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Florence Gordon

Brian Morton


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Other Editions of This Title:
Library Binding (11/8/2005)
Prebound (8/4/2015)
Hardcover (11/8/2005)

October 2014 Indie Next List

“Irascible, intellectual, life-long activist Florence Gordon never sought the limelight, and her work now seems to be receding into feminist history. But, at 75, she receives a rapturous review in the New York Times. That, plus some disconcerting physical difficulties, increasingly unreasonable demands from her ex-husband, and the recent move of her son and his family to her Upper West Side neighborhood throw this fiercely controlled, independent woman off balance. Every character in this novel faces unexpected challenges and is vividly, memorably drawn. Florence's granddaughter, Emily, observes that 'each person is the center of a world.' Rarely has that been so richly demonstrated.”
— Banna Rubinow, The River's End Bookstore, Oswego, NY
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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 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 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 outwit.

Praise For Florence Gordon

Finalist for the inaugural Kirkus Fiction Prize

Florence Gordon is one of those extraordinary novels that clarifies its readers' sense of things, rather than cozying up to our conventional pieties. Morton's ending is straight out of a Chekov story: It's up in the air and brave; a closing vision of a life in all its messy contradictions, just limping down the street.” -- Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

"What a treat it is to read Brian Morton's latest novel, populated with the prickly, civic-minded liberal intellectuals we've come to expect from him...self-aware and humorous...Morton doesn't insult us with cheesy, sentimental break-throughs, but he does offer this comfort — characters who are so believable you expect to run into them ordering from the deli counter at Zabar's."

"Angular and comic." --The New Yorker 

"Lovely...Mr. Morton crafts an ending that is partly sad, partly hopeful and, like life, inconclusive." --Wall Street Journal

“Florence is one feisty 75-year-old. A brilliant ‘feminist icon,’ she’s also a cranky pain the neck, forever resisting her family’s attempts to corral her. In this smart, funny and compassionate book, Morton brings the whole endearing bunch to life as they struggle with surprising events and get ambushed by unruly emotions. It’s a treat.” –Kim Hubbard, People Magazine

"Hilarious and addictive...[Morton] manages to be moving without ever being sappy, showing how people can affect each other deeply while remaining stubbornly — wonderfully — themselves." —San Francisco Chronicle

"It's such a cliché to say a book makes you laugh and cry, but this one does, in the deftest way. Morton is that rarest of birds: a dude who's really, truly a feminist. His characters live and breathe, and I still miss hanging out with them." --Emily Gould, Paste Magazine
"Morton is a quietly confident writer, who imbues even throwaway lines of dialogue with crackling wit, and whose characters banter like actors in a screwball comedy...Morton, without ever seeming to worry about it, is a terrific counterargument to those who claim that men can’t write believable female characters...With 'Florence Gordon,' Morton has written a heartfelt paean to a 'gloriously difficult woman.'" --Christian Science Monitor
"Morton treats the material with a light touch and a dry sense of humor...He is compassionate without being sentimental, even when his characters face life-changing challenges. His take on the relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is particularly refreshing...Morton creates individuals, not types, and makes what could be a familiar story fresh." --The Columbus Dispatch
"That Brian Morton has made an engaging and appealing novel with this difficult septuagenarian at its heart is no small accomplishment...warm, funny and always deeply human...[Morton] develops characters worth knowing...Florence Gordon, for all her fine qualities, never ends up being lovable. But Brian Morton’s novel certainly is." --Buffalo News

"Morton has artfully constructed the novel." --Chicago Tribune

"Deliciously sharp and deeply sympathetic...[Morton] is one of the most unostentatiously intelligent novelists at work today...Morton proves that in the hands of a truly gifted novelist, as in real life, a person’s likability matters less than her sheer power of being." --Tablet Magazine

“[Morton] has consistently demonstrated a respect for the humanity of even his most flawed characters...Witty and sophisticated." --Haaretz

"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." -- Kirkus, starred review

"Morton’s characters are sharply drawn, vivid in temperament and behavior, and his prose smartly reveals Florence’s strength and dignity." --Publishers Weekly, 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." --Booklist, starred review

"Morton (Starting Out in the Evening) has created an obstreperous, rebellious character who is likable for being true to herself." --Library Journal

“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." —Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

“Perceptive isn't a strong enough word to describe Brian Morton's insight into family dynamics; psychic is more like it. From the nuances of a long marriage to the inevitable, infinitely sad divisions and tender connections between grandparents and parents and children, Morton nails it all. And somehow he still manages to be funny, even as he breaks your heart.”—Emily Gould, author of Friendship

"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."—Vivian Gornick, author of Fierce Attachments and Approaching Eye Level

"A marvelously wise, compassionate, funny, rueful and altogether winning novel.  Brian Morton knows inside-out this tribe of witty, thoughtful people who, for all their decent values and good intentions, can't seem to narrow the unbridgeable distance between men and women, young and old,  pride and compromise, solitariness and community. Florence Gordon is his most generously ample, humane and vital book."—Phillip Lopate, author of To Show and To Tell and Against Joie de Vivre

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

“Florence Gordon belongs on the very  short list of wonderful  novels about older women. Florence, the brilliant, cranky, solitude-craving feminist writer, is an indelible character, and her New York—the fading city of books and writers and melancholy oddballs —lives on in these immensely pleasurable pages.”—Katha Pollit, author of Learning to Drive: and Other Life Stories 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780544309869, 320pp.

Publication Date: September 23, 2014

About the Author

BRIAN MORTON is the author of four previous novels, including Starting Out in the Evening, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and was made into an acclaimed feature film, and A Window Across the River, which was a Book Club selection of the Today show. He teaches at New York University, the Bennington Writing Seminars, and Sarah Lawrence College, where he also directs the writing program. He lives in New York.

Coverage from NPR