Florence in Ecstasy
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Florence in Ecstasy

3.9 (436 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2017
"Chaffee's fierce debut brings Hannah's struggles, discoveries, and sweet triumphs to life." --Claire Messud, author of The Burning Girl and The Woman Upstairs
"There's an absorbing story here, a love story, a coming-of-age story, a gorgeous portrait of the city itself, its beauty and its decadence, but there's also the thrilling glimpse of a brilliant young writer just setting out." --National Book Award winner Alice McDermott in The Atlantic
A young American woman arrives in Florence from Boston, knowing no one and speaking little Italian. But Hannah is isolated in a more profound way, estranged from her own identity after a bout with starvation that has left her life and body in ruins. She is determined to recover in Florence, a city saturated with beauty, vitality, and food--as well as a dangerous history of sainthood for women who starved themselves for God.
Hannah joins a local rowing club, where Francesca, a welcoming but predatory Milanese, and Luca, a seemingly steady Florentine with whom she becomes involved, draw her into Florence's vibrant present: the complex social dynamics at the club, soccer mania, eating, drinking, sex, an insatiable insistence on life. But Hannah is also rapt by the city's past--the countless representations of beauty, the entrenched conflicts of politics and faith, and the lore of the mystical saints, women whose self-imposed isolation and ecstatic searches for meaning through denial illuminate the seduction of her own struggles.
Both sides pull Hannah in: challenging her, defeating her, lifting her up. And when a figure from her past life in Boston reappears, threatening the delicate balance of her present, Hannah's feverish personal excavation becomes caught up with the long history of women's contention with body and spirit, desire and death.
A vivid, visceral debut echoing the novels of Jean Rhys, Elena Ferrante, and Catherine Lacey, Florence in Ecstasy gives us an arresting new vision of a woman's attempt to find meaning--and find herself--in an unstable world.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 137 x 213 x 23mm | 318g
  • English
  • 194470017X
  • 9781944700171
  • 752,017

Review quote

"Jessie Chaffee's debut is an unflinching look at a woman's attempt to outrun her demons... displaying not only diligent research but also an emotional intuition that brings Hannah to startling life."--Publishers Weekly
"Jessie Chaffee's thoughtful, provocative first novel... brings readers on a gentle tour of the glorious city and adjacent areas, of its habits, history, art and books."--San Francisco Chronicle
"This is literary fiction that takes you deep into the heart and soul of Florence, Italy."--Baltimore Style
"Jessie Chaffee's protagonist Hannah finds herself in Florence far from home, unseen, unknown, estranged even from her body: in the most literal sense, in ecstasy. Chaffee's fierce debut brings Hannah's struggles, discoveries, and sweet triumphs to life."--Claire Messud, New York Times best-selling author of The Burning Girl and The Emperor's Children
"Florence in Ecstasy evokes the beauty of the Florentine landscape as vividly as it depicts the physical, and spiritual, turmoil of a young woman on the edge. Hannah is never defined by her illness alone, but by the breadth of her intelligence and the depth of her emotional life. This is a remarkable debut--frank, serious, eloquent."--Alice McDermott, National Book Award-winning author of The Ninth Hour and Charming Billy
"The most luminous debut novel I have read in a very long time . . . a darker and more literary version of Elizabeth Gilbert's popular spiritual seeker's memoir, Eat Pray Love."--Mary Sharratt, author of Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen, for Feminism & Religion
"There is a classic but reimagined narrative at work here: a person's existential reckoning on unfamiliar soil... a woman on the edge, in a liminal city that sits between the past and the present, searching for her missing body--which is to say, herself." --NPR
"Be ready to be provoked and transported by this haunting, beautiful novel of womanhood, the saints, and the mysteries of the body. Jessie Chaffee writes all this, and more, with a lyrical, fierce fragility."--Krys Lee, author of How I Became a North Korean
"A moving meditation on art, beauty, and the female struggle to own her life by any means necessary, the novel is also a lovely guide to the churches of Florence and the Tuscan countryside, a primer on female Italian saints, and an initiation into the art of rowing."--Washington Independent Review of Books
"The way Chaffee writes Hannah's eating disorder cuts to the core of the psychology that is rarely the focus of eating disorder narratives, even though it is at the center of so many eating disorders themselves."--Portland Press Herald
"Chaffee's portrayal expertly brings to life this intoxicating city, from its abundance of food, wine, art, and romance, to the layers of space rarely invaded by tourists."--Rain Taxi
"Florence in Ecstasy rewards us with rich language that makes us long to read it again to uncover further subtleties, as we do when we revisit a familiar, haunting work of art. "--Brooklyn Rail
"A fantastic debut with gorgeous language and a dreamy location."--Read It Forward's "Favorite Reads of May"
"Jessie Chaffee's luminous debut is a hypnotic, addictive read."--Katherine Howe, New York Times best-selling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
"A deeply affecting novel, it reminds us how easily the self can be lost and sometimes, with great difficulty, recreated. In perfectly calibrated prose, Jessie Chaffee depicts a woman in the throes of a devastating existential reckoning."--Linsey Abrams, author of Our History in New York
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About Jessie Chaffee

Jessie Chaffee was awarded a Fulbright Grant to complete Florence in Ecstasy and was the writer-in-residence at Florence University of the Arts. Her work has been published in The Rumpus, Slice, Bluestem, Global City Review, and The Sigh Press, among other places. She received her MFA from the City College of New York, and she lives in New York City, where she is an editor at Words Without Borders. Find her at www.JessieChaffee.com.
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Rating details

436 ratings
3.9 out of 5 stars
5 34% (149)
4 32% (139)
3 25% (107)
2 8% (36)
1 1% (5)
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