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Garbo Laughs

Hay, Elizabeth

483 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1582432929 / ISBN 13: 9781582432922
Published by Counterpoint
New Condition: New Soft cover
From JR Books (Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.)

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1582432929 Counterpoint paperback; cp. Bookseller Inventory # SKU1020421

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Garbo Laughs

Publisher: Counterpoint


Book Condition:New

About this title


This is a novel about movie love. Set in Ottawa in the 1990s, it is the quixotic tale of tall, thin Harriet Browning, inflamed by the movies she was deprived of as a child. Harriet is a woman so saturated with the movies, seen repeatedly and swallowed whole, that she no longer fits into this world. Bent on seeing everything she has missed, she forms a Friday night movie club with three companions-of-the-screen: a boy who loves Frank Sinatra, a girl with Bette Davis eyes, and an earthy sidekick named Dinah for Dinah Shore. Breaking in upon this quiet backwater, in time with the devastating ice storm of 1998, come two refugees from Hollywood, the faded widow of a famous screenwriter and her movie-expert stepson. They are Harsh Reality. With them come blackouts, arguments, accidents, illness and sudden death. But what chance does real life stand when we can watch movies instead? What hope does real love have when movie love, in all its brief intensity, is an easy option? In this comedy of secondhand desire, movies and movie lovers come first.

From the Back Cover:

“Garbo, Brando, Sean Connery… the stars are out in one Ottawa home that’s experiencing video heaven.… A sparkling demonstration of Hollywood’s hold on our fantasies – and its awkward fit with our earthbound selves.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This rich, lovely novel makes us think about the ambivalences and contradictions of relationships and the patience of love, and see in a new way the shape of a fern frond. It also makes us want to reread Jane Austen and to find out whether the video store has a copy of Rear Window or Singing in the Rain.”
Quill & Quire (starred review)

“I loved it. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like it. All the details are so right – about the time, about the characters. It was like reading Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (one of my favorite books) or Empire Falls by Richard Russo, where you marvel about the confidence and exactness the author has for place and people. The characterization of Harriet and Ken is wonderful and rich. The way their passion for movies is tied into the plot is amazing. (I’ve resolved to go rent some of the ones they were so absorbed by, many of which I’ve seen before, just because they gave me a different way of looking at them.) And then I cried for about the last 25 pages. Who could ask more from a book? I think it’s an extraordinary book – one of those extremely intelligent books that just bowl you over with a great narrative and the obvious warmth the author feels for her characters.”
–Pauline Ziniker, Bookseller, Country Bookshelf

“I want to nominate Garbo Laughs by Elizabeth Hay for BookSense for October. She is a wonderful writer with a rich prose style and I’m hoping this can be her breakout novel like Bel Canto was for Ann Patchett. I found this novel to be very moving, with its memorable characters, amazing voices and wonderful movie trivia and literary allusions. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It was like no other book I remember.”
–Andy Lillich, Bookseller, University of Oregon Bookstore

“I’m only to page 82 of Elizabeth Hay’s new – did I say ‘wonderful, new’ – novel and it occurs to me that more than one smart-aleck reviewer will title their critiques ‘Guise and Dolls.’ What a pleasure it is to read a book that you want to read.”
–Richard Bachmann, Bookseller, A Different Drummer Bookstore

“Greta Garbo is one of many movie stars who fascinate the alluringly eccentric characters found in the latest tale by one of Canada’s most gifted novelists. In this witty, gracefully choreographed, and potent Ottawa-based family drama, Hay ponders our enthrallment to movies, conjuring a cast of ardent souls who cope with a catastrophic ice storm, unwelcome guests, undermined dreams, distressing infatuations, lingering illnesses, and sudden death by finding solace, even guidance, in classic films…. Imaginative, droll, and incisive, Hay’s profound tale of attempted escape and accepted responsibility, of found joy and dreaded sorrow, deftly explores the dangers and benefits of fantasy.”
- Booklist (starred review)

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