Reader reviews and comments on White Oleander, plus links to write your own review.

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White Oleander

By Janet Fitch

White Oleander
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  • Hardcover: May 1999,
    390 pages.
    Paperback: May 2000,
    400 pages.

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There are currently 62 reader reviews for White Oleander
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Zee Krstic (12/15/12)

Relationships 101 - White Oleander
A relationship between a daughter and her mother is hard to describe. It can be one of hate, of discord, of strain, of deep love. An Oprah’s Book Choice in 1999, White Oleander by Janet Fitch is a tale of love; deep, twisted love, and the strain of relationships on the story’s protagonist, Astrid Magnussen. Stunningly beautiful and incredibly talented, Astrid’s mother, Ingrid, only has one admirer in her life; her daughter. After countless trysts with various men, Ingrid is dejected and crazed over an ex-lover, Barry. Harnessing the power of the toxic, yet elegant, white oleander flower, Ingrid murders Barry in cold blood. When her mother is sentenced to life in prison, Astrid finds herself in the Los Angeles foster care program and begins a string of defective, harmful relationships with those she calls ‘family.’ Her first home is with Starr, a born-again former addict, and her boyfriend, Ray. Her first father figure encourages Astrid’s art, and becomes her first lover, until Starr attempts to kill Astrid out of jealousy. Astrid lives with countless families and mother figures, from Amelia Ramos, who starves all eight of her foster ‘girls’, to Claire Richards, who is the perfect mother until she commits suicide due to depression and rejection from her husband, Ron. One thing is constant in Astrid’s life; her mother, who has become a jailbird poet and symbol of modern feminism. As the sole solution to her mother’s freedom in federal court, Astrid must make a choice that will uncover truth about her terrible past and shape her future. White Oleander is a genuine piece of literature that has shocking twists on every page, and is a symbol of ‘coming of age’ and feminism in America. Fitch’s style allows a elegant, scintillating prose that is seductively alluring to all readers. As a literature student, I truly believe White Oleander is remarkable for its capability to ‘hold water’ with almost any reader, and the startling truth of relationships and love lurks on every page. Without a doubt, it is one the most poignant and enthralling novels I have ever read in my life.
Annie (02/24/11)

Janet Fitch's unique style of writing
The book White Oleander was very interesting but at times was very hard to read. The beginning of the book was the most challenging because it didn’t get off to a good start. It was very boring and I had to force myself to keep reading but after a few chapters the book began to get interesting. After those first couple of chapters, I found myself never wanting to put the book down.
White Oleander was the debut book for author Janet Fitch. Janet Fitch was born November 9, 1955 in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Reed College, in Portland, Oregon, and from Keele University in England. Fitch had wanted to become a historian, but on her twenty-first birthday she decided to begin writing fictional books. So far she has a total of three books, and in her spare time, she teaches fiction to students at the University of Southern California.
White Oleander is a story of a mother-daughter relationship, and the search for ones identity. It tells the story of 11 year old girl named Astrid Magnussen and her feminist poet mother Ingrid. When Astrid mother is sent to jail for killing her ex-lover with poisons from white oleander flowers, Astrid Magnussen now has to find the way to adulthood through a series of Los Angeles foster families and juvenile homes.
Janet Fitch has a very unique writing style. She goes into a lot of detail and makes you feel like you are there. She also entices the readers throughout the story with her language and twists.
The book White Oleander opened my eyes to what life was like for kids who are in foster homes. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good book.
Lauren McCoy (03/20/08)

A Poisonous Romance
White Oleander portrays a beautiful story of a mother-daughter relationship,and the search for feminine identity. Ingrid, the selfish, irresponsible mother of Astrid, is a famous poetry writer in California. She drags her thirteen year old daughter with her everywhere she goes; writer conventions, on dates with her many lovers, book signing, and parties. She protects herself from the world of men, and engraves her ideas into Astrid as well. When Ingrid is convicted of the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Barry, she is sent to prison for life, leaving Astrid abandoned and alone to fend for herself. Astrid begins on a long trip of foster homes, from one crazy household to the next. Every family she lives with varies in their ideas and lifestyle, however, Astrid finds ways to cope with stress, abuse, sexuality, love, and most importantly, survival. With every new foster home, comes a new experience. The trials of life and endurance through tough and changing times becomes Astrid's everyday lifestyle. Astrid becomes more detached from her mother the more she experiences maturing and growing up. Janet Fitch uses vivid words, strung together almost as poetry in first person point of view. The language is beautiful, yet an easy read. The story line allows the reader to sink into the ink on the book and become totally absorbed, in the material When I read White Oleander, I immediately fell in love with the characters and was able to identify and relate to the characters. This is my new favorite book!
Christin (01/11/08)

White Oleander
Janet Fitch’s beautifully written novel White Oleander is the story about the agonizing and obscure journey that is Astrid Magnussen’s life. Shaken and destroyed by her mother Ingrid’s imprisonment for the murder of her boyfriend, Astrid is uprooted from her home and shipped from foster home to foster home. The story focuses on Astrid and her quest to find out who she really is and the obstacles she faces along the way. While growing into who she is, she becomes a little bit like each female figure that has an effect on her.

During her life’s journey, Astrid experiments with both drugs and sex. Yes, this is a common act for some lost teens, but she digs herself more deeply in trouble than most. Her mistakes could have easily resulted in death, and in fact, they almost did prove to be, fatal. Though her story is not like most, she is still a very relatable and identifiable person for others who are trying to find themselves. You can’t help but to get sucked into her life’s journey and to root for her along the way.

The beginning and true reason for her journey all come back to one person, Ingrid Magnussen. “Beautiful, distinguished, thrives without care and can be lethal if not careful”, this is how Clemson University defines the (white) oleander. The same can be said about Ingrid.

Janet Fitch’s masterpiece became a movie three years after its release and is also part of Oprah Winfrey’s book club. Originally the protagonist in another short story, Fitch is inspired to change Ingrid’s inner character to eventually unravel. As a part of realistic fiction, White Oleander will stay forever in the readers’ hearts for its realistic and brilliant depiction of a young girl’s journey to self realization.

[This review has been edited to remove plot spoilers]
Michelle L (03/21/07)

Amazing
This is quite possibly the most amazing book ever written. I have read it over and over again, and it never gets old. The language is so magnificent, I just want to hold onto every word. The characters are portrayed perfectly and you truly feel like part of the story. Simply amazing, I highly recommend this book.
Steph Halligan (02/26/07)

White Oleander
This book, White Oleander, was awesome. The writing style and theme of the story was so well written, it drew you into the book, made you feel as if you were a part of it, once I started reading it I ust didn't want to put it down! The words the author used were so powerful, Astrid was is very strong character in the book and her and her mother are so different but so alike at the same time which makes a big part in the book, also because what she went through is the reality of life and its hurdles that could happen to any of us, makes you feel so involved, like it was happening to a friend or something. It was a really good book, I would recommend it to other adolescents/ young adults, but not younger readers because it could be a bit hard and complex for them to understand.
Donia Elizabeth (11/27/06)

Gripping insanity!
'White Oleander' is one of the books that I found to be weird in its own way...The Santa Anas, the letters that Ingrid Magnussen sends her daughter..all speak of the human tendency to interact, to want to be loved even though ego projects otherwise.

White Oleander makes you think a second time, about your own state of loneliness....that's why I like the book..It made me think!
Niki B (10/10/06)

Full of Surprises
White Oleander is a well-written masterpiece. The narrator is exceptional. The reader can connect with Astrid and understand her experiences . Astrid is a strong character who is full of life.
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