Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont

Gossip of the Starlings, by Nina de Gramont, is a boarding school story with a twist. Catherine arrives at Esther Percy School for Girls, having been forced from her old (coed) school for boy-related reasons. The school seems rigid, constraining, lonely, until Sky Butterfield chooses Catherine as her friend. Beautiful, eloquent, daring, and brilliant, Skye, the Senator’s daughter, is brimming with life and vim. She transforms Catherine’s life into a whirl of hazy, weed-brightened nights and days of rosy adventures merely rimmed by classes.

Skye is passionate and vibrant, but her desperate thirst for dare and danger becomes concerning for Catherine. Skye has a tragic soul and seems to believe that she is indestructible—a belief she tests more and more frantically, engaging in increasingly dangerous adventures. Skye defies convention, takes what she wants, lives hungrily yet can never be satisfied. She is a tightrope walker, an enchanted seductress, an angel. She is a presence in both of the worlds she inhabits—the world of Esther Percy and the world of my mind. It is tough to say where she is more at home.

Gossip of the Starlings was fantastic. The writing was pure poetry: smooth, eloquent, daintily descriptive without ever being too thick. The characters were painted gloriously, the plot and the allusions drawn were constantly keeping me interested. The following is just a snippet from the long, intricate work of art Gramont has created.

“Now, when I see teenage girls laughing. When I see them loosed on a summer evening – their limbs tanned and gossamer, their imagined freedom radiating like nuclear light – I can’t help but fast forward two decades or more. I know the curve of their bones has already made an imperceptible bow to gravity. I see the decay in slow motion, even or especially through those stunning and immortal years.”

Complemented by such gems of observations, small moments make up much of the novel. They are painted to such rich perfection that after months I recall them still. The image of a blood promise in a night-dark dorm room stands in my mind bright and vivid—scarlet blood, moonlit curls, tender smiles and flushed cheeks as the girls teeter on the edge of destruction; the first in many daring adventures that take them inches from death, the only way, they believe, to truly experience life.

I loved Skye’s seduction, the way even the reader was drawn to her. I could picture her lush beauty, her tender flawless skin, the dare and the dreams in her eyes. The way she could dance logical circles around any opponent, dangle her ripe sexuality at a whim, manipulating the world into her dark and dizzy playground.

After finishing Gossip of the Starlings, I began to search for other hazy books about poetry and death and life and living on the cusp of womanhood. The only other one I found was the Virgin Suicides (by Jeffrey Eugenides), which was excellent but lacking the strong plot of Gossip of the Starlings. Any suggestions?

Anyway, as if you couldn’t guess—Gossip of the Starlings earns a glowing five daggers.

Off embracing my fleeting youth but always, unalterably yours,


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