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BUtterfield 8

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  1,767 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
A bestseller upon its publication in 1935, BUtterfield 8 was inspired by a news account of the discovery of the body of a beautiful young woman washed up on a Long Island beach. Was it an accident, a murder, a suicide? The circumstances of her death were never resolved, but O’Hara seized upon the tragedy to imagine the woman’s down-and-out life in New York City in the earl ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1935)
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Jennifer Dines I had this same question! I had to go back to the preface in my edition after reading.

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Steven  Godin
Writing on the topics of Adultery, Class, sex, alcohol, child abuse and suicide was always going to be categorized as heavy going, and it is, especially when thinking of it now I didn't like a single character. However, like Yates, Fitzgerald, and Selby Jr, O'Hara portrays a New York with truthful harsh realities, where the city's elite would rather just brush unsavory events under the Persian carpet. Considering this was published in 1935 it's pretty open and frank on it's subjects, leadin
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's not often that I read two works of fiction from the same author back to back, but I was digging John O'Hara so much after Appointment in Samarra that I thought I would read this one. I would never have guessed that both books issued from the same person! Not that the quality of writing has changed: both books are from the mind of a master. Well, maybe not this one so much....this roman a clef had its beginnings in real life, but it is quite intriguing and, in spite of an extremely small bod ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2017
This was beautifully written, but I think that some of it I just didn't understand.
The young woman at the centre of this story, Gloria, was a difficult character to get to know. I felt throughout the book that I was being kept at a distance from her, but that I was supposed to sympathise with her, even understand the things she did and said, but I just didn't get it.
Also, I thought the book was a little "info-dumpy", because there was so much detail, yet I don't think the story warranted putting
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Halfway through the novel is this passage: " seemed to him as though he and Gloria were many times on the verge of a great romance, one for the ages, or at least, a match for the love and anguish of Amory and Rosalind in This Side of Paradise and Frederick and Catherine in A Farewell to Arms. With this, we are reminded that O'Hara is a contemporary of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, with even some similar preoccupations, notably love in a time of Prohibition. But this is where the resemblance end ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
3.5 stars I swear the author used "irregardless"
This is one book that I totally appreciate its Hollywood appeal. I actually want to see Elizabeth Taylor play Gloria.
Plot has typical 1930s devices: gin palaces, economic depression, loose women, cheating men. What's so true to life still today is the abuses of attention from older men to young girls that twists their mind sets about sex and self-worth. Also the constant manipulation and lies of the offending spouse were believable and deplorable
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read BUtterfield 8 years ago, and revisiting it now I realize I hadn't gotten much from it at the time. O'Hara was something of a legend, but now he seems incredibly dated. The story is set during the Great Depression and asks the question, "What if a woman could behave like a man?" That's not to mean that she took on masculine traits but that she played by the same rules. What if, as a young person, she drank and used drugs liberally and recreationally, and she had a lot of intimate partners, ...more
Diane S ☔
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Rather unlikable characters, their lives in New York, 1931 and inspired by a true event. First time I have read this author but it will not be the last. The passion in his writing, wonderful prose, the characters interactions with each other, the speakeasies, well to do people and their desolate lifestyles all combined to make this a very atmospheric read.
Jun 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloria habe ich mir ein wenig wie die auf die schiefe Bahn geratene ältere Tochter von Leopold und Molly Bloom vorgestellt, die nach New York ausgewandert ist. Eine Assoziation, die ich mir selbst nicht recht erklären kann und die in Ansätzen darauf beruhen mag, dass irische Einwanderer, innerer Monolog und Nierchen zum Frühstück eine Rolle spielen in BUTTERFIELD 8. Gloria säuft wie ein Loch - überhaupt vermittelt der Roman den Eindruck, während der Prohibition sei mehr gesoffen worden als davor ...more
Jan 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Man is this a hell of a book-- it's, as much as anything else, a portrait of NY life ca. 1931 that is maybe the least varnished I've ever seen. It's like every question whose answer you doubted when you heard it in history class is re-answered here, in totally convincing and layered fashion.

In her introduction, Liebowitz talks about the difference between O'Hara's knowingness (which she thinks is bad) and his knowledge (which she sees as good). But for me, it's impossible to distinguish them.

Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My copy came courtesy of the publisher.

