Summary and book reviews of The Nightingales of Troy by Alice Fulton

The Nightingales of Troy

By Alice Fulton

The Nightingales of Troy
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  • Hardcover: Jul 2008,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2009,
    256 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Book Summary

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. Kitty’s arsenic reappears sixty years later in the hands of her distraught niece. A schoolgirl’s passion for the Beatles and Melville—a passion both lonely and funny—shapes 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.

Happy Dust

Mamie Flynn Garrahan

In the twentieth century I believe there are no saints left, but our farm on Bog Road had not yet entered the twentieth century. At that time, around 1908 it would be, I had a secret I could tell to no one, least of all a saint or an arsenic-eater. In my experience, it is better to keep away from saints unless you have business with them. The same backbone that makes them holy virtuosos makes them eager to mind other people’s p’s and q’s. But some of the saints I knew were family, and this made them hard to fend off. Don’t think I am speaking of my sister-in-law, Kitty. She was not a saint but a lost soul.

It was through Kitty that I first got wind of the spiritual genius down the road. My sister-in-law had mixed up a batch of French chalk and gumwater colored with Prussian blue and was using this to fashion veins on her face. I was washing the bedroom windows. As she painted, Kitty let it slip that she’d brought some extra ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

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!

Publishers Weekly

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.

Library Journal

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.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Reader Reviews
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 book,...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

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 ...

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