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   White Oleander

White Oleander
by Janet Fitch

Category: Fiction / General
390 pages; ISBN: 1860468027

Rating: 8/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: South African Book Review


I loved this book. It kept me enthralled from beginning to end. It traces the tumultuous life of a teenage girl whose mother is sent to prison for life. Astrid, the daughter, has no one to look after her so she is compelled to enter the dubious Los Angeles foster care system.

A series of calamities befall her, some of which she brings upon herself and some of which are a result of the flawed behaviour found within the dysfunctional families to which she is assigned.

Throughout her difficult odyssey the thread of her troubled relationship with her mother, Ingrid, is woven, sometimes unravelling completely, as she struggles to come to terms with her mother`s actions and apparent disregard for her daughter. What a character her mother is too! She sails through life wrapped in a cloud of pretension and floaty clothes that match her mercurial nature. Even from the prison cell she tries to mould Astrid into something she is not.

The book is well written with wit and more than a touch of irony. Astrid`s perspective on the families with whom she stays, (usually of a far lower station in life than her own had previously been) is insightfully sharp and cutting. The writer has a good grasp on the different types that constitute the sleazy strata of American society.

This is a well-conceived, well-executed book that is also a compelling read. Many readers will relate to Astrid`s dilemma in resolving her feelings towards her mother as well as to Ingrid`s similar struggle.

Penny De Vries - SABR


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