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Language English
Contributor(s) Lauren Groff
Binding Hardcover
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Overview: Arcadia

If you are a fan of Lauren Groff, Arcadia is a must-read. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling MONSTERS OF TEMPLETON, her books are popular around the world. She has a BA from Amherst College and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also written short stories, which have appeared in several literary publications. Her novels have won reader's heart from across the world. A talented writer, her novels are relevant, magical and ambitious. If you haven't given yourself a chance to explore her book, here is your chance.

In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, few dozen idealists set out to live off the land. Soon it became a famous commune cantered on the grounds of a rotting mansion called Arcadia House. The book follows this poetic, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and beyond. The plot in the book is a thrilling one. The characters include Bit, aka Little Bit, aka Ridley Sorrel Stone, who were born in the late '60s in a certain place that came to be known as Arcadia. In this novel, Bit Stone was the first child to be born on an upstate New York commune called Arcadia, from childhood through the year 2018. Bit would let things go without speaking, just watching from a distance to see what happens. He could see the effort his parents put to make Arcadia successful. But he also see that despite their effort, the outcome was not as anticipated or equalled the amount of work they did to build the community. The work continued with a lot of difficulty. After a while, Bit's family leaves the community to find a place to live in the outside world. His family found a suitable place, where he grew up and became successful. He studies and become a teacher and photographer. Though he enjoyed his profession, he was always haunted by childhood memories. Bit's painful experiences as a husband, father, and son grow more harrowing. In every stage of Bit's life is interesting. Lauren Groff's book will surely arrest the attention of readers.

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Features: Arcadia

  • Voice
Product Details
Language English
Publication Date March 13, 2012
Publisher Voice
Contributor(s) Lauren Groff
Binding Hardcover
Edition First Edition
Page Count 304
ISBN 10 1401340873
ISBN 13 9781401340872
Dimensions and Weight
Product Weight 503.5 grams
Product Dimensions 15.9 cm x 23.5 cm
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  1. 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
     A creative and impressive piece of work... 20 December, 2013 On
    In 1968, an eccentric musician named Handy sets up a utopian commune in an abandoned estate for the hippies who’ve been following his tour. Ersatz Arcadia, the cold-trucks-and-lean-tos temporary camp, is the home of the communards for the first three years while they try to gather enough time, money and energy to renovate the huge Arcadia House.

    But when Handy goes off on tour for several months, Abe Stone decides that the refurbishment project is precisely what the group needs to surprise (and prove something to) Handy, and to keep the group from disintegrating without its central force.

    Abe and Hannah are the parents of the narrator, Bit. A sensitive and quiet child, Bit is intensely and convincingly aware of adult subtext. He watches as the successive winters of cold, hunger and discomfort weigh on his mother; he notices how his father gives everything to a community that is not always appreciative.

    Contemporary literary novels with child narrators are frequently irritating, since the child must either be precociously capable of expressing to an adult audience how it feels to be a child, or must be precocious in describing its misunderstandings of the adult world. In short, the puppet strings are always visible.

    In the first two sections of Arcadia, however, when Bit is five and then 14, Groff handles this problem with elegance and skill. She makes Bit ordinary, neither overly intelligent nor cutely confused about the larger world, and shrewdly gives him (unlike most of the other children of the commune) a stable family inside the inherent instability of Arcadia.

    The final two sections take place Outside after Hannah, Abe and Bit finally walk out on Arcardia’s souring dream. A less skillful writer would have exploited the slapstick in Bit’s sudden exposure to the institutions and commercial absurdities of the world, but Groff chronicles Bit’s adaptation and development with delicacy and subtlety, conveying how his early experiences have shaped his values and all future relationships. An immigrant’s struggle to assimilate goes hand in hand with the story of the supremely adaptable nature of people, and any comedy in Bit’s integration into the world would have been cheap and flimsy. The real sadness for Bit is that no matter how alien he feels, his childhood community no longer exists.

    In the second half of the book, Bit has married, and then lost, someone from Arcadia. My one criticism of this novel is that he seems well rid of the wife, so I have little patience for Bit as he slowly mourns her absence.

    Things pick up again in the final section, which brings dreadful news from Hannah and Abe, reinstalled in an off-grid cottage in the grounds of Arcadia, and the astonishingly good description of an illness and slow decline from the point of view of both patient and care-giver, all depicted against a much larger canvas of global disease and panic.

    But it’s not all doom and gloom: Groff can do funny too. When Bit and his dinner date discover a common interest in reading, he listens, horrified, as his date’s love of Ayn Rand gushes forth. Later, when they both accept that the spark has fizzled out, he says “I think it was the Ayn Rand.” She laughs and laughs at this, graceful under the implied criticism, under the sting of the differences between them.

    And this is an important point about all Groff’s characters: the cold fish, the ones who shirk their responsibilities, even the ones who commit terrible deeds – all keep their dignity and grace intact, as if Groff holds them gently in a tiny circle of light, coaxing out the most reluctant specks of humanity.

    In fact, grace and humanity are characteristic of all three of Groff’s books (the others being Monsters of Templeton and the story collection Delicate Edible Birds), otherwise all very different in style, form and content. Start with Arcadia and then read the others.
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