pyrajane’s review #31: Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King

ConfessionsI love book group.  Not only do I get to hang out with a bunch of people I like and talk about books, I get to read books that I never would have picked up on my own.  Welcome to Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady.  I read a lot of memoirs, but this one never would have stood out for me.  I didn’t know anything about Florence King, so when this was chosen for our September meeting, I was looking forward to something new.  (Yes, September book group.  If you’re also behind on book reviews, let’s hold hands in solidarity.  Or just nod at each other while working on something else that’s not a book review.)

King grew up in an amazing family.  If someone pitched these people for a movie or a sitcom, they’d be thrown out of the room.  Her grandmother is Southern and proud.  She lives for the South.  She worships all things Ladylike and Proper.  She is happiest when grooming young girls to step in to the roles of Southern Ladies, knowing their impeccable breeding and poise will bring honor to the family.  The only thing that will make her happier is if her Southern Lady In Training has women’s problems that incapacitate her.  Cramps so bad that you miss the ambulance that’s there to take you to the insane asylum?  Oh bless, child.  You’re perfect.

Read more, if you’d like.

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Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review 27: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

My parents bought me a copy of this book on a trip to Savannah because I’m pretty sure they won’t let you out of the city without purchasing a copy. I had read it back in high school, but really couldn’t recall anything about it, so I stuck it on the shelf. I decided on taking another gander at it after I saw that they were reading it on my favorite podcast Literary Disco. (Rider Stong a la Shawn Hunter and two friends talk about books and give each other a hard time. It. Is. Bliss. I like to pretend that Shawn finally overcame his brooding wrong-side-of-the-tracks upbringing and made something of himself. But I digress.)

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is considered in some circles to be a non-fiction novel. That may seem a little oxymoronic, but it reads as if it is fiction. Embarrassing confession: I honestly didn’t realize it was non-fiction until I looked at the back of the book after reading the whole dang thing! The way that the story is woven together, along with the riveting details and unbelievable characters, just seem too fantastic to be true. As a southerner I guess I should have known better but Berendt had me along for the ride.

John Berendt is a character in his own tale, a New Yorker who comes to the south for a respite in the late 70s, and is pulled in to this jewel of the south. Though at first an observer and an outsider, he is able to move through the different social circles with ease and relates the history of the city, and its current inhabitants, with colorful detail. Though he has admitted that some characters are amalgamations of a few real life folks, a brief googling will confirm that some of the most shocking and bizarre characters existed just as described. For example, Lady Chablis, a drag queen who claims Berendt as her driver, not only is real, but even played herself in the film adaptation. It is a case of life imitating art, imitating life. Or something.

If all this wasn’t enough, one of the main and most compelling characters is pulled into a murder trial, which has rippling effects for the entire city and its populace. Jim Williams is a nouveau rich antiques dealer, and is famous for throwing an annual Christmas party as sort of a modern day Gatsby. Berendt is obviously not an impartial witness, but he does his best to relate the facts as they unfold so that the reader really is left with having to draw their own conclusions.

I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, but it was fun and manages to revere the south without lampooning it, which I really appreciate. If you like small town gossip and want to know what the south can be like, I recommend this read.

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #42: Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch

girlsintrucksI have rarely come across a novel that I enjoyed while strongly (very, very strongly) disliking the main character. In fact, I think that Girls in Trucks may be my first.

Sarah Walters is a reluctant member of Charleston society, forced to dance at Cotillion and encouraged to date the right boys. Sarah’s a bit of a rebel, though, and doesn’t want to grow up like her mama and the other Camelias, marrying the high school football star and popping out a few kids. So she sets her sights on college and New York, dates the wrong guys, and begins to lose her way.

Read more here…

The Mama’s #CBR5 Review #41: The Florabama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle by Lois Battle

florabamaTold over the course of one year, The Florabama Ladies’ Auxiliary and Sewing Circle details the lives of the displaced women of the now-shuttered Cherished Lady mill and how they intersect with the story of Bonnie Duke Cullman, a former deb turned Atlanta society wife whose husband has bankrupted them right out of their marriage. Bonnie finds a job heading up the “Displaced Homemakers Program” at the community college in Florabama, and is charged with helping the former mill workers start over.
Read more here…