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Golden Days

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  270 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Available again in paperback, Golden Days is a major novel from one of the most provocative voices on the American literary scene. Linking the recent past with an imagined future, Carolyn See captures life in Los Angeles in the 70s and 80s. This marvelously imaginative, hilarious, and original work offers fresh insights into the way we were, the way we are, and the way we ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 6th 1996 by University of California Press (first published October 1st 1986)
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3.46  · 
Rating details
 ·  270 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Kim Fay
Feb 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love this book, reread it regularly and can't believe I haven't already reviewed it here. Of my three favorite LA writers --- Eve Babitz, Joan Didion and Carolyn See --- I think (dare I say this aloud) that See is the most creative, her sense of humor is the most subversive and in the long run, her early fiction is most telling of the time in which it was written. "Golden Days" spans time, from the 1950s to an apocalyptic present, telling the story of a wife, ex-wife, mother, lover and success ...more
Jun 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
wow, i bet this book drove a lot of people crazy. people who were looking for a good post-apocalyptic nightmare, people who were looking for death and devastation, people who were looking for a polemic, those who wanted to see good (sigh) triumph over evil.

this book isn't really any of those things, altho it contains events that would, among the unimaginative, be the perfect setup. but Golden Days gives us a nuclear holocaust with none of the above dressed in their usual attire.

this book does tw
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Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
So far this book is SO weird. Carolyn See is sort of the grand dame of serious California/Los Angeles fiction. This book is one of those writers' writers unheralded classics, and I've been wanting to read it for a long time. It begins in Topanga Canyon in the summer of 1980, and it feels like the late 70s and early 80s. I mean, it is saturated with this uber authentic sunny narcissism that somehow believes itself to be feminism, and is also a bit classist and racist. It's creepy, truth be told. ...more
Twylapumroy Pumroy
Jul 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book touched me in such a deep way. It actually spoke to me. It spoke to who I am, how quirky I can be and it spoke to who I would like to be: without worry. In the plot of the book one thing sang to me constantly: the people who were facing supremely troubled times decided to either be happy or panic. Those who opted for happiness left convention and went to those they loved - regardless of how that love was defined or manifested. This concept alone made this book worth reading and loving. ...more
Oct 27, 2007 rated it liked it
What a strange reading experience this was. I spent the first three-fourths of this novel HATING it—I hated the narrator, who I found racist, classist, and just plain unpleasant; I hated the purported “feminism” the characters spouted, which to me boiled down to an icky “men are pricks, so let’s take ‘em for all they’re worth!” philosophy; I hated the depiction of L.A., which was not my L.A. at all (when is it ever?). But then, well…the world ends. All the apocalyptic anxiety that weaves its way ...more
Apr 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
I love books that love Los Angeles.
It's so easy to just dismiss it as shallow and full of traffic and posers and smog, and it IS all that, but there's also that sense of possibility that comes with not having a huge weight of history slapping you in the face every time you turn a corner. And those beautiful mornings that smell like flowers.

I loved how much this book brought me back to my childhood years in southern CA, with my parents' kooky friends who were into self-actualization as well as m
Susan Eskander
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I've ever read. It's one of those "you have to read it to get it" type of novels. It's set in Los Angeles (Topanga Canyon) and takes us into the life of a divorcee with a knack for the jewelry trade who is trying to make ends meet servicing clients in Beverly Hills. She begins by carving out a niche business appraising jewelry for wives of wealthy men - and sometimes breaking the news when their husbands have gifted them zircons instead of diamonds. When disaster strikes, a ...more
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of a number of novels written in the 1980s shaped by the possibility of the "unthinkable," i.e. wide-scale nuclear war that would mean the end of civilization. See seems almost Nietzschean in her belief that nuclear war could be the source of renewal — her portrait of latter-day American civilization, a wasteland characterized by relentless desires and even more relentless fears, may be more bleak than her rather graphic description of life after nuclear war.
Another Jennifer
Aug 18, 2012 rated it liked it
I agree with many of the reviews here. A very bizarre book that took me on a wild ride. Parts of it were hateful. See's language was snappy and sometimes hard to follow. I finished it confused, surprised and intrigued. It made me want to read more of See's work but not right away. I need to recover from this one.
Nov 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is very good post-apocalyptic fiction. Set in southern California in the recent past.
May 15, 2010 rated it liked it
What I learned: don't bother with New Age philosophy, brush up on Stone Age philosophy.
Brianna Egan
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So many things about this novel continue to ring true today: Los Angeles as a sprawling network of neighborhoods rich and poor, an unrelenting West Coast optimism borne out of the possibility to reinvent oneself--again and again--and an impending, vague threat of nuclear armageddon. This novel is timeless in a way I didn't expect it to be. Carolyn See weaves social commentary on everything from the American family dynamic to the subtle racial/economic undercurrents that have built the communitie ...more
Hanje Richards
Dec 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Having recently read two other Carolyn See books (a memoir and a novel) I found this novel disappointing. Carolyn See has moments of brilliance in this book (including the last 30 pages), but for me, reading this relatively short novel was a bit of a slog. I am glad I didn't give up and stop reading it, because the last 30 pages were so worth it. I felt like See was trying to tell too many stories in this book, and all of them suffered as a result. One of the highlights of the book, as with the ...more
Ruth Gibian
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Goes down easy for the first half or so, and then takes the surprising turn of becoming a post-apocalyptic fantasy. There is humor throughout, quite wry, in fact, even with the serious subject matter. It's about Southern California, and the narrator never quites takes anything completely seriously. I'll probably forget everything about this book within a year, but it was an interesting read. Can't remember how I came to it -- perhaps a Maureen Corrigan recommendation from NPR? She did a list of ...more
Jason McKinney
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
If Thomas Pynchon had been born a woman, this might be what he would have sounded like, but without all of the Pynchonian craziness. See is much more grounded in her writing, but does take flights of fancy within reality. Although this book was written almost 30 years ago, it still feels incredibly relevant. Unlike anything I've read before but in an incredibly good way. High Feminism without male bashing.
Kaethe Douglas

