Books by Janet Fitch

Janet Fitch was born in Los Angeles, a third-generation native, and grew up in a family of voracious readers. As an undergraduate at Reed College, Fitch had decided to become an historian, attracted to its powerful narratives, the scope of events, the col


CHIMES OF A LOST CATHEDRAL  by Janet Fitch
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 2, 2019

"An unusual and passionate re-creation of the terrible tragedy of the Bolshevik Revolution and the timeless literary culture it produced."
The second installment of a young poet's trials in war-torn Russia, 1919-1921. Read full book review >
THE REVOLUTION OF MARINA M. by Janet Fitch
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 7, 2017

"Clearly, a great deal of hard work and passion for the subject went into the writing of this book—but its length may daunt readers."
Coming-of-age in Russia, 1916-19, is seen through the eyes of a young poet. Read full book review >
PAINT IT BLACK by Janet Fitch
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 18, 2006

"Vivid writing here and there, but Josie is a dull character, and the story is a real downer."
Bereavement, alienation and survivor's anger are the legacy bequeathed to the stunned protagonist of Californian Fitch's somber second novel. Read full book review >
WHITE OLEANDER by Janet Fitch
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 13, 1999

A first-rate debut about a teenaged girl's arduous six-year journey of self-discovery. Astrid is 12 when her beloved mother, the poet Ingrid Magnussen, murders a former lover and is sent to jail. Her father long gone, Astrid ends up in foster care, moving through dysfunctional households across southern California. Only Claire Richards, actress wife of a wealthy TV producer, seems to offer a real family life as she nurtures Astrid's academic and artistic abilities. But the Richards home has deep emotional fissures, skillfully exploited by Ingrid, who keeps jealous watch over her daughter by letter. Weak, neurotic Claire succumbs, and Astrid's last foster home is a chaotic crash-pad overseen by a Russian immigrant engaged in various semi-legal hustles. Meanwhile, Ingrid has become a feminist cause cÇläbre with naive young disciples and a media-savvy lawyer working to get her a new trial. The embittered Astrid wants no part of this effort, and in a jailhouse confrontation challenges Ingrid to prove that she regrets her destructive role and will try to make amends for the hard times she's caused her daughter. Despite melodramatic plot twists, the foster homes provide a nicely eclectic panorama of late 20th-century American life and a revealing stage for Astrid's growth and personal struggles. She's an appealing protagonist, smart and vulnerable, though her formidable mother is even more intriguing, and the author brilliantly delineates the woman's complexity through her letters, which are masterpieces of epistolary voice and character development. Fitch displays remarkable artistic and psychological maturity throughout, skillfully making use of metaphors (like the beautifully poisonous oleander, Ingrid's signature flower) to illuminate her central theme: the longing for order and connection in a world where even the most intimate bonds can be broken in an instant. The author allows her protagonist to achieve adulthood, love, an artistic vocation, and some semblance of inner peace without scanting the scars she will always carry. Vigorous, polished prose, strong storytelling, satisfyingly complex characters, and thoughtfully nuanced perceptions: an impressive debut indeed. Read full book review >
KICKS by Janet Fitch
Released: April 24, 1995

More than anything in life, Laurie Greenspan, 15, wants to be a part of the swinging Los Angeles street scene with her wild friend Carla. But her mother, Lena, insists that Laurie grow up following proper Russian ways and refuses to understand American styles and mores. Laurie turns to Carla for the ``kicks'' she needs, and engages in what is fast becoming an orgy of drinks, shoplifting, and drugs; the girls get hooked up with much older bikers and are no match for these men. Laurie escapes from a party at the bikers' ranch but then must return with Lena to rescue Carla, who has overdosed. Later, Carla proves far from grateful, and alone, Laurie returns to the family fold. This is a first novel and it shows. The plot is essentially unbelievable—despite some realistic situations—and so are the characters. Laurie is a rather unlikable dimwit, and Carla is a Weetzie Bat (HarperCollins, 1989, etc.) wannabe with none of her charms. Lesser characters are stereotypes: Lena, the immigrant mama, nerdy brother Murray, and males who are sexually predatory louts and little more. It's true that teenagers can get sucked into bad situations, but Fitch makes her point in a story that is every bit as didactic as Go Ask Alice (S&S, 1971) but with an even sillier plot than that old clinker. (Fiction. 14+) Read full book review >