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Last Of Her Kind

by Sigrid Nunez
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publishing date: 12/12/2006
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780312425944
  • ISBN: 0312425945

Synopsis

 
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of the Year
 
Ann Drayton and Georgette George meet as freshmen roommates at Barnard College in 1968. Ann, who comes from a wealthy New England family, is brilliant and idealistic. Georgette, who comes from a bleak town in upstate New York, is mystified by Ann's romanticization of the underprivileged class, which Georgette herself is hoping college will enable her to escape. An intense and difficult friendship is born.
 
Years after a fight ends their friendship, Ann is convicted of a violent crime. As Georgette struggles to understand what has happened, she is led back to their shared history and to an examination of the revolutionary era in which the two women came of age. Only now does she discover how much her early encounter with this extraordinary, complicated woman has determined her own path in life, and why, after all this time, as she tells us, "I have never stopped thinking about her."
Sigrid Nunez is also the author of the novels A Feather on the Breath of God and For Rouenna. She has received several awards, including a Whiting Writers' Award, the Rome Prize in Literature, and a Berlin Prize Fellowship. She lives in New York City.
The Last of Her Kind introduces two women who meet as freshman on the Barnard campus in 1968. Georgette George does not know what to make of her brilliant, idealistic roommate, Ann Drayton, and her obsessive disdain for the ruling class into which she was born. She is mortified by Ann's romanticization of the underprivileged class, which Georgette herself is hoping college will enable her to escape. After the violent fight that ends their friendship, Georgette wants only to forget Ann and to turn her attention to the troubled runaway kid sister who has reappeared after years on the road.

Then, in 1976, Ann is convicted of murder. At first Ann's fate appears to be the inevitable outcome of her belief in the moral imperative to "make justice" in a world where "there are no innocent white people." But in searching for answers to the riddle of this friend of her youth, Georgette finds more complicated and mysterious forces at work.

As the novel's narrator, Georgette illuminates the terrifying life of this difficult, doomed woman, and in the process discovers how much their early encounter has determined her own path, and why, decades later, as she tell us, "I have never stopped thinking about her."
"A compelling account of the 1960s and their aftermath, a carefully written and discerning narrative with closely drawn portraits of prototypical yet unique women trying to construct a friendship across and unbridgeable class divide . . . The Last of Her Kind appears to share common ground with novels like The Group by Mary McCarthy and ona Jaffe's Class Reunion. And the historical events, both real and invented, that provide its backdrop give Nunez's story tragic dimensions . . . Nunez's keen powers of observation make her a natural chronicler. It's not hard to suspect she has plenty of good stories about her own life to tell."?Megan Marshall, The New York Times Book Review
"A compelling account of the 1960s and their aftermath, a carefully written and discerning narrative with closely drawn portraits of prototypical yet unique women trying to construct a friendship across and unbridgeable class divide . . . The Last of Her Kind appears to share common ground with novels like The Group by Mary McCarthy and ona Jaffe's Class Reunion. And the historical events, both real and invented, that provide its backdrop give Nunez's story tragic dimensions . . . Nunez's keen powers of observation make her a natural chronicler. It's not hard to suspect she has plenty of good stories about her own life to tell."?Megan Marshall, The New York Times Book Review
 
"A remarkable novel for those whose trendiness is in decline. This story of a complicated friendship is likely to strike a chord with readers, especially women, who were at an impressionable age during the 1960's and 70's . . . full of incident and high drama . . . The author's name, Sigrid Nunez, is not widely known beyond the literary establishment that has bestowed several important prizes on her, but the scope and power of her fifth novel should bring her much wider acclaim . . . One of the best moments in the book is when the meaning of the title is revealed. Like so much else here, it startles and lingers long in the heart and mind."?Elizabeth Benedict, The New York Times
 
"Nunez confronts big questions of moral complexity, the arrogant underside of idealism, the shifting line between principles and fanaticism, and America's fascination with violence. The Last of Her Kind focuses not only on the kind of violence unleashed by a declaration of war, or fired from the barrel of a gun, but also on the more intimate violence of suppressed anger and missed opportunities between husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and lovers . . . Nunez is a gifted storyteller."?Renee Shea, Poets & Writers
 
