daughters of the revolution
From the O. Henry Award-winning author of the story collection The Bostons - a New York Times Notable Book, a 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 enemies as God. With Cape Wilde engulfed by the social and political storms of integration, coeducation, and the sexual revolution, God has confidently promised coeeducation "over my dead body." And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carol 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 emotioanl predicaments, Daughters of the Revolution is a novel of exceptional force and beauty.
“Shimmers with intimate and revealing detail.”
- The New York Times
“Cooke’s writing is so sensuous and alert that it would be easy to miss the novel’s symbolic qualities.”
- The New Yorker
“This is a dramatic social novel, a successful entwining of people that comes to signify the Big Moment of history. Cooke, who not once lets a sentence flag, who can reinvent the known with imagery so fine it feels like a dare, evokes the dawn of women’s liberation, the righteous struggles for sexual voice….her profound, honest compassion for all her characters, men and women, makes them so engrossing, you almost forget what they’re up against.”
- The San Francisco Chronicle
“Mordantly funny and coolly streamlined, deeply humane and slyly wise.”
- St. Petersburg Times
“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.”
“Integration, coeducation, and the sexual revolution encroach on the smug, insular world of a New England prep school in this fiercely intelligent novel.”
- O, The Oprah Magazine
“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 of Boston in the late 1960s: head Goddard "God" Byrd, a seductive male chauvinist of nearly retirement age, is dead set against allowing girls into his beloved institution despite being himself the product of radical New England reformers; Heck, product of "a brilliant class" at Goode, dies in a suspicious accident at sea while boating with his best friend, Rebozos, widowing his young bride, Mei-Mei; and Heck and Mei-Mei's daughter, EV, becomes an essential narrator, observing her widowed mother's clumsy affair with Byrd, and growing friendly with the first girl admitted to the school in 1969, Carole--the half-black teenage daughter of Rebozos, it turns out. Each of the characters offers his or her own trajectory, moving through the 1970s and into the '80s, from Carole's political and artistic iconoclasm to EV's sexual initiation and move to New York, through to 2005, when Goode's transformation comes full circle. Though these taut narratives live in the book more as discrete stories than as moving parts of a novel, they are individually excellent. Cooke delivers on every page.”
- Publishers Weekly
“For lack of a life jacket, the trajectory of several lives is altered in this smart, sexy, sarcastic, sophisticated novel from Cooke (The Bostons, a New York Times Notable Book). The Goode School, a prestigious New England bastion of male-only education, designed to prepare its wealthy students to become masters of the universe, represents a microcosm of the social and political upheaval of the past four decades, all overseen by self-important, entitled headmaster Goddard Byrd. In 1968, a typing error results in a scholarship offer to the first Negro female in the school’s history, negating Byrd’s promise to admit “girls” over his dead body. Encouraged by the put-upon female faculty and protected by the moneyed Rebozos family, gloriously rebellious Carole Faust upends life at the school. Meanwhile, the drowning of Goode alumnus and doctoral candidate Heck Hellman means that his wife and daughter must struggle through menial jobs and public school education, working their way up to middle-class status until, years later, they cross paths with Carole at a Goode school function. VERDICT Cooke’s unique novel defies genre comparisons but has particular relevance as our country’s financial woes exacerbate the gap between the power brokers and the rest of us. This cautionary tale deserves wide readership.”
- Library Journal
“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 theyre up against.”
- San Francisco Chronicle