrum between anomie and epiphany.

First published in 2011 in a small press edition, G
Paperback, 279 pages
Published June 24th 2014 by Harper Perennial (first published September 16th 2011)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,761 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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Feb 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
maybe you grew up, like me, reading a million different narratives about what it felt like to be angry and young and male (and usually white.) maybe, like me, you also read nancy drew and sweet valley high and anne of green gables, young women with nerve and pluck but also mostly young women whose problems were solved at the end of each book. and then as i got older, it was sylvia plath and carson mccullers and jean rhys and maya angelou, and and. i've never stopped being hungry for narratives w ...more
Always Pouting
Poorly written with zero plot line and two dimensional characters. Half the book was excerpts from other pieces of writings or quotes and they were the only part of the novel that were any good. I understand the writing style the author was trying to go for but it just didn't work. Everything was vague and boring. I didn't feel invested in it while reading it at all.

Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you’re like me, your 20s are packed in a triple taped box and hiding in the dingiest attic corner of your brain beneath garbage bags filled with clothes for Goodwill and that easel you bought the day you decided (in your 20s!) that maybe you were a painter.

This was not my shining-est decade. If I wasn’t the grand master world champion of compartmentalizing, I would be in a constant state of cringing shame over things said, did, that blond phase and people wronged. Luckily, that thing calm-lo
Emily B
Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Green girl doesn’t have an obvious plot which was hard to grasp at first however, I enjoyed it none the less. In fact by the time I finished it I was wishing there was more.
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I broke my glass balloon
Recommended to Mariel by: Farren and M. Kitchell
There's a film star from the golden age of Hollywood that never leaves her house anymore. I think it's Lauren Bacall, but there's a chance I'm wrong about this. I'm pretty sure it's Bacall because I know this actress was awarded the San Sebastián International Film Festival life time achievement award and Bacall definitely got that. It's not important who it is. The point is that this person wants to preserve her celluloid beauty in the eyes of those who participate in that whole beauty is in th ...more
David Davy
Sometimes pretty girls are sad, but then they get their hair cut and they are less sad, but then later on they are sad, sad again. The End.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Kate Durbin, might I have a word with you? Remember when you wrote a review for Kate Zambreno's book Green Girl and compared the heroine to Esther Greenwood of The Bell Jar?

Having the protagonist be on her own in a big city does not make this The Bell Jar, Part 2: Breakfast at Horrid's (Ruth's oh-so-sly name for her Famous British Department Store employer). Creating a character who does nothing but sleep late, try on clothes, and watch new wave films with her chatty, trashy roommate does not m
emily compton
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2014
look, i like "girls" and everything, but there's only so many stories about privileged, self-absorbed white girls whose daily agony is the fact that their lives are so boring and empty and all they want is to BE SOMEBODY without actually wanting to put in any effort to do anything to progress themselves that i can handle before rolling my eyes endlessly into my skull. i'm not saying that it's not worth doing a character study of a girl like this, and certainly there were parts to her totally tra ...more
Feb 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am far too old to fully appreciate this book.
Oct 28, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
i wanted to like this. i've read several interviews with zambreno, and i'm sad to say that i like the way she talks about her writing more than i liked this book itself. she's clearly influenced by certain "new narrative" writers that i already admire (chris kraus and dodie bellamy come to mind), and she's attempting to stretch the boundaries of the bildungsroman to include more room for women's desires/emotions, as well as a larger intellectual scope and greater sense of formal adventure. all o ...more
This took me so long to finish and it was not really the books fault. It's just that the book hits home for me. It was a beautiful, character-driven read and I hope you go into it blind. Enjoy!
Sian Lile-Pastore
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this despite myself. Once I started it I was just really eager to read more and hated moments when I couldn't read it (y'kno work, watching charmed with my husband - the usual) and felt a little lost when it was over (even tho the ending is pretty abrupt and not wildly satisfying).

I was in the middle of this when we started re-watching the L Word, and the main character (Ruth) in the book reminded me a little of Jenny in season one.. if that helps any.

I had a couple of issues with this..
Jan 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book should have been subtitled "Youth Is Wasted on the Young." The only reason I gave it two stars instead of one is because it did capture that blank slate quality of my early 20s when I was wandering around, waiting for my life to start. Oh, gosh, it's not just me, what a relief!

But, other than that, the best thing about this book was its generous use of white space.

For me, if an author is going to throw grammar and punctuation to the winds, they must be highly skilled or it's just anno
Aug 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
what the fuck was this
I read this novel in the last month of 2017 for two reasons. One is that it had sat, all that year, in a pile of unread books I own; a pile named in my mind Books I Want To Read Soon. The other reason is that in my memoir I am working through my teen years. Oh, what a murky area that is in my mind. Reading novels about teenage girls in the current century helps me recapture those times of confusion, urgency and uncertainty in my own life.

Ruth is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, right about whe
This was just blah to me and very strange, and I guess, unique. The book opens with a quotation from the Book of Ruth, and the green girl protagonist is named Ruth, so I think the author gives birth in the first paragraphs of this book. ("the pull, the blood, the cry...the agony of I must name her. Ruth...") I'm not sure I understood it completely, but I think the author was the first person "I" frequently observing Ruth, her creation, who never fully "becomes," even at the end of ...more
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kate Zambreno's Green Girl is a startling attempt to reach the interior of the girl. The girl wants to be fancy. No, she wants to be annihilated.

An anxious and confused narrator, reminiscent of Carole Maso's Vanessa, negotiates the city, haunted by the memory of a brutal lover. (is that language too dramatic?) Ruth lives in London, in a hostel of girls. Ruth is a shopgirl. She feels alienated. She talks about her digestive distress.

This is the kind of book that acts, subtly but pervasively, on
Richard  Thomas
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

In Kate Zambreno’s hallucinatory and disjointed Green Girl (Emergency Press), we are lured into the world of Ruth, a young American girl lost and damaged in London. Following this ingénue into her dark musings, the echoes of voices fill the page—Ruth, HIM, her mother, the author, and the silver screen flickering in the distance. It is a hypnotic read—the duality of Ruth—her good side and her darkness, the need to behave and the need t
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading Kate Zambreno's Green Girl was like hearing a voice whispering through to my very bones. How often I have been the green girl—performing lines; dressing up; searching for the one who will hear my stories of loss and longing. Carrying her notebook as “protective shield”, the green girl is what friends and I used to call "gauzy" girls, when vulnerable wasn't word enough. This isn't the attractive vulnerability of a Hollywood starlet; the green girl is the open space in all of us, the space ...more
The thing about self-indulgence is that it needs to be watered down by something else or you will devolve into full on self-pity gluttony.

Green Girl offers some really good perspectives on the Narcissism and exhibitionism of this generation, but not quite fleshed out in a way that's easy to swallow. I understood the main character, she's that wasted girl at the party that everyone looks after even though it's just not cute anymore, but in attempts to give her hidden depth, I found her intolerab
Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle
Oh...I really wanted to like this book but I didn't. felt like the author was trying too hard to be artful and poetic...but the writing came across as self-conscious and adolescent and cliched..."On days like this she cannot shower. She needs to collect, to accumulate. She needs to savor in her filmy layer. It is her protection against the world. To shower, a shock or a scream."

The quotes at the beginning of each chapter from other authors (e.g "Today I must be very careful, today I have left m
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review, favorites
A devasting prose-poem on the lack of identity that can infect one's early 20s. I loved it. Worth reading for the narrative voice alone. Also, I should mention that I had no intention of actually reading this book when I did. But glancing at the first few pages sucked me right in and then I couldn't stop. This is not a book to read for plot; it has little. But it captures and evokes an experience perfectly. As a reader in my 40s, this is a book to savor, remembering what it was like to be so unf ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Kate Zambreno's Green Girl is a meditation on female self-awareness. Ruth, an American girl in London, ambles her way through a disposable existence, making short-lived pseudo-connections and wallowing in others' perceptions of her. Zambreno's prose is self-indulgent, mimicking a style that could be found on an eighteen-year-old's Xanga in the early 2000s. The effect works most of the time. I have spent a lot of time considering the relation of happiness to self-awareness (unhappiness is self-aw ...more
Katie Jo
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I bought this a few years ago, read half of it, and then it fell behind my bed and I couldn't be bothered to retrieve it. First impression.

I recently saw it getting good reviews, one in particular from Roxane Gay whom I like very much, so I decided to try again.

Now, I get what the goal was with this book and the point was made, I just overall wasn't that impressed. It was difficult for me to get used to Kate Zambreno's prose style and I wasn't wowed enough by the plot to try harder. I could re
A study in disaffected youth, Green Girl is awash in the apathy and angst of today's directionless twenty-somethings. Ruth, a young, beautiful American working as a "shopgirl" in London, wanders aimlessly from job to job and man to man. She sees her life as meaningless, and can articulate only that she needs attention. Casting about in a swirl of drugs, sex and alcohol, she is aware, but only slightly, of the vast amount of loss she has endured. With a dead mother and an ex-boyfriend (to whom sh ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This reads like a long prose poem that will at times make you uncomfortable, at other times fill you with a strange sense of longing/yearning/anomie, and at other times still, infuriate you (as the quote from Elissa Schappell rightly observes). The writing is excellent. The eye for detail and description couldn't be sharper. It is the "green girl" herself who will infuriate you... her coming of age is maybe too much the way growing up really is: Full of angst, her attempts to draw out larger mea ...more
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
2 stars means it was "okay" and that is pretty much how I felt about this book. The writing felt like poetry. Might be good for someone else, but I didn't like it. The story is told from someone watching the Green Girl who comments on her and seems to know her thoughts. The Green Girl is a detached emo-girl living and working in London. That is probably another reason I didn't enjoy the book very well.
May 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Just didn't live up to the hype for me. And comparisons to The Bell Jar make me bristle.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ruth is a young woman struggling in the same way many contemporary young women do. She lives with Agnes, whom she loves, but often detests, and their friendship can be quite toxic. She works a couple different retail jobs that seems particularly soul-crushing. Ruth pines after boys, sometimes getting laid, sometimes making drunken poor regrettable decisions, and sometimes rejecting or getting rejected without much notice. Overall, she occupies the space just before one's identity becomes solidif ...more
Dec 07, 2017 added it

– Perhaps without a mother one can no longer be young. –

– British food was the current catastrophe of Ruth's life. –

– The agony of becoming. This is what she experiences. The young girl. She would like to be someone, anyone else. She wants, vaguely, to be something more than she is. But she does not know what that is, or how one goes about doing such things. –

–Celebrity is a drug we take, only afterwards we realize we are ugly and no one loves us. –

– Being a girl is like always being a tourist
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500 Great Books B...: Green Girl - Kate Zambreno - Holly 1 9 Mar 18, 2015 05:25PM  

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Kate Zambreno is the author of the novels Green Girl (Harper Perennial) and O Fallen Angel (Harper Perennial). She is also the author of Heroines (Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents) and Book of Mutter (Semiotexte(e)'s Native Agents). A collection of talks and essays, The Appendix Project, is forthcoming from Semiotext(e) in April 2019, and a collection of stories and other writing, Screen Tests, is for ...more

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