"Brilliant, dazzling, daring . . . the keenest comparison is to The Great Gatsby, American idealism wedded to materialism. This novel will make you rethink Gatsby and it's reputation as the great masterpiece of American literature?no small feat."?The Boston Globe
 
"Remarkable . . . daring . . . [Sigrid Nunez] presents a homegrown American version of a special kind of monster in Ann, while also managing to make her appealing, intelectually compelling, movingly charasmatic."?San Francisco Chronicle
 
"The narrative style is as clear and affecting as ever, capturing the viewpoints and inflections of several characters without losing its compelling intensity . . . Ms. Nunez is a writer more interested in people than politics. She is far more interested in showing how individual lives are shaped by politics than in trying to explain how politics shapes the course of history. Exploring, investigating and imagining the histories of her variegated characters, she takes us beneath the surface to the essential mysteries of the human heart."?Merle Rubin, The Wall Street Journal
 
"Idiosyncratic, provocative and sublimely confident . . . a document of an era through characters who begin to seem like historical icons whose names we should remember. It's responsible, feminist, uncompromising and hugely informative but never patronizing. She shows us the crowds and the big ideas, conferring on them both nobility and intelligence. Nunez has created a book that feels both porous?there is room for our own accounts of these times?and like the discovery of a crucial document, the riveting archive of the lives of the last of all kinds of dreamers."?Newsday
 
"Refreshingly unsentimental . . . A touching, well-written story about '60s idealism that challenges the current slickness in ads that sell Woodstock and such to baby boomers . . . Nunez takes the clichés of the era's counterculture and shines a harsh light on them."?Paula Wehmeyer, BUST
 
?An honest, unflinching look at the times, the attitudes and the difficulties involved in an era when many people tried their damnedest to live as authentically as possible in the presence of so much wrong . . . To read this novel is to experience the turbulence, the anguish, the heightened sense of connectedness through the feeling that what some people did actually mattered.”?Tara Miller, The Antioch Review

"In The Last of Her Kind, Sigrid Nunez uncovers the sixties' dirtiest dirty little secret: class. This is an irresistible read for anyone who lived through the period, or who understands its importance for who we are and how we know ourselves as Americans."?Mary Gordon, author of Pearl

"Sigrid Nunez once again creates characters of such depth and situations of such vivid moral complexity that reading these pages is like living them. Only as I closed the book did I sadly realize that George and Ann weren't my neighbors. But happily I can revisit them again, and again, in this beautiful and absorbing novel."?Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona

"Thoughtful, soulful and painfully honest, Sigrid Nunez brilliantly reimagines the late '60s and its liberating yet scathing idealism. The Last of her Kind is an intimate, rich, eventful, perfectly balanced romance of two mismatched friends and their unsentimental educations."?Stewart O'Nan, author of The Good Wife
 
"Philosophically adroit . . . A masterful construction of the troubled conscience of the era and its aftermath."?Kirkus Reviews
 
"Layered, thoughtful . . . Nunez moves far past the obvious clichés about activism to show a character who . . . is . . . multifaceted and three-dimensional. Told in Georgette's graceful, introspective voice, this engrossing, beautiful novel will enthrall readers."?Kristine Huntley, Booklist (starred review)
 
"Every so often you close a book and the only word that comes to mind is 'wow.' This fifth offering from the award-winner Nunez is such a work . . . The novel is never heavy-handed but tells an intricate story that relies on morally complex characters and their friends and family . . . Rich in historical detail, this unpredictable...


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  • Haphazard and sloppily written, but a good story
    From Amazon

    This is a big unholy mess of a book that seems to have been written sans organization, or in fact, any particular writing ability. However, the story is pretty good. Georg(ette) is from upstate New York. Her back-story features an impoverished hardscrabble background, absent father, rotten mother, runaway sister, and the proverbial high school teacher who believed in her. George's Barnard roommate (this is ca 1969) is Dooley Ann Drayton, rich, white, sensitive, and guilty. Ann's sincerity eventually overwhelms Gergette's reticence and near hostility, and they become friends. Time passes. They both quit school. George goes to work for Mademoiselle/Vogue/Visage (to Ann's disgust), Ann marries a black guy who's older and avuncular to the point of being condescending. George unintentionally insults Ann by complimenting her husband's green eyes -- they end up in a physical fight and, apparently, will never see each other again. But then, in part because we need a plot, but also because it does make some organic sense given Ann's uncompromising character, Ann shoots a cop and goes to prison for life. That George now has an affair with Ann's father is a bit less convincing, some kind of mutual comfort thing that's not adequately depicted. The runaway sister shows up, is psychotic. And so on. A prison segment, inserted kludgily as a story in a literary magazine written by an inmate friend of Ann's, is good -- Ann in prison, nursing the AIDS patients, makes sense. The whole thing feels very haphazard, and the ending, in which we attempt to circle around to The Great Gatsby, feels abrupt and unsatisfying -- or maybe I should just say it peters out. The characters (except Ann's dad) are convincing and the evocation of the times likewise.

