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Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir Paperback – March 31, 2015
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Southern Independent Booksellers Association Spring 2014 Okra Pick
“The strength of Under Magnolia lies in the very claustrophobia Mayes aches to flee as a child…In certain heightened moments of this memoir, Mayes breathes the same air as [Carson] McCullers.” –New York Times Book Review
“As gothic as anything Faulkner could have dreamed up, populated by characters straight out of a Flannery O’Connor story…a thorny memoir that strips away the polite Southern masks, sweet magnolias be damned. Unforgettable.” – Atlanta Journal Constitution
“With perfect-pitch language, Mayes unblinkingly describes her growing-up years… One can almost taste the mushiness of ‘a pot of once-green beans falling apart in salt pork’; one can almost smell the cloying scent of honeysuckle, gardenias and overripe peaches that infuse the always-too-humid air.”– USAToday.com
“Just the right balance of humor, irony and tragedy. And no tourist guide or coffee table book will offer a more sensually pleasing portrait of the culture, food, language, and landscape of the place she now calls home.” –Roanoke Times
“Under Magnolia is a vibrant example of Mayes’ literary artistry. Her memoir teems with beautiful, pellucid vignettes, described with a painter’s eye for detail, [about a young girl maturing to adulthood amidst domestic tumult].” –Arts Atlanta
“You better believe we devoured every page of this delicious read.” –SouthernLiving.com
“A memoir of luminous language and sensory memory that explores the concept of home, the growth of a woman—and the pull of the South on all those who have experienced the scent of magnolias on a summer’s night or a tall, frosty glass of sweet tea on the porch.” —Live Happy magazine
“With powerful, compact language and an uncanny skill with imagery, American writer Frances Mayes has raised the bar on writing memoirs.” –Winnipeg Free Press
“Mayes has the gift of transporting the reader to other worlds and vividly renders this visit to the South of a few decades ago.”—Palm Beach Daily News
“A wonderful memoir, searingly honest, beautifully descriptive and totally compelling.” —M/C Reviews
“A landmark event.”—Wellington City Libraries
“The prose is dazzling throughout…readers will not tire of Mayes’ splendid imagery.”– Publishers Weekly
“One of those books you want to devour but realize it’s more satisfying to savor for as long as possible.”– Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“A best-selling sensation worldwide, Mayes will galvanize readers with this...coming-of-age tale set on her home terrain.” –Booklist
“Under Magnolia is a gorgeous, dreamy remembrance of hot Southern afternoons, mothers in red lipstick and Shalimar, Elvis turned up loud to cover up the family troubles that ran deep. An unflinching love song to her simultaneously rich and troubled childhood, it is Mayes’ most generous work yet.” –BookPage
“[The] writing is so sensory and poetic you're likely to find yourself, as I did, re-reading sentences over twice, three times, to catch the nuances, the meaning, the beauty... From the opening line, you're hooked.” –Enchanted Prose
“Like the rest of America, I fell in love with Tuscany and Italy when I read Frances Mayes's wondrous memoir, Under the Tuscan Sun. She followed her Tuscan books with a beautiful novel called Swan, which alerted me to her southern heritage. In her new southern memoir, Under Magnolia, Frances Mayes describes the birth of her extraordinary sensibility, the deep-pooled clarity of her writing, her giddy love of nature, and her sharp and satirical eye for those who brought her up to honorable womanhood in the tortured South of her girlhood. Her prose style is seamless to me and she writes in a royal style.” –Pat Conroy, New York Times bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and The Death of Santini
“No other writer today breathes life into place like Frances Mayes. In Under Magnolia, she turns her prolific gift of language and description to the South and her childhood there. This memoir recalls bygone days filled with neighborhood characters, sultry weather, Sears Roebuck catalogues, smothered quail—all the trappings of a Southern childhood. Under Magnolia is a love song, a rich and beautiful book.” – Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and Comfort: A Journey Through Grief
