The Book of Goose

Farrar. Sept. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780374606343. $28. F
Two adolescent girls, Agnes and Fabienne, share an unusual friendship in a rural French village in the years following World War II. Spurred on by family trauma and Fabienne’s dark imagination, the girls, with the assistance of a widowed postmaster, write a book of morbid tales. For reasons she doesn’t explain, Fabienne wants Agnes to be the “face” of the book, which they manage to publish. Agnes briefly becomes a sensation, is declared a prodigy, and is whisked away to a British boarding school led by Mrs. Townsend, who has motives of her own. Thematically, Li’s novel shares similarities with Elena Ferrante’s “Neapolitan Novels,” depicting an intense friendship between intelligent, impoverished girls and what happens when one has opportunities to broaden her scope. However, this latest from MacArthur fellow Li (Must I Go) is more tightly focused, and the nature of the relationship between the two girls differs in some striking ways from Ferrante’s work.
VERDICT Li’s understated prose belies the intensity of the emotions being depicted, and the story takes many unpredictable turns. Knowing only that the adult Agnes married an American, lives in the United States, and keeps geese, readers don’t learn the meaning of the title until the novel’s end. Highly recommended.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing