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Nine Island

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  410 ratings  ·  95 reviews
Nine Island is an intimate autobiographical novel, told by J, a woman who lives in a glass tower on one of Miami Beach’s lush Venetian Islands. After decades of disaster with men, she is trying to decide whether to withdraw forever from romantic love. Having just returned to Miami from a monthlong reunion with an old flame, “Sir Gold,” and a visit to her fragile mother, J ...more
Paperback, 244 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by Catapult
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Mary I don't think the book is explicit about her age, but I deduced that she is in her early 50's. Her relationship with Sir Gold was 30 years previous, w…moreI don't think the book is explicit about her age, but I deduced that she is in her early 50's. Her relationship with Sir Gold was 30 years previous, when I assume she was in her early 20's.(less)

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Average rating 3.55  · 
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Julie Ehlers
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Initially I found Nine Island pretty exciting in the sense that the details of the narrator's life seemed very similar to mine—we seemed to be around the same age, living alone in apartments in big cities, with aging cats (although thankfully mine is currently in much better shape than hers is), both making a living shuffling papers around (although the narrator, also named Jane Alison, is a translator and novelist, and therefore more actualized in her career than I am). But Nine Island really s ...more
Dec 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“I’m not old yet, but my heart is sick with old desire,”

I'm hovering between a 3 and 4 star but I'll bump it up to a 4 due to its originality, this is narrative poetry, the words glide on the page and before you know it you've been swept up in it's lyrical beauty. Rich evocative descriptions that are also short, tight and snappy every sentence a treasure trove of gold. Introspective thoughtful observant nuggets. I could list so many sentences that sang to me and made my heart revel in this delig
There isn't much to this novel – in that it's short, and in that it's pretty plotless – but what is there is rather wonderful. The narrator is only identified as J.; she's a middle-aged writer living in a crumbling Miami apartment block with an assortment of eccentric neighbours. Much of the story is composed of her contemplation of relationships: is it time she gave up on love and sex? She is single and childless, and a resurrected relationship with her first love, whom she calls Sir Gold, has ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Alison heads a creative writing program, so it’s no surprise that the writing is impeccable. But given a protagonist who’s translating and reshaping Ovid’s Metamorphoses to give them more of a feminist/#metoo flavor, the book should have been more engaging than it was. I loved the recast stories but it took me three fourths of the book to stop feeling antagonistic toward the protagonist, a 50 something white woman who holds life at a distance and, in reflecting on her life and future, thinks alm ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
3.5 rounded up. This was a quick read and I think it'd be great for women's book clubs--lots of talking points.

While it's not in the same style, this type of novel reminds me of Anita Brookner books in that you're in the head of an older (not old, maybe 40s?) woman who is considering whether or not to give up on romantic love. Silly question. What she's really doing is asking if she should settle for loser guys where no love is lost anyway.

Two things I really liked: One, J (no names are used,
Rachel Kowal
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: proofreading
4.78 stars

Hey, here's a new book I actually appreciated (which is saying something for me). With its short chapters, lush sensory descriptions, and confessional tone, this book feels like a meditation. A meditation on what it means and feels like to be alone. The doubts and questions, the justifications and desires and hopes. All of it. A meditation on finding love and life in strange and often unexpected places.

A quiet book, but one with a deep resonance.
Jun 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the best book I've read this year. Poetic without overreaching, raw, gorgeous, sad, invigorating.
William Bitner Jr.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
Just finished reading “Nine Island” by Jane Alison. I want to firstly thank Jane Alison and Catapult Publishing for a print copy I won on Secondly, this is not usually a genre I would normally read, but that being said…I was quite surprised how much I enjoyed this read. It was beautifully written, humorous, touching and heartfelt. A very poetic and introspective prose.

Synopsis (from cover): Nine Island is an intimate autobiographical novel, told by J, a woman who lives in a glass
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
This (non-fiction?) book is putatively "up-my-alley" (a translator of Ovid repurposes his works on love in her effort to explore and cope with her own sexuality as menopause sets in), but in the final analysis it fell flat for me. The Ovidian references were either too subtle or clever, or were too weightless to garner intrigue (which is what Ovid advises us to develop if we are to be successful at love!). Like Ovid, Alison writes with tongue in cheek about her misadventures--but unlike Ovid, he ...more
Feb 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nine Island is an introspective, personal account of what it means to settle down - settle down alone, that is. The narrator's had a string of love affairs and a failed marriage and is contemplating the embrace of a solitary existence. Choosing to be alone is not "giving up" - it's being content with the romantic experiences in your life you have already had, and being OK with their power over your life; halting the cycle of "overriding" those experiences each time one ends; knowing that your be ...more
Rich Marcello
Oct 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely great novel! My favorite book of 2016. Go read it. It's smart and funny and full of wonderful stuff.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Somewhere between three and four stars for me. Ovid is kind of a weirdo.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Such an intimate portrait of a slice of the lives of J, of Miami, and of Ovid even though I know so little about any of them. I’m not sure how to describe this but to quote the author, Jane Alison ‘Will do it three times because three points confirm a line.’
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
The setting of this autobiographical novel, is the Venetian Islands, of south Miami. A place I had never heard of. (Why, we read books, right?)
The narrator, known simply as “J”, (presumably the author) is a middle-aged woman, living alone, with her elderly cat, in a crumbling high-rise. She shares with the reader, her sharp observations, about her tumultuous love life, her colorful neighbors, her ailing mother and her sexual fantasies.
I was not sure, this would be my sort of thing, but I was swe
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding. Ovid's tales of transmogrification set the tone for this very smart, funny, offbeat novel that muses on the male gaze, the female gaze, love, lust, loneliness, self-sufficiency, and how hard it is to care for even—or maybe especially—what you love. Including—maybe especially—yourself. It's also gorgeously descriptive, making me almost wish I'd waited a couple of months to read it in Miami, where it's set. But no matter... it's also a good antidote to a New York cold spell in Decembe ...more
Eric Jolly
Jun 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Written while on pg 164

