GIRLS IN WHITE DRESSES by Jennifer Close

Close I had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses, interviewed at BEA this year, and was also lucky to get a signed ARC of her book while there. It comes out this August.

Girls in White Dresses follows the lives of a group of college friends (all women) after graduation – through jobs, boyfriends, weddings, breakups, showers and babies – until they are in their early 30s. The chapters are almost like short stories, except that characters recur throughout the book, and the narrative is chronological. Each chapter basically checks in the characters at a particular turning point in her life before moving on to someone else.

During her BEA interview, Close talked about how she had been a bridesmaid in many friends’ weddings, and that she thought of her 20s as a time when she felt pressure to keep up with her friends who were reaching milestones like weddings and babies, perhaps earlier than she had. I remember that feeling so well – the sense that I was “behind” because I wasn’t engaged like so many of my friends were. It felt like a horserace back then, with the goal to make it around the track at least somewhere in the middle of the pack. I, too, was a bridesmaid many times over and can remember the complicated feelings those events often conjured in me, always reflecting my then-current situation and how satisfied I was with it.

Looking back now, of course, all the pressure and anxiety seems so silly. Why didn’t I just enjoy those years?

Anyway. I really liked Girls in White Dresses – I think Close very accurately captures those confusing, sometimes isolating 20s. I heard her compare her writing style to that of Melissa Bank in The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and I totally agree. Her writing is spare, to the point that her characters seem almost unemotional. And there is a lot that goes unsaid and unexplained in the book. The chapters are vignettes, so whole swaths of time are skipped. But I still found this to be a pretty satisying read. I occasionally had trouble remembering which character was which when a chapter opened, but ultimately it didn’t really matter. The themes of friendship, figuring out who you are, and the pursuit of a suitable mate are amply explored here, and I laughed in recognition (and sympathy) many times.

Girls in White Dresses comes out on August 9. It’s so rare that I actually read a review copy this long before the book comes out – this may be a first! If you are interested in reading it, leave me a comment here and I will try to remember to email you when it hits shelves!

8 Comments

  • June 20, 2011 - 8:37 am | Permalink

    This book does sound fascinating and it makes me wonder when our society got so competitive about everything.

  • June 20, 2011 - 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy books about groups of female friends and this one sounds especially good since it follows the women after college going out into the real world.
    It’s not an easy time in life. I remember in my junior year of college there were sometimes when my friends and I stressed realizing we were expected to go out into the real world and support ourselves, hopefully doing something we enjoyed or on a path heading in that direction. And of course we were all thinking if and when we’d be married.
    Jennifer Close’s characters sound like women I, and many, will identify with. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention! I’m putting on my tbr list to keep an eye out for it!

  • June 20, 2011 - 4:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve added this one to my TBR list. It sounds like a great read.

  • June 22, 2011 - 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I picked this one up at BEA too! Hoping to get to it soon.

  • June 22, 2011 - 9:35 pm | Permalink

    This sounds like a really great book. I just graduated from college and many of the themes you mentioned are very relevant to me right now! I will keep my eye out for this one when it hits shelves!

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