Gail Godwin

Fiction by Gail Godwin

Finishing SchoolThe Finishing School
A Novel

Published 1984


Read an Excerpt

This novel is so strong in its resonance, so dramatic in its unfolding, and so movingly credible in its revelation of character that it can be seen as the author's most shining achievement. Its grip on the reader will remain firm long after the last page has been turned.

Her memories triggered by a dream, Justin Stokes, a successful actress in her forties, looks back to the summer she turned fourteen. It was a summer that taught lessons of life, love, friendship, and betrayal that haunt and shape her still, even though she has long suppressed the tragedy that marked its end. It was the year that she and her younger brother came north with their recently widowed mother to live with an aunt in a rural New York community, Justin fiercely missed her dead father and grandparents and felt acutely lonely and friendless. Then she met Ursula DeVane, and her bleak world suddenly took on hues of brilliant color.

Many of us have perhaps known an Ursula DeVane, a special person who appeared at a crucial point in our lives, particularly when we were young, to capture our imagination and point the way to undreamed-of worlds of illusion, obsession, fantasy, storytelling, art . . . and emotion. Thus it was with Justin, who, enchanted by Ursula, little suspected that she would unwittingly be the agent of her mentor's downfall.

The Finishing School is a masterfully shaped novel, rich in mood, event, and feeling as it unfolds inexorably toward its unforgettable climax.


"Stunning . . . Irresistible."

"GODWIN PROVES HERSELF ONE OF AMERICA'S FOREMOST WRITERS IN THE FINISHING SCHOOL. . . . A profound novel with characters close to the heart."
The Philadelphia Inquirer

"COMPELLING, WELL CRAFTED . . . A psychological detective story with dramatic revelations of character and event."
Chicago Tribune

"FINELY NUANCED, COMPASSIONATE . . . The Finishing School is a wise contribution to the literature of growing up."
The New York Times Book Review


Ballantine Books | Paperback| 352 pages