Reading John O'Hara is like stepping into a time machine. He completely immerses the reader in the speech patterns and atmosphere of the well-to-do speakeasy set. Even though this novel, like Appointment in Samarra, is filled with truly despicable characters, all of whom seem to be drunk, cheating liars, I loved reading it. From the opening scene of Gloria waking up in a stranger's apartment with her dress ripped, O'Hara grabbed me. (It probably didn't hurt
May 15, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone researching the development of the American novel
O'Hara writes with such an intense passion and excitement that it is a very difficult book not to like. But unfortunately, much of the brilliance lies within that passion and excitement, and not in the story or characters involved. The author's sense of dialogue is tremendously flowing and spot on, but at novel's end you have that lip-biting feeling that you've just read an unfinished masterpiece. Read it for the character's interractions with one another and for O'Hara fiery prose.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gloria a 1930's glamour girl wakes up alone in a strangers apartment one Sunday morning.
Wearing nothing but her underwear, her dress torn she takes a fur coat and leaves.
She sets in motion a series of events that will lead to tragedy.
Her entanglement with a married man, set among the Manhattan bars and bedrooms.

Made into a film starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Jun 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
There are a number of "classics" sitting on my shelves to be read. This summer I picked up BUtterfield 8 and dove right in. I had almost no idea what to expect. I'd never seen the movie and hadn't really ever heard anything about the story. Reading the back cover gave a slight insight, but still left me wondering what to expect.

The book started out a little slow, but still very vivid. O'Hara writes with great description and passion and was able to make the scenes very alive and full. However, f
Geoff Mcdowell
May 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is such a great book! This shows a brilliant perspective of the tangled webs we weave in our lives either through circumstances within or outside our control. Set in the 1920's without all the over the top extravagance of a Great Gatsby, the story resonates just as much today as it did then. Thoroughly recommended.
Gabriel Valjan
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
BUtterfield 8 – the camel-case title references retired telephone exchanges – is O’Hara’s ‘ripped from the headlines’ novel. A real murder inspired the novel. Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous earned her her first Oscar in 1960 for the 1935 novel adapted to the big screen. The novel is provocative: it details up-town and downtown adultery with cross-town machinations. Fate hinges on a telephone number and a mink coat. The novel uses the word ‘slut,’ which should remind readers that their grand ...more
Another scalding piece of American realism from John O'Hara, BUtterfield 8 moves away from the author's "Gibbsville," Pa., home locale to depict a dozen or so main characters from a wide range of Manhattan social classes, who cross daily as equals only in the strangeness of the city's Prohibition-era speakeasy life. It is not a pretty picture, but deftly drawn with his great, great dialogue and unerring characterizations -- a love story, in its way. O'Hara makes me think of two very different wr ...more
Vivek Tejuja
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I remember the first time I watched BUtterfield 8. I was dazzled by the plot and more so by Elizabeth Taylor. I grew up some. I grew up some more. At twenty-five I realized that it was adapted from a book by the same title, written by John O’Hara and I could not wait to get my hands on it and devour it. I searched everywhere – high and low, but could not find it anywhere. This was way before the online shopping mania struck us. Somehow, I managed to find three of his novels in one book – Appoint ...more
Jim Dooley
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I am so late in discovering John O'Hara. From some commentary notes, I understand that this book is not even considered one of his best. If that is the case, I am in for some remarkable reading experiences to come!

The writer has such a distinctive, provocative "voice" and a firm grasp of understanding (and communicating) how seemingly small and unrelated incidents move a story forward in a compelling manner. Never did I doubt the occurrences or feel that he was "j
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Great, great novel! BUtterfield 8 starts with the mink coat and ends with the mink coat, but the story of young Gloria Wandrous in between is truly some terrific fiction. In some sense I think that John O'Hara has rewritten Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Although, the protagonist of O'Hara's tale, Miss Wandrous, is not the social or sexual naif that Tess was. Gloria's crime--if it is even such--is that she wants to live her life and be treated by other people as the men in her day are ...more
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I feel rather divided about this book. I believe that I didn't enjoy it more because it lacked something that let me emotionally connect to the characters in a consistent way. It was choppy in that regard. It was very matter of fact, very linear. There were spells where I would read steadily, following along and trying not to be bored to tears. And them, I'd just fall in, like an unexpected drop off in a swimming pool. I'd find myself deep into some truly beautiful writing. It would be descripti ...more
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
My first encounter with B8 was a scant three minutes on television. Elizabeth Taylor lolling about with her hair mussed and a drink in her hand.
"It's awful," my mother said as she changed the channel. "She should have won that Oscar for Hud." To which I took away that Elizabeth Taylor movies cribbed their titles from rejected candy bar names.
Four decades later, I agree that the movie is awful. And the book is awful too in all the right ways. This is a sharp and still relevant take down of class
Martie Nees Record
May 25, 2014 rated it liked it
The novel was published in 1935, every chapter mentions speakeasies, as well as then current; politics, books, movies and news headlines, making the reader wonder if it was written in the present trying to give the feel of being set in the 1930s. Furthermore, making the book feel modern is the liberal way women and men’s attitudes to sex are discussed. The heroine, Gloria, (Elizabeth Taylor plays the character in the movie) masturbates two pages in and is a promiscuous bisexual. Written a tad to ...more
Jun 08, 2010 marked it as to-read
I found a page from this book on the ground in Brooklyn in May, brown and torn and mostly disintegrated. The bit that was legible drew me in, though, and thanks to Google books I was able to find out what book it's from! I wonder if this was a sign that I should read this book or just a sign that someone's copy was due for retirement.


Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
I couldn't get through this and stopped maybe 25 pages into the book. I didn't care about any of the characters because they are all sleazebags and I didn't want to waste my time reading about a cast of unremarkable people exhibiting the worst in human behavior.
I read this book for the Winter Challenge 2016-2017 of the Netherlands & Flanders group and left an extensive review in Dutch at challenge's topic.

BUtterfield 8 is an odd book, but odd in the good sense of the word. The style of the book took me some getting used to, but once I did (and it didn't take me long), I was hooked :-) My rating went from the initial three stars to four, and I ended up even with giving it five stars.

The book has several lifelike dialogues; for me it was almost as if
Aug 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: big-white-square
Nice and sexy at the start, with everyone walking around in their underwear ... moves through some misogyny and casual racism (it’s the 1930s) and ends with a disappointing splash. But fun along the way. Gloria is great:
"In the bathroom was a dressing-table with triplicate mirrors and many lights. Even the front of the draw had a mirror, and whenever she noticed this she thought about the unknown person who designed the table, what he or she must have had in mind: what earthly use could there be
Dana Jennings
Nov 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Penguin Classics edition with introduction by Lorin Stein. Here is an excerpt from the introduction which I read before starting the novel and again when I finished. "On O'Hara's gravestone it is written: 'Better than anyone else, he told the truth about his time, the first half of the twentieth century. He was a professional.' O'Hara's camp up with the epitaph himself. The claim is debatable (and tacky) , but it's useful when reading Butterfield 8 to bear that ambition in mind, for O'Hara alway ...more
Alia S
He was getting a little tired of all but the freedom part of his freedom.

I’ve never read O’Hara but have heard him called the poor man’s Fitzgerald. That’s fine by me—I love Fitzgerald and long ago ran out of him. The substitute material definitely has less money and more sex, and whether O’Hara’s intention here was to sell books or to tell the truth, it must have been a complete scandal at the time. I kept checking the copyright date: 1935 for casual reference to BDSM parties and softball lesbi
Nov 24, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting read, if only to puzzle over the differences between it and the 1960 Elizabeth Taylor/ Laurence Harvey movie.

The big difference is that in the book Gloria is a sexually liberated – for 1935, its year of publication -- young woman from a moneyed family, while in the movie she is an upmarket call-girl. Each treatment provides more entertainment than insight: the book is an extended New Yorker story; the movie an extended photo shoot of Taylor in her Most Beautiful Woman in the Wor
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Having never watched the movie, I feel I was pretty much a blank slate reading this. I found that I just feel disappointed ... All of the characters seem so underdeveloped that I really couldn't connect with them, even though I wanted to. I often felt I had to spend time remembering who some characters were because I forgot about them. I feel this book is more about a time period than about an actual story. This easily could have been a riveting short story by eliminating everything but the last ...more
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Gloria vs Curley's Wife (in Of Mice and Men) 1 4 Sep 03, 2014 11:22PM  
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John Henry O'Hara was an American writer born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. He initially became known for his short stories and later became a best-selling novelist whose works include Appointment in Samarra and BUtterfield 8. He was particularly known for an uncannily accurate ear for dialogue. O'Hara was a keen observer of social status and class differences, and wrote frequently about the social ...more
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“Bing: You’re a heel…a low down rotten heel…anything that doesn’t go your way, anything that you can’t have you destroy.” 5 likes
“There comes a time in a man's life, if he is unlucky and leads a full life, when he has a secret so dirty that he knows he never will get rid of it. (Shakespeare knew this and tried to say it, but he said it just as badly as anyone ever said it. 'All the perfumes of Arabia' makes you think of all the perfumes of Arabia and nothing more. It is the trouble with all metaphors where human behavior is concerned. People are not ships, chess men, flowers, race horses, oil paintings, bottles of champagne, excrement, musical instruments or anything else but people. Metaphors are all right to give you an idea.)” 4 likes
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