“No one could have invented a more combustible, joy-starved pair of glam and oblivious parents or a more incandescent child to dive into the blue ruins, explore the sealed-off passages, blacked-out dreams and neglected outlets by the beams of her own incredulous eyes; then break the surface a smart-mouthed, truth-seeing sensualist, fully in attendance to the vibratory moment. The deft framing, the exacting word picks, apposite references, high speed wit, singled out synecdoches of a life; the cadence, phrasing, and pulse of a muted Georgian accent are all signature to the prose and poetry, stove-tops and passport stamps of Frances Mayes. In her memoir Under Magnolia they are second skin. When she comes clean, you feel, can I say it, cleansed. Freer. Floatable. What an offering.” – C.D. Wright, author of One with Others
“Under Magnolia is much more than an entrancing memoir: it is a work of art that defies the distinction between prose and poetry or novels and autobiographies. It is also much more than a personal narrative: it is an unflinching meditation on the relation between self and culture, and, more specifically, on the gravitational pull of memory. This is a book to be savored, a feast for both mind and soul.” – Carlos Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana
“Mayes has written a brash and delightful, cringe-worthy and uproariously funny memoir. As I read, I wished Mayes had been my teenage neighbor. Wit–as well as misery–loves company.” –Margaret Sartor, author of Miss American Pie
“Under Magnolia is one of the most brilliant memoirs ever written, shedding new light on a certain mysterious South and offering a memorable portrait of the artist as a young girl. Frances Mayes, a petite, brainy beauty from what we used to call politely 'a troubled home' has written an unnervingly honest and refreshingly open account of how a child can be neglected even amid privilege and a large family... Reader, artist, scholar, poet—Frances Mayes gradually became the aesthete and writer she is today, a passionate lover of the world and the word.” –Lee Smith, author of Guests on Earth
About the Author
- Publisher : Crown; Reprint edition (March 31, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0307885925
- ISBN-13 : 978-0307885920
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.28 x 0.73 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,021,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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I didn't grow up in the South, any part of it; but I felt a connection to Fitzgerald, Georgia, the author's hometown. Thinking about it now, I think it's a connection to a simpler time that I feel, the kind of life Mayes describes was the life of America's small towns and incipient suburbs of the 1950s. Much of what Mayes describes in terms of social interaction cut across America then.
The main differences that I noted were Mayes' emphases on the outdoor life of a Southern girl, the heady atmosphere of Fitzgerald-- the smells of flowers, bushes, rain and river that permeated Mayes' being. This lushness was magnified in her-- and then later in her writing.
Outside of the sense of place, Mayes paints a vivid picture of her family. We find out just who her parents were, who her grandfather Jack was,about her beloved maid. These people,most important to her, receive almost microscopic attention so that we really know them and feel what young Frances felt growing up.
There's plenty of discord in Frances'young life, plenty of sorrow; but this memoir doesn't come across as bitter, caustic or maudlin. The author mostly escapes her family's troubles through immersion in books, boys and parties. Mayes' early memories and tales will feel familiar in large part, a good life overpowering the bad.
The story is told in varying length essays that follow the author from early youth until she marries her first husband Frank and ultimately leaves the south for California. The author explains in great detail the lure of the far away and the need to come full circle and return to her roots in the south. A perfect summer read that lends itself well to reading in increments or all at once. If you are not yet familiar with the works of Frances Mayes, let this be a delightful introduction to Georgia, the deep south and ultimately her winning series of books on her life in Italy.
The imagery of the South is entirely evocative of the real sights, smells, and sounds that recall memories to anyone who shared them. Her voice sounds to my ear, to be that of a girl like me. It sounds true and familiar. I hear her wistfulness ring throughout, even when she is recalling good times. That's a very Southern, F. Scott Fitzgerald, way to write. By the end of the story, she has given you the story of her life, but you were listening more than reading it.