  • Incisive and absorbing
    From Amazon

    Incisive and absorbing portrayal of the troubled friendship between two Barnard College roommates, working class Georgette and wealthy Ann.

  • Finely Written and Deeply Evocative
    From Amazon

    The Last of Her Kind carries a message that deeply resonates with me, one that illustrates what it truly means to opt for the road not taken. Perhaps a better way to put it is to say that going one's own way may be allowed, but it often incurs penalties. Conventional folk can become really annoyed with those who don't know, or don't accept, their place in life. The results can range from merely acrimonious to horrifying. Most people like to put others into little boxes labeled with names like "black," "gay," "socialist," "rich kid," "blue collar," and so forth. In The Last of Her Kind, author Sigrid Nunez serves up memorable, if not especially likable, characters who resist categorization and are made to suffer for it. The story is told from the point of view of Georgette George, who is (bluntly) a white trash girl from rural, upstate New York. It begins in 1968 at Barnard College in New York City, where "George" arrives on scholarship to find herself rooming with a very wealthy girl named Dooley Drayton. After expressing her initial disappointment that George isn't black, Dooley comes to confide in her friend, and vice versa, throughout their freshman year at Barnard. Over the course of time both girls drop out of school and drift apart, but they know each other's stories and, for George at least, the enigma of her friend stays with her like an aura. Dooley toys for a time with radicalism and eventually settles down with her activist, black boyfriend. George drifts through a series of ill-fated relationships, eventually reconnecting with Dooley in a most odd way, which to describe in any detail will ruin the novel for any of you who might wish to read it (and you most certainly should read it.) Dooley's empathy for, and admiration of, what one might call the "poor, black experience" earns her the contempt of her own class, as well as of the blacks she tries to befriend. By the novel's climax, it has become apparent that resentment and envy cut both ways, and that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

  • Fantastic Story About Coming of Age In the Sixties
    From Amazon

    The Last of Her Kind is the story of Georgette, a small-town girl from Upstate New York who moves to NYC to attend college in the late 1960s. The story chronicles her life and the effect that her freshman year roommate -- a rich, spoiled, political activist ashamed of her wealth and skintone -- has on her for the rest of her life. The novel is extremely well written, and if I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be dense. There is a lot of story packed into a few hundred pages. The writing is descriptive and rich without bogging down, and it moves quickly without feeling rushed. I think that my favorite aspect of the novel was that it was broken into parts, with each part roughly corresponding to an era in Georgette's life. At the beginning of the novel, Georgette is young and the parts are longer. As time goes on, the parts get shorter and shorter, giving one the feeling that time is rushing by. By the time the end of the novel comes around, it feels as though you're moving through life at lightning speed and wondering where all the years went -- much like real life. This book was engaging and I would highly recommend it.

  • No Discipline, Like the Sixties
    From Amazon

    I am really tempted to give this just one star, based on how disappointing this attempt at a very interesting novel became. While my title may suggest a disapproval with the sociology of what is known as "the sixties" (which began in the mid-sixties and lingered into the mid-seventies), that is not my perspective. In fact, one of the aspects of the novel I liked was the author's dispassionate approach to a fascinating era. What ultimately made the novel a failure for me was the lack of direction (loosely chronological) and order for this book. There are about 2 1/2 books in this novel, and it never became clear to me how exactly they related, other than the author's own uninsightful juxtapositions. Too bad. Perhaps this is yet another failure due to the illiterate marketing hounds of the publishing world: This book desperately needed a knowledgeable and skillful editor.

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