Set in Troy, New York, this linked collection follows a quirky and resilient family of women throughout the twentieth century.
In 1908, Mamie Garrahan faces childbirth aided by her arsenic-eating sister-in-law Kitty, a nun who grows opium poppies, and a doctor who prescribes Bayer Heroin. "In the twentieth century, I believe there are no saints left," Mamie remarks. But her daughters and granddaughter test this notion with far-reaching consequences. Kittys arsenic reappears sixty years later in the hands of her distraught niece. A schoolgirls passion for the Beatles and Melvillea passion both lonely and funnyshapes her life. Each decade is illuminated by endearingly eccentric characters: an anorexic waitress falls for a wealthy college boy in the jazz age ... an exuberant young nurse questions science during the Depression ... a homely seamstress designs a scandalous dress in the 1950s. The Nightingales of Troy, the first fiction collection by an acclaimed American poet, creates a vividly palpable sense of time and place. Alice Fulton's memorable characters confront the deepest dilemmas with bravery and abiding love.
The world presented here is a dark one, punctuated as it is with madness, a drowning, hospitalization, unfulfilled desires, and an unhappy marriage, but realism is never used for the sake of preventing nostalgia, and never overwhelms. Moments of genuine humor are juxtaposed with seriousness. Though you may find yourself wishing the characters would emerge unscarred, happiness is not found in the avoidance of pain. It's found, wisely, in the midst of it—through the loyalty of sisterhood and through the honoring of the past as an ever-present force.
Alice Fulton's debut would appeal to any reader fascinated by the evolution of women's roles throughout the past, or to those who enjoy stories about love in its many guises. The stories succeed beautifully in drawing the world inhabited by these "Nightingales of Troy", who, like Florence Nightingale, minister to those around them. (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
These beautiful connected stories feature several generations of good Catholic women in upstate New York.
Seattle Times - Richard Wallace
As in every family, some stories in "The Nightingales of Troy" are much more compelling (and better told) than others. Yet all have a trademark compassion that runs through generations.
After spending time with the Garrahans, you know that the Garrahans of the future will be just as conflicted, hopeful, tragic, witty and tough as nails as their predecessors.
You also will know that Alice Fulton is a writer who can provide the complicated pleasures of accomplished fiction.
Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter Reynolds
You can't fake quirkiness; it requires soul. Been-there-and-back soul, an ability to separate the glib from the gothic. It requires a rousing familiarity with language, backward and forward -- the roots of words. Alice Fulton is a poet, a lifer in the locked ward of literature; here she is writing her first novel, late in the game. Boy, oh boy, was it worth waiting for!
Fulton's strengths are in elaborate detail and delicate construction. And many stories also contain moments of blunt violence and unthinking cruelty, providing the tension at the heart of a book that's rich with feeling for its characters yet willing to expose their faults.
A delightful blend of history and storytelling, recommended for all public libraries.
Booklist - Donna Seaman
Starred Review. Every element in this collection of scintillating linked short stories is surprising, pleasurable, and stealthily affecting.
Starred Review. Fulton has a poet's economy of language and an ability to choose discerning details. Emotionally satisfying and extremely well-crafted short fiction.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Zed Masterson The Nightingales Of Troy by Alice Fulton (2008) This is a gem of a book - in every sense: beautifully written, carefully polished, intensely colored, each story set just so in the century. I suspect that metaphor just got a little more labored than I wanted, but having just finished Fulton's... Read More
Alice Fulton is currently the Ann S. Bowers Professor of English at Cornell
University. Her most recent book of poems is Cascade Experiment:
Selected Poems. Her earlier collection, Felt was awarded the 2002
Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress
and was selected by the Los Angeles Times as one of the Best Books of 2001 and
as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her other books
include Sensual Math; Powers Of Congress;Palladium, winner
of the 1985 National Poetry Series and the 1987 Society of Midland Authors
Award; and Dance Script With Electric Ballerina, winner of The 1982
Associated Writing Programs Award. A collection of prose, Feeling as a
Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry, was published in 1999.
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