Summary and book reviews of Florence Gordon by Brian Morton

Florence Gordon

by Brian Morton

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2015, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Suzanne Reeder

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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 and underappreciated by most 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 with the frustrations of middle-age and the confusions of youth. 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 outsmart.

1

Florence Gordon was trying to write a memoir, but she had two strikes against her: she was old and she was an intellectual. And who on earth, she sometimes wondered, would want to read a book about an old intellectual?

Maybe it was three strikes, because not only was she an intellectual, she was a feminist. Which meant that if she ever managed to finish this book, reviewers would inevitably dismiss it as "strident" and "shrill."

If you're an old feminist, anything you say, by definition, is strident and shrill.

She closed her laptop.

Not much point, she thought.

But then she opened it up again.

2

She didn't feel strident or shrill. She didn't even feel old.

And anyway, old age isn't what it used to be — or at least that's what she kept telling herself.

This was her reasoning. Florence was seventy-five years old. In an earlier era, that would have made her an old lady. But not today. She'd been a young woman during the 1960s, and if you were young in the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
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 something strange going on with her left foot, which is starting to drag and interfere with her indomitable march forward through life. Defiant and determined, Florence can humble the fools surrounding her with ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Florence Gordon. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Circle of Friends
My experience has been that as we age our situations change, possibly our locations. I personally only see the friends from school at reunions, etc. However, my husband's class has remained quite close and in fact has breakfasts together (those in ... - saraht

Discuss some of the ways in which the characters are affected by, reflect on, or rage against their lack of control over time.
Florence knows her time is running out and she is trying to stay focused on her memoir. Daniel can't decide what he's doing with his life. It's like he's waiting for someone to lead him in the right direction. Janine is more in her own fantasy ... - dianaps

Do you think Florence and Emily are as "far apart" as Florence thinks?
It is a loss for both that Florence seems closed to communication. They have much in common besides blood ties. - lindah

Given her detachment and lack of concern for most other people in her life, why does Florence treat Saul with such patience and kindness?
All the answers already given helped me to view the relationship between Florence and Saul with greater understanding. My impulsive answer is the same as jww's, that Florence felt guilty, but perhaps about marrying Saul in the first place. In ... - marianned

Has aging changed how you relate to people?
For sure. I'm more outspoken than I was years ago, but I'm also more tolerant of others and their viewpoints because I have learned to value different personality types that process information differently. That has made me more patient, not so quick... - marianned

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Florence Gordon is a joy to read for its beautiful and complex depiction of an intelligent, uncompromising woman who defiantly—or courageously—remains steadfast in living a life of her own determination.   (Reviewed by Suzanne Reeder).

Full Review (723 words).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

This novel shows us how a woman uses her strengths and her lifelong friendships to face challenges strictly on her own terms. Morton (Starting Out in the Evening) has created an obstreperous, rebellious character who is likable for being true to herself.

Booklist

Starred Review. Morton's intelligent, layered portrait of a feisty, independent older woman is an absolute joy to read, not only for its delightful wit but also for its dignified appraisal of aging and living life on one's own terms.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Always a pleasure to read for his well-drawn characters, quiet insight and dialogue that crackles with wit, Morton here raises his own bar in all three areas. He also joins a sadly small club of male writers who have created memorable heroines.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Morton's characters are sharply drawn, vivid in temperament and behavior, and his prose smartly reveals Florence's strength and dignity.

Author Blurb Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones
Combining a rigorous intellect and a deep humanity, this is the story of a feminist hero, a family coming together and apart, and the ways we interpret the past and attempt to face the future. Most of all, Florence Gordon shows how passion - of one type or the other - shapes a heart.

Author Blurb Emily Gould, author of Friendship
Perceptive isn't a strong enough word to describe Brian Morton's insight into family dynamics; psychic is more like it...And somehow he still manages to be funny, even as he breaks your heart.

Author Blurb Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments and Approaching Eye Level
Florence Gordon is a marvelous creation. Like many great characters in English literature, she is a sacred monster, fully realized and richly present in the pages of this thoroughly enjoyable book.

Author Blurb Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and To Tell and Against Joie de Vivre
A marvelously wise, compassionate, funny, rueful and altogether winning novel.

Author Blurb Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and Half a Life
Florence Gordon is one of contemporary literature's most wondrous characters: flawed and brilliant, funny and serious, totally unforgettable.

Reader Reviews

Carol Rainer

My kind of woman
Loved this book - she reminded me of the way I feel and would like to be. I loved that she hung up on the silence created on the phone when she was put on hold by her doctor's secretary awaiting his picking up the phone. Wouldn't we all feel like ...   Read More

MelanieB

Excellent Book!
This is one of the best books I've read this year! I recommend this novel to all readers but if you are transitioning as an older adult, I think Florence's story is particularly thoughtful, laughable, gritty and realistic. The author presents an ...   Read More

Diane S.

Florence Gordon
Many years back, one of my favorite TV shows, was shown on our local PBS station and was called Waiting for God. It was about a group of seniors in senior housing and the character I loved was named Diana. She asked for and took no mercy, had a very ...   Read More

J

Well written
I enjoyed the writing style. I abhorred most of the characters. The writing got me through the book in spite of the aversion to the characters. Particularly like the chapter treatment - some long, some very short. To the point and relevant.

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Beyond the Book

Second-Wave Feminism

In the early 20th century several strides were made for the advancement of women, including the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. These victories were associated with what is commonly referred to as the first wave of feminism. After World War II, however, feminist causes waned, and by the 1950s the image of the blissful suburban housewife permeated the national consciousness.

Galvanized by the civil rights movement, feminists again took their places on the political stage. By the 1960s a second wave of feminism emerged and continued through the following decade. During this era the women's movement fought for — and won — monumental rights that, among other advancements, improved women's equality in...

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