Friday, May 8, 2015

Under Magnolias: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes

More info*
Publication date: 2015
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 282
My rating: 2.5 stars

Frances was born and bred in pre Civil Rights Georgia. The youngest of three girls, she has distinct memories of her father and mother's unhappy marriage, something that colored her views of them as parents. After spending her childhood desperate to get out of the south, she returns and finds a home.

It took me a long time to get into this book. In fact, I started it and then took about a month break before returning to it. I found the style very impersonal, affected, and pompous. Non of the other memoirs I've read seemed so against connecting to the readers. Then there were times when the tense changed, and the writing seemed more of a stream of consciousness thing instead of memories. At the same time, I felt that maybe it was just me, because Mayes is a well-known author and professor.

When I came back to it and really stuck to my guns and read it, I found Mayes's memories interesting. The writing still seemed to hold me at arm's length, but since I had given myself to the halfway mark and I continued reading past that, it was keeping me a lot more interested than I had believed. Mayes's descriptions of 1950s and 60s south are full and bright.

I think this might be better for readers who enjoy a "higher" and more intellectual type of reading. There is little language and some sexual situations, but nothing graphic.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more that the style of the book was off-putting. It sounded like it was written by someone who had studiously learned how to write, but whose previous successes finally resulted in a quite self-indulgent volume. Mayes can certainly craft some colorful images. It just would have been nice if they didn't so obviously please her quite so much. Like Queen Gertrude, I would have preferred more matter, with less art. I don't read from the memoir genre often and this book left me wondering if this type of writing is fairly typical?


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