I can't wait for this book to be over. If it wasn't a fairly short book, this would probably be a DNF (do not finish). I am vaguely interested in the future of the duck...but not the main character. If there is no future or a bad future for the duck, this book will be a complete loss.

Book tries really hard to be an artsy, poignant one. The only thing memorable is a quote as to whether book pulp is still turned into fireworks.

I have a nominee for such book pulp. My apolog
Cherise Wolas
Should the Ovid-loving loner narrator, J, retire from love and romance? We meet her as she's driving back to Miami Beach from a month spent with an old lover, whom she seems to love, who has decided at that month's end, that he wants to keep his life as it is, meaning without her in it. She lives in a high rise in Miami Beach, worries about her mother who has a condition that has altered her balance, translates Ovid, swims, shops for groceries, walks, observes her neighbors in the bright sun sur ...more
Alison's prose is beautiful in this story of oddly matched elements: a solitary translator of Ovid at work in a gradually crumbling high-rise apartment in decadent Miami. The translator-narrator's pastime includes observing/spying on other occupants of her high-rise as well as those nearby, a narrative strand that plays as Rear Window without the murder, though incisively detailed all the same.
Stephen Kiernan
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it
This book is less a novel than a meditation. Not much occurs, but the prose is rich in thought and vivid in imagery. Everything has a kind of resonance, especially as the narrator plays voyeur to the people in her apartment building and in the ones she can see from her windows.
An interesting meditation on whether a woman disappointed in love should withdraw from romantic life. The question is not resolved but it is considered from many facets.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
To be honest I bailed after 4% into it. Just didn’t grab me enough to want to continue it.
Drew McCutchen
“Someone must have fucked her up, he said, staring at her hard. Somebody really screwed her. Maybe, I thought. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to let anyone in. What’s wrong with that? Who made it obligatory?”

“Walking over the bridge, past the marina, along a shady block of restaurants and bars, to Publix, which looks like a silver space-shell and is full of porn stars and fabricated beauties strolling the aisles in shoes not made for human feet. Their silhouettes seen from the coffee aisle, down
Jane Alison’s Nine Island is a captivating look at love and loneliness. J, our narrator, is a middle-aged woman who retreats to a glass high-rise condo somewhere on Miami Beach, hiding under the glare of the harsh sun and pastel colors, where she can nurse some emotional wounds and take stock of her life. Should she give up on love? “I’m not old yet, but my heart is sick with old desire, and I’m back in this place of sensual music to see if it’s time to retire from love.”

J is recovering fro
Nine Island, by Jane Alison, Oct. 2016
J’s quest for lasting romantic love has been fraught with disaster. “Such a sickness, wanting…Hunger whistles and whirls into your room at night, crouches on your chest, glues her nasty mouth to yours, and breathes her neediness into you. From then on you are full of want…Wanting is exactly what I’ve never wanted…If you retire from love, N once told me, then you retire from life…”
Nine Island begins as J has returned from a month long visit with Sir Gold, her
Oct 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This short “non-fiction novel” is named after the address of the apartment building on a small island between Miami and Miami Beach that the narrator J, who is more or less Jane Alison, lived in during a summer while translating Ovid. It is a deeply sad (though sometimes quite funny) book: J is alone with her dying cat, aging out of her youthful beauty, and scarred by a lifetime of disastrous relationships with men. The most distinctive thing about the book is the interior voice, which dispenses ...more
Jul 02, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I hated everything about this book
Apr 21, 2019 added it
volcel canon

"And maybe that's enough. To have had some love some time. Even if it worked only awhile. Even if it only worked only awhile. It's enough to have had some once and now to live with just pieces of it, and it's all right if you spend what you still have on an old cat or duck, a few friends, your mother. Not everyone is paired on the ark."
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a short novella mostly of ruminations on growing old and solitariness. I most enjoyed the word pictures of life in a Miami high-rise as well as the tanned, toned and self-indulgent people living within.
Robert Wechsler
Oct 17, 2016 marked it as tasted
Shelves: american-lit
This novel is delightfully written, but content-wise I am not the right audience for it, so I moved on after 50 pages. I’m glad I tasted it.
Kim Trusty
Nov 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Poetic, spare, brittle, beautiful, raw... Always looking for answers in stories featuring solitary women. Very rarely find them but the trade off - wisdom - is well worth it.
Mary Conway
Jan 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-this-year
Drek. Stream of consciousness ruminating. Nothing witty here.
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Jane Alison was born in Canberra, Australia, and grew up in the Australian and U.S. foreign services. She attended public schools in Washington, D.C., and earned a B.A. in classics from Princeton University. Before writing fiction, she worked as an administrator for the National Endowment for the Humanities, as a production artist for the Washington City Paper, as an editor for the Miami New Times ...more

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