KARLA MASS: The week's most talked about book


In my mind, there were three worlds. The world outside – lofty and compelling, the whisper of destruction and glamour. The world inside – where rules were made for us to follow, a comforting but cumbersome straightjacket. And the world in between: a no-man's land where my friends and I could build camp and call our own. It had no past, no future, and no consequences.

"Gossip of the Starlings," inspired by an actual drug bust at an exclusive prep school, introduces adolescent Catherine Morrow, the narrator of her own chaotic universe.

Author Nina de Gramont launches a tirade of emotion-provoking dialogue. Set against the backdrop of the 1980s, her unique storytelling implements fall, winter and spring to introduce complex characters. Gramont's engaging descriptions portray an honest examination of human nature, including sounds, sights, colors, emotions and expressions that are phenomenal.

It's the first day of school at Esther Percy, an all-girls facility in New England. Catherine, homely, but popular, and beautiful Skye Butterfield are friends within seconds after meeting. Personal privileges are scarce at the prestigious prep school chosen as a last resort by parents desperately seeking miracles.

Catherine clings desperately to the troubling world she's created by design with the help of her friends: Susannah, her pal since first grade; her new friend Skye, beautiful, smart and hellish; Drew, Susannah's boyfriend; and Catherine's handsome beau, John Paul.

John Paul, Drew and Susannah attend Waverly, a school not far from Cape Cod, but despite the distance, they manage to find each other and trouble.

The group gravitates toward irresistible Skye. Mr. November, her married English professor, is also captivated, but her dangerous antics prove to be too much. And it costs him. She is a thrill seeker, but most troubling of all, she's a thief and a liar.

They mock rules and challenge authority ... even the once well-behaved Skye skillfully empties a gram of cocaine onto a mirror as she takes turns getting stoned with Catherine, and before long with Susannah, Drew and John Paul. Marijuana, acid and booze soon follow. Skye and her unsuspecting friends are headed for self-destruction.

Drugs are not the only issue facing these sophisticated misfits. One clue can be found in their strained relationships with their fathers.

Catherine's father, stern and unemotional, bears a grudge toward her and her siblings. Senator Butterfield, Skye's father, rescues her again and again. But can he rescue her one more time? Or is he too busy saving himself for re-election?

Susannah's father left home for Venezuela and he stayed - more for the cocaine than for the exotic birds he loves so much. John Paul and his father never bonded; and Drew's father is a mystery.

The one thing that moves Catherine is her temperamental but devoted horse, Pippin. Catherine realizes it's useless to attempt to please her father, but her mother, well that's a different story. She and her mother share a similar goal – for Catherine to make it to the National Horse Show in the fall. With Pippin's improved temperament, perfected jumps and figure eights, she just might make it - or will she?

Buzzing with high drama, danger and intimate details, Gramont's heady novel infiltrates the secretive world of spoiled adolescents.

And finally, a warm spring melts away the frigid snowcaps scattered about New England and the masquerade of forged friendships.


Gossip of the Starlings


Author: Nina de Gramont

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

Publication Date: June 2008

Listen to an excerpt from Gossip of the Starlings

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Author: Michelle Richmond

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Publication Date: July 2008

Petite Anglaise


Author: Catherine Sanderson

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Publication Date: June 2008

"The Week's Most Talked About Book" is a weekly book review and literary criticism column that publishes every Friday. Selected titles are based on popularity, public opinion, research and observation. Questions, comments and suggestions should be sent to book lover and columnist Karla Mass at She is a content producer for McClatchy Interactive.