Florence Gordon

Florence Gordon

Book - 2014
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A wise and entertaining novel about a woman who has lived life on her own terms for seventy-five defiant and determined years, only to find herself suddenly thrust to the center of her family's various catastrophes

Meet Florence Gordon: blunt, brilliant, cantankerous and passionate, feminist icon to young women, invisible to almost everyone else. At seventy-five, Florence has earned her right to set down the burdens of family and work and shape her legacy at long last. But just as she is beginning to write her long-deferred memoir, her son Daniel returns to New York from Seattle with his wife and daughter, and they embroil Florence in their dramas, clouding the clarity of her days and threatening her well-defended solitude. And then there is her left foot, which is starting to drag....

With searing wit, sophisticated intelligence, and a tender respect for humanity in all its flaws, Brian Morton introduces a constellation of unforgettable characters. Chief among them, Florence, who can humble the fools surrounding her with one barbed line, but who eventually finds there are realities even she cannot outwit.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
ISBN: 9780544309869
Branch Call Number: MORTON B
Characteristics: 306 pages ; 24 cm


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Jan 03, 2018

This was the most unsatisfying novel I've read by Brian Morton.

Nov 21, 2016

This was an enjoyable read and a bit of a page-turner only if to find out whether any of the characters will be developed further. The story is about an egocentric, feminist grandmother and her interaction with her granddaughter. While you hope the two of them will be able to sit down and have a real conversation, it always goes back to the grandmother's somewhat selfish view of life and her cold treatment of her family members. Her son could have been more developed as could her daughter-in-law in order for the reader to understand the grandmother's unsympathetic view of them. I didn't like the ending as the ends weren't all neatly tied up but rather left dangling.

Jan 05, 2015

What happens to a feminist born in the 1960s as she ages? This novel is set in 2009 and features Florence Gordon, a big name feminist of the 1960s and 1970s. Florence has always been more comfortable with reading, writing, speaking, and protesting than with family life. The novel opens with Florence shutting down her surprise 75th birthday party. As her life winds down, Florence's life is viewed through the lenses of her ex-husband, son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. A thought-provoking read.

manoush Oct 27, 2014

With this new novel Morton retreads his familiar ground of Upper West Side New York City intellectuals and their personal relations. “Florence Gordon” is about a feisty, outspoken feminist writer in her autumnal years, and her fleeting, brief connection with her precocious only granddaughter Emily. There are several other storylines and characters in the novel but they’re rather undeveloped. The main thrust is Emily’s coming-of-age and Florence’s twilight years. Particularly caricatured is the bitter Saul, Florence’s ex-husband, a toxic failed intellectual who is credible but still only schematically portrayed.

Florence too has more than a whiff of stereotype. She’s the textbook argumentative “big personality” that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who’s had even a superficial brush with the world of NYC intellectuals and academics (the book’s back cover has glowing blurbs from some of these personalities). But three-quarters of the way into the novel after returning from a visit to her doctor, Florence’s characterization is given a smidgen more depth. Even more interesting than Florence is her son Daniel, who Morton depicts quite engagingly but does not develop, perhaps because writing about an old “feisty feminist” is more marketable than an introverted Seattle policeman singularly devoted to his family.

Morton’s style is lighthanded and almost aphoristic—some chapters are only a paragraph long, and intriguing ideas are strewn about the novel but remain undeveloped. On the one hand this is refreshing, inviting the reader’s mind to wander and fill in the blanks. On the other hand, the novel feels distinctly unsatisfying and too allusive. Morton doesn’t raise any big issues or themes, except perhaps the perennial theme of why important artists and intellectuals tend to be unbearable in their day-to-day lives. As with Adelle Waldman’s depiction of the Brooklyn literary set, this novel about Manhattan intellectuals feels cramped and slight. Perhaps that’s because New York intellectuals are a cloistered, provincial in-group. Their blithe privilege, sectarian infighting, self-absorption and self-regard make them as peculiar as any primitive kin group. Yet Morton isn’t writing outside of this cloistered world, to satirize it or make us see it anew or in a different light. “Florence Gordon” feels very much like an insider’s tale penned for fellow members of the tribe. For everyone else it may be too parochial and niche.


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