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Paperback The Gate of Angels Book

ISBN: 054448410X

ISBN13: 9780544484108

The Gate of Angels

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Book Overview

Short-listed for the Booker Prize. "A singular accomplishment." -- Boston Globe "Powerfully bewitching." -- Los Angeles Times In 1912, rational Fred Fairly, one of Cambridge's best and brightest, crashes his bike and wakes up in bed with a stranger -- fellow casualty Daisy Saunders, a charming, pretty, generous working-class nurse. So begins a series of complications -- not only of the heart but also of the head -- as Fred and Daisy take up each other's...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A world turned upside down

Penelope Fitzgerald's exquisite Gate of Angels is a parable about the closing days of a world--Edwardian England--in which everything that seemed stable and reliable is about to be turned on its head by WWI. The book opens with a symbol that gestures at what follows: terrible windstorm that rips down trees and overturns cattle, leaving an ominous "scene of disorder, tree-tops on the earth, legs in the air, in a university city [Cambridge] devoted to logic and reason." But the symbol's violence is never quite matched by the overturning that occurs in the rest of the novel. These overturnings are more subtle and cumulative, leaving the reader by book's end in a quivery state of anticipation, knowing as he or she does that the first world war is just around the corner. The overturnings of the plot are tamer: a young scientist realizing that physics can't totally explain all phenomena--love being at the top of the list; a seasoned physicist who can't bring himself to accept the new atomic worldview on the ascendency because it isn't empirically verifiable; a rather atavistic Cambridge college whose centuries old tradition of excluding all females from the premises is suddenly broken (revealingly, by the way, the Master of the college is blind): all these subtle shifts cumulatively warn of a continental drift about to take place in a world that most of its residents thought was unchangeable. The title is multi-connotated. The Edwardian world stands at a threshold, the crossing of which will change things forever; angels are creatures that are neither divine nor human, but in a state of tension, straddling two regions; and the gates of the title explicitly refer to the name of the atavistic college. Fitzgerald is one of those authors who can compress characters, plots, and whole arsenals of ideas into just a few lines. One reads her novels quickly, because they're not too lengthy, but chews over their meanings for weeks on end. The Gate of Angels is one of her best.

Better than "The Blue Flower"

I was unsure about this book because I wasn't that moved by Fitzgerald's "The Blue Flower" but "Gate of Angels" really enthralled me. There is a lot of humor and affection here, and also an echo of Evelyn Waugh in the college setting. I have the feeling that I will read this work several more times with increasing enjoyment.

nipped in the bud

A delightful novella, which should have been longer. The questions it sets up, about physics, the soul, and the body, could fill a thousand pages. I enjoyed the characterizations, as well as the love story, and would like to know what's ahead for these two souls.

Nobody does it better

The hero of this novel, a young don, thinks that science will offer certainty and refuge from the vagaries of the spiritual. On the other hand--after he finds himself naked in bed with an unknown woman--the vagaries of the physical threaten to undo him quite. (Remember, this wild novel is set at Cambridge University in 1912, in a college which very much doesn't allow women.) I love and fear each new Fitzgerald novel--love because she's so great, fear because, well, what if I don't like it as much as all the others? I'm finally beginning to learn that fear is unnecessary--enjoyment (not to mention, relativity) is all!

A small miracle

Penelope Fitzgerald is truly amazing. This novel is short, easy to read, and often very funny; at the end, you think "How charming!" and put it down. But it keeps echoing in your mind: no detail in the book is insignificant, and everything is subtly linked together to support its central themes. (Compare Pope Benedict's grace, the inscription on Aunt Effie's ring, and the angels on the college gate; or consider Fred's mother and sisters against Professor Matthews' seemingly irrelevant ghost story. And note Professor Flowerdew's qualms about the new atomic theory, which relies on the "unobservable" ... ) The book is far more moving than most novels five times its length, and leaves an indelible impression on the reader.
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