There is something about this book that draws me back again and again. Apocalyptic, full of wish-fulfillment, and somehow, really steeped in Californianess. Holds up well, as magical realism apocalyptic fairytale. Some of the images still haunt me.

And isn't it weird to look back at a time when I fully believed a nuclear holocaust was coming, would come, any day? I kind of wish I knew when that particular fear left me.
Interesting read. I almost didn't finish it but it has a bit of a payoff at the end. i heard about the book on NPR and was intrigued enough to find it at the library. I'm still digesting it. I think it definitely stays with you.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Read this for the first time many years ago and again several times since.

I love this book, along with See's later one, The Handyman. This is smart, funny, inspired fiction with a genuine beating heart.
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This one rocked my world. I'm going to read it again over the turkey day break.
Lindsey Pollard
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, but it's bizarre and unsettling. Los Angeles seems to inspire a lot of hallucinogenic writing, and I am more than happy to read it because it feels like home.
Mary Richardson
Oct 31, 2012 rated it liked it
This one was a hard read. At times, I was so drawn into the stream of consciousness meets end of the world fiction, but just as often I was completely confused. The ending was hopeful though.
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
this is another one of those 'only four stars because it was so utterly terrifying' books. but don't let that stop you, it's also utterly brilliant.
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A dazzling book of beauty and pain. Golden Days takes us through the ingenuity and persistence of the human spirit in the face of fear, including the dark side of this; fear and human idiosyncrasies that can cause us to self-destruct an entire civilization. It’s not exactly scifi or post apocalyptic, Don't get fooled by the 'nuclear war' phrase on the book's own jacket blurb. To me it reads more like a satirical evaluation of 60s/70s/80s LA culture, but the promised ‘nuclear war’ does factor in ...more
Virginia Walter
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A single mom makes her way through the hectic times of early 1980s Los Angeles -- and then there is a nuclear war that decimates the city and apparently most of the world. The shift in narrative is stunning -- and effective.
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: california
Like a Joan Didion memoir if the Santa Anas blew in a whole bunch of nuclear fallout
Heidi Lavitt
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
What a weird little book. I’m not sure what to make of it.
Mike O'Shaughnessy
A wonderful, beautifully written novel about life in Los Angeles whose bulk of pages foreshadow an apocalypse you'd expect with an aftermath you might not.
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
Thought-provoking, bur very weird. And I can't decide if I like her writing style. A novel from the mid-80s, set in the then present-day of Los Angeles. Captures a picture of the beauty and sunniness of L.A. of that time. Then a nuclear war happens in 1987 and the last quarter of the book addresses the main character's acceptance, and almost happiness, at the 'new' world she is forced to live in. The end of the book has an interesting image at the end as a small band of people come down from the ...more
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was ok
Mad weird. There were some moments I really liked, some beautifully phrased passages that really made one think, but overall it was kind of all over the place. She jumped from explaining her modern day situation with men and her daughters; to the world suddenly ending and her shoving jewels in her hand. Strange.
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Carolyn See was the author of ten books, including the memoir, Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America, an advice book on writing, Making a Literary Life, and the novels There Will Never Be Another You and The Handyman.

She was the Friday-morning reviewer for The Washington Post, and she has been on the boards of the National Book Critics Circle and PENWest International. She won both the Gug
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“Finally, it was the city that held us, the city they said had no center, that all of us had come to from all over America because this was the place to find dreams and pleasure and love. I noticed--looking at headlines--that some cities emptied and some didn't. Ours didn't, not completely.” 0 likes
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