Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2014-09-23
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary
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.
I read a book recently about an older man who was grouchy and all “get off my lawn!” and…well, you know the type, surely you do. I loved that book. I wanted to meet that old man and live in his world and keep him company as he went about his daily routine. When I picked up FLORENCE GORDON by Brian Morton, I have expected to have found the companion to that book – now I’d be reading about a grouchy old lady and I’d be falling in love all over again. What I got was something totally unexpected.
FLORENCE GORDON was a helluva surprise. I laughed in shock and shook my head more times than I can count. Florence, the title character, is quite the character. She’s brash, borders on rude but leans more toward the very outspoken side of the thin line, and she makes absolutely no excuse for who she is because she doesn’t need an excuse. She’s Florence Gordon, a leading feminist voice who lived during a time when women’s rights made huge strides. She married a disappointment of a man, had a son who married a woman that views Florence as some kind of saint, and she has a granddaughter who, she might admit, to having a feeling here and there of sentimentality toward.
Unlike that first book I was talking about, there is very little heart-warming going on in FLORENCE GORDON. Instead, Brian Morton paints a picture of how this generation of women differs from Florence’s generation. How little we actually know about the feminists of the 70’s and how little, yes this, how little respect is actually shown for them. Florence is not a mean, bitter old woman. She’s a woman who learned early to speak up and to make her voice heard. She’s a woman who felt so much passion that she refused to bow to societal norms – even to the end of her story. I loved that about her and I am very, very thankful that this book did not bow to what society may expect from it as well.
FLORENCE GORDON is not a sappy story about an eccentric, endearing old woman. It’s a story that motivates and inspires and I’ll take that kind of story over one that has me weepy and lovey any day.
Have you reviewed FLORENCE GORDON by Brian Morton? If so, leave a link to your review in the comments!