Daughters of the Revolution
By Carolyn Cooke
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307594730, 192pp.)
Publication Date: June 7, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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From the O. Henry Award–winning author of the story collection The Bostons—a New York Times Notable Book, Los Angeles Times Book of the Year and winner of the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers—an exquisite first novel set at a disintegrating New England prep school.
It’s 1968. The prestigious but cash-strapped Goode School in the town of Cape Wilde is run by its aging, philandering headmaster, Goddard Byrd, known to both his friends and his enemies as God. With Cape Wilde engulfed by the social and political storms of integration, coeducation and the sexual revolution, God has confidently promised coeducation “over my dead body.” And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carole Faust, a brilliant, intractable fifteen-year-old black girl.
What does it mean to be the First Girl?
Carolyn Cooke has written a ferociously intelligent, richly sensual novel about the lives of girls and women, the complicated desperation of daughters without fathers and the erosion of paternalistic power in an elite New England town on the cusp of radical social change. Remarkable for the precision of its language, the incandescence of its images, and the sly provocations of its moral and emotional predicaments, Daughters of the Revolution is a novel of exceptional force and beauty.
Carolyn Cooke’s short-story collection, The Bostons, was a winner of the 2002 PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers and a runner-up for the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award. Her fiction has appeared in AGNI, The Paris Review, Ploughshares and in two volumes each of The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, she teaches in the MFA writing program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.
Praise for Daughters of the Revolution
“Daughters of the Revolution is so good you have to read it. . . . [It is a] ferocious, astonishing experience being inside this deceptively slim book, the first novel from the brilliantly assured Carolyn Cooke. . . . [A] tour de force. . . . Beautiful, magical economy. . . . This is a dramatic social novel, a successful entwining of people that comes to signify the Big Moment of history. Cooke, not once lets a sentence flag, who can reinvent the known with imagery so fine and excruciating it feels like a dare. . . . Her profound, honest compassion for all her characters, men and women, makes them so engrossing, you almost forget what they’re up against.”
—Susanna Sonnenberg, San Francisco Chronicle
“Integration, coeducation, and the sexual revolution encroach on the smug, insular world of a New England prep school in this fiercely intelligent novel.”
—Karen Holt; O, the Oprah Magazine
“Carolyn Cooke’s wise, exquisitely spare first novel centers around the disintegration of a New England prep school, it’s philandering headmaster, and his influence on the women around him.”
—Kimberly Cutter, Marie Claire
“Cooke’s flinty first novel, coming nearly 10 years after her much-acclaimed collection, The Bostons, grapples with another set of crafty New Englanders, all involved, one way or another, with the Goode School. . . . Taunt. . . . Excellent. Cooke delivers on every page.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“In her amazing first novel, short story writer Cooke bridges the two forms as she introduces her characters in chapters that can stand on their own but which together create a complex and challenging structure.”
—Danise Hoover, Booklist
“This smart, sexy, sarcastic, sophisticated novel from Cooke . . . defies genre comparisons but has particular relevance. . . . This cautionary tale deserves wide readership.”
—Sally Bissell, Library Journal (starred review)
“Carolyn Cooke writes with knives and feathers. She slices into her subjects so we see the insides of them and she dusts off the everyday covering to reveal the true contours beneath. Her Daughters of the Revolution is bristling with smarts. Read it slowly and savor the gift this author gives her readers: fierce intelligence, sly humor and not a moment of missing the folly in life.”
—Susan Minot, author of Rapture
“Exuberant bad behavior runs like a life force through this book, in which every sentence is chiseled exactly.”
—Sarah Stone, author of The True Sources of the Nile
“So smart, so visceral, so sexy . . . absolutely brilliant.”
—Kate Walbert, author of A Short History of Women
Praise for The Bostons
“Weird, slightly cracked, yet chiseled and often luminous. . . [It] grabs you right away, gathers force and leaves little holes in your heart. . . . A latter-day Grace Paley. . . . Fresh and fierce. . . . Simply etched prose creates an effect of thickness; as in much of the best short fiction, one can read deeply into what she leaves unsaid.”
—Bret Israel, The Los Angeles Times
“A small masterpiece of black humor.”
—Lorna Williams, The Washington Times
“There is a certain kind of story writer who delights in seeing the world at an angle, keeping the reader off balance with narrative feints and unsettling—often comical—asides. Grace Paley is one master of this use of the form; Lorrie Moore is another. In her bold debut collection, The Bostons, Carolyn Cooke seems to take inspiration from such tale-tellers. . . . Vibrant with moments of sharp description and acerbic asides. . . . A salty vividness . . . a brisk realism.”
—Sylvia Brownrigg, The New York Times Book Review
“Moving . . . beautifully observed.”
—Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe
“Gleaming artfulness . . . Cooke’s fading old Bostonians share a puzzlement that lurks in our own more universal calendars.”
—Richard Eder, The New York Times