Summary and book reviews of Playing Botticelli by Liza Nelson

Playing Botticelli

By Liza Nelson

Playing Botticelli
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2000,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2001,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

In her vibrant and wise novel, Liza Nelson captures that pivotal time when a parent's power to shape and shield her child is drawing to an end.

The year is 1986, when airport terrorism, serial killers, and Iran-Contra have put most of the population into a collective funk. But artist Godiva Blue feels safe. A refugee from the late sixties, self-proclaimed visionary, and "lady janitor" at the local elementary school, Godiva believes she has found a haven for herself and her daughter, Dylan, in the backwaters of northwest Florida. Then, on a casual trip to the post office, Godiva glances at the FBI most-wanted poster and recognizes the face of the man with whom she conceived Dylan during an antiwar rally. Meanwhile, at fifteen Dylan is chafing under her mother's overwhelming personality. When she discovers the poster that Godiva had hidden in a rare moment of self-doubt, Dylan begins to build a fantasy future centered on reuniting with her father, setting her--and Godiva's--course.

Chapter One
August 28, 1986

Well, this summer is over. Kaput. Finis. Down the tubes. Extinct. All gone. The end.

As far as I'm concerned, anyway.

It shut like a book this afternoon. One minute I was full of August, easing my way down Highway 12, windows down, music blasting, the hot wind whipping in thick ribbons against my neck. The next minute I was chilled to the bone.

To the bone.

I'd been at work. The teachers come back for pre-planning in a week, and I want no hassles from middle-aged women having nervous breakdowns because their chalkboards are dusty or their windows won't open. Life is too short and art is too long. Being a janitor - excuse me, custodian - is not exactly my life's work. I am an artist first, but I have to earn a living. If I were by myself it would be one thing, but with a daughter to feed, clothe, educate and all the rest, I've had to make my compromises, though fewer than most people, I'm glad to say. Bourgeois excuse, someone would have ...

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Introduction

"This is one of those wonderful novels that treats the mother-daughter relationship for what it is - part minefield, part love nest."
- Pat Conroy

Liza Nelson's debut novel tells the story of Godiva Blue, an artist, single mother, and self-proclaimed visionary, who believes she has found a haven for herself and her daughter, Dylan, in the backwaters of northwest Florida in the mid-eighties. A refugee of the late sixties, Godiva revels in a self-reliant existence that allows her free reign of her eccentricities.

But Godiva, who has buried pieces of her past, discovers that she cannot handpick the parts of her life that she would prefer to box away. On a casual trip to the post office, she glances at the FBI most ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Library Journal

The major problem with this first novel is that Nelson can't quite make up her mind whether the plot centers on a child's search for her father or the generation gap between a hippie mother and her more conservative daughter.

Publishers Weekly

The fertile depths of mother-daughter relationships are plumbed with sparkling humor and sharp-edged wisdom in Nelson's impressive debut.

Kirkus Reviews

A rambling and good-natured debut novel that follows a young woman as she takes to the road in search of the father she never knew. Adolescence is a tough time for just about everybody, but when your mother is an ex-flower child who conceived you on a commune, you're going to suffer an extra complex or two.... Can a daughter's love defeat history? Sharp, likable, and nicely paced, Nelson writes with a light touch and a sharp eye.

Author Blurb Pat Conroy
Playing Botticelli is one of those wonderful novels that treat the mother-daughter relationship for what it is part mine field, part love nest.

Author Blurb Anne Lamott
Liza Nelson is a terrific writer, and these are wonderful characters.

Author Blurb Pam Durban
A tough, tender, and unabashed meditation on the joys and dangers of motherhood and the longings of a daughter for her father. Elegant, moving, and true.

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