The Book of Goose: A Novel

by Yiyun Li

Hardcover, 2022

Call number



Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2022), 368 pages


-- A -- The Book of Goose Fabienne is dead. Her childhood best friend, Agnès, receives the news in America, far from the French countryside where the two girls were raisedâ??the place that Fabienne helped Agnès escape ten years ago. Now Agnès is free to tell her story. As children in a war-ravaged backwater town, theyâ??d built a private world, invisible to everyone but themselvesâ??until Fabienne hatched the plan that would change everything, launching Agnès on an epic trajectory through fame, fortune, a

User reviews

LibraryThing member bell7
Agnès now lives in the United States with her husband and taking care of her geese, but when her mother writes her and mentions in passing that Fabienne has died, Agnès reminisces about the past and the intense friendship she and Fabienne had as young teens growing up in rural France just after
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World War 2.

The story is deceptively simple, starting out with their friendship and games, and reminding me a little of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. But it soon diverges and becomes very much its own story. Agnès claims that she was the passive one doing Fabienne's bidding, but ultimately I think Agnès is still telling her own story and either fabricating events or rewriting them to suit her own purposes, maybe even a self-deception to release herself from fault. There are some beautiful lines in the book, and those who enjoy literary fiction will find a lot to mull over. I felt distanced from Agnès, despite the fact that she was narrating the whole story, and got a little bogged down in the middle, but overall I'm not sorry I read it.
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LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
What if someone wrote My Brilliant Friend about psychopaths? It might look a lot like this book, which tells the story of a girl living in a poor French village soon after the end of WWII, whose best friend, Fabienne, is cleverer than she is and the leader of the two, but also a girl who has left
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formal schooling early and lacks even the small opportunities that Agnes has. When one of Fabienne's ideas leads Agnes away from the village and their friendship, neither girl knows what the repercussions will be.

Told from the point of view of an adult Agnes, this novel evokes the intensity of childhood friendships and the impossibility of returning to a life once you've left it. The games the girls play to amuse themselves, are games in which the emotions, and even the fates, of the people they target are utterly unimportant to them and these are girls whose precocity allows them to do real damage. This is a book about how two girls, utterly powerless to affect anything and stuck in the roles they were born into, took charge of their lives using their wits and their willingness to do what they needed to do. Their actions were often monstrous, but also necessary to their survival, even if in one case it wasn't enough.

I loved this book with its deeply flawed characters and beautiful writing. It's not a book for everyone, but if you're comfortable feeling uneasy, you might love it, too.
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LibraryThing member Castlelass
Set in 1950s rural France, two adolescent girlfriends, Fabienne and Agnès, write a book. Fabienne is the creative spirit but recognizes that Agnès would supply a more acceptable public persona, so the book is published under Agnès’s name. The story is told by twenty-eight-year-old Agnès
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looking back at her friendship with Fabienne from age 12 to 14 upon learning of her friend’s death. In telling the story, she is trying to come to terms with their power-imbalance, how she let herself be influenced, and what happened when she was seen as a literary child prodigy.

This is a subtle tale. It is character driven and the limited plot is moved forward by curiosity about the impact of the deception. It is beautifully written and easy to tell that the author enjoys wordplay. She captured the intimacy of youthful friendship, while drawing the reader into their world. It is a wonderful reading experience for those who enjoy quiet stories about human connections.
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LibraryThing member Perednia
A complex, seemingly straightforward novel about two French farmgirls in post-WWII who manage to write and have a strange book of stories published. This is a twisty novel of fables and lies, especially the kind that people tell themselves and those they care about most.
LibraryThing member viviennestrauss
Once I started this book, I only put it down when absolutely necessary- possibly the best book I've read all year.
LibraryThing member booklove2
This is the first book I'm reading from Yiyun Li, so it's hard to tell how much of what is within the book is her own writing style or the book that Agnes is "writing" or even the oddness of the two main characters. Fabienne and Agnes are some odd geese. The thirteen year olds here sure seemed like
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kindred spirits though! As Agnes says, like two halves of an orange. The story is told in a simplistic way, that kind of breezes off the page and onto your eyes, which to me translates as the way Agnes is telling this story. Such a story about friendship, poverty, and options that a young girl had in 1950s France. Subtlety that could easily be overlooked. It reminds me of an older, lovely black and white film with subtitles. Or maybe Jane Eyre and Helen.

*Book #137/322 I have read of the shortlisted Morning News Tournament of Books
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LibraryThing member quondame
The strange adolescence of Agnès, a young French peasant girl whose overriding desire is to spend time with her friend Fabienne leads her to put her name to two books by Fabienne which gets her taken away from her village to an English school. There is a texture and a sparseness to the story which
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focuses on the obscure internality of Agnès and her observations and adaptions to what happens around her.
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