Florence is a seventy-five year old woman, a writer, an intellectual, and a feminist. And a fiercely independent New Yorker.She is about to take on her biggest project yet, a memoir, but when her editor calls to set up a meeting and introduces her to a young man who will now take over the editing, she fears that nothing good can come from this relationship.

Instead, she learns that she is now a “national treasure,” that a great review of her work has appeared in the New York Times Reviews, and that she is touted as a legend.

What follows is a series of peeks into the world of those who surround her, a cast of characters that include her son Daniel, her daughter-in-law Janine, and her nineteen-year-old granddaughter Emily.

And then there are her friends, also feminists from back in the day, and they are all eager to celebrate her successes.

How will Florence begin to develop a unique relationship with her granddaughter as Emily takes on the role of her assistant, researching articles and the past that will help fill in the picture her granddaughter has of her as Florence prepares for a big event? What will then happen to the two of them just as Emily is beginning to emulate her grandmother’s courage and forthrightness? How will Florence put up walls that will prevent any of her secrets from coming out?

Florence Gordon is a fabulous character study that reveals much about how each character thinks and feels, even as the author shows us how they also prevent closeness by the walls they erect. The dismissive style of Florence’s communication with her loved ones continues with her son and granddaughter. Emily comes the closest to being able to penetrate Florence’s walls, but fails to completely succeed.

I enjoyed seeing the contrasts between Florence and Emily that are mostly generational, while also seeing the similarities. Here is an example of how Florence sees Emily, after watching her granddaughter caught up in looking at her phone:

“She’d been hoping that seeing her granddaughter would cheer her, but as she watched her climb the steps outside the café, the hope disappeared. There had been times when she’d felt close to the girl, but not now. The little scene on the street, the phone pantomime, had reminded her of how far apart they were, in terms of how they lived and what they valued.”

I loved everything about this book, but I was definitely frustrated by each of the characters at one point or another because they could not seem to reach out and communicate. That left me sad.

But I will not forget this story, and recommend it for all those who enjoy character-driven books. 5.0 stars.




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