Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir
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Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

3.48 of 5 stars 3.48  ·  rating details  ·  443 ratings  ·  142 reviews
A lyrical and evocative memoir from Frances Mayes, the Bard of Tuscany, about coming of age in the Deep South and the region’s powerful influence on her life.

The author of three beloved books about her life in Italy, including Under the Tuscan Sun and Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes revisits the turning points that defined her early years in Fitzgerald, Georgia. With h...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Crown (first published January 1st 2014)
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Chris Inman
This is one of those rare books that I found myself unable to put down once I began reading. I read the entire book in less than a day. Ms. Mayes did jump around quite a bit and I did get confused a couple of times, however that endeared me to this particular work, because that is perhaps her intention. This book is based upon her memories of a childhood in the south, and that is how memories come back to us, they jump from time to time, she even explained this.

One of my favorite lines in the bo...more
Diane Barnes
This is one of the better memoirs I've read in quite some time. I grabbed this ARC when it came in because I had read "Under the Tuscan Sun" many years ago and remembered how much I enjoyed it. I was not expecting this one to be so brilliantly remembered and so lyrically written.

Frances Mayes was born in 1940 and grew up in Fitzgerald, Georgia. Her two sisters were much older than she, so she was essentially raised as an only child in a town of 1 square mile, where her father managed the local...more
Diane S.
A charming and thoughtful meditation of her youth growing up in Fitzgerald, Ga. Although she early escaped to California and fell in love with Tuscany, buying a house there, it only takes a trip to do a reading at Square Books in Oxford, MS., to bring back much of what it means to be Southern. She quotes Faulkner quite extensively, even visiting his house, though it was not open at the time and she had to be satisfied with peaking through the window and imagining his life within.

Often humorous i...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I received a copy of this book in print from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Frances Mayes, after her relocation to Tuscany, makes a impulsive move back to the south. She grew up in Georgia and moved to North Carolina, but just the same, it triggered a wave of memories and emotions that she turned into this memoir of her childhood.

I connected with this book from multiple perspectives. As someone who has been away from "home" for almost ten years and is returning home this summer (...more
Mari Anne
I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't even get through the preface. I skipped to the first chapter, where it didn't get much better.
This felt like stream of consciousness writing and wasn't really coherent. I kept having to re-read sentences and even then most didn't make much sense. Sadly one I didn't enjoy and couldn't really get into.
I was over-the-moon thrilled to receive an advance reader’s copy of Under, Magnolia by Frances Mayes. From the moment I first picked up Under the Tuscan Sun I became obsessed with Frances’ writing; I’ve re-read that book so many times I’ve lost count. Her life in Italy intrigued me, her thoughts on everything else under the sun intrigued me even more so. Under, Magnolia is different from her other writings, and yet it did not disappoint me. She says “ Since I love imagery, I will practice writin...more
Frances Mayes rocketed to fame with her book Under the Tuscan Sun that can rightly be categorized as lifestyle pornography for middle-aged women. After mining this topic for years, she has now turned to her home turf, the American South, in a memoir that describes her southern Gothic childhood complete with a drunken and abusive father, a beautiful but disturbed mother, the beloved family retainer and grandparents who are actually called Daddy Jack, Big Momma and Big Daddy like characters out of...more
I was a goodreads first reads winner of the book "Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir" I would give this an almost three. I was really hoping i would like this book better. I like reading memoirs.
Frances Mayes writes about growing up in Georgia during the 40s and 50s it spanned from birth to college..She grew up the youngest with two older sisters. Her childhood was not always happy. There was a lot of strife. her father was temperamental and an alcoholic he also died in his late forties when Fr...more
Jennifer Grainger
Feb 09, 2014 Jennifer Grainger rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jennifer by: Good Reads
Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am obsessed with books that are set in the South. So when I received my advanced copy of Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir from Good Reads, I felt like I won the lottery. This is a memoir that didn't disappoint. While some may become a bit distracted by the imagery Mayes used, I reveled in it. Her words painted the perfect picture for my imagination. I loved her style and structure of the text as it kept me more engaged as a reader. I agree that ther...more
Jennifer Boyce
While I didn't think this book was bad exactly, it just wasn't suited to my tastes.

I was interested in the story (which is why I entered the giveaway) but I found that the writing was just a little too descriptive for me to enjoy. I love descriptive writing, when an author paints a picture in the readers head, but this book was overly descriptive. The descriptions seemed almost cloying and I found myself wishing for some straightforward facts mixed in.

Maybe later in life I'll give this book ano...more
Pamela Carroll
I won this in a giveaway. I read it but was hesitant to give an immediate response. I wanted to like the book as it's the type I enjoy. However, I have to admit that even though it's not a bad story it lacks spirit and soul. It's merely words on paper of a life. Perhaps if the author reread it and included actual feelings in the experiences, it would help. I think it's a good draft but needs work in order to help transport the reader into the story.
In her recent memoir, Frances Mayes has come full circle, coming to terms with – and celebrating – her southern upbringing. Mayes uses the rich imagery that graced her Tuscan memoirs and applies her vivid descriptive powers to the South of her girlhood, indeed the South, as we discover, that created her love of words. She explains: "Since I love imagery, I will practice writing as though I were painting, as if my words could re-create a single glimpse of a panel of sunlight on the grass, the fla...more
Suzanne Moore
I was anxious to read this memoir after having read and loved the well-known book Under the Tuscan Sun by, Frances Mayes. Written with a flair for beautifully descriptive prose, the memories in this book go back to the author's early years, growing up in the south, reflecting a time of innocence, tradition, segregation, and discovery. Her sheltered and privileged life was tarnished by a father's explosive temper and abuse of alcohol by both parents. Willie Bell, the family's maid and her confida...more

"Turn the kaleidoscope a quarter inch and shards of memory rearrange and shift, bright as ever."—page 29

I suspect that Frances Mayes has never met a simple declarative sentence she couldn't obfuscate in southern smarm.

In her 'personal' story, UNDER MAGNOLIA: A Southern Memoir, she relates the tales her dad's heroics—being shot and seriously wounded by a double-murderer, and three or four violent suicides of personal friends, or of a parent of personal friends, with the same southern in...more
Joan Grubbs
I wanted to like this book, but I honestly never got into it. Having read some of Mayes' books before, I expected something a little different. As someone who has visited Tuscany, San Francisco and who lives in the south, I found I could not agree with her comparing Georgia to Tuscany. There are no similarities, in my mind between the Italian people and countryside to those of the south. It only took a few pages for me to understand that she was raised in a highly dysfunctional,violent, alcohol...more
Laura Lilly Cotten
Apr 03, 2014 Laura Lilly Cotten is currently reading it
"A generality may have a use, as does a bludgeon, but it obliterates what is of particular use by oversimplifying. Nothing has been dealt this blow so much as the southern woman, black and white."
I started this book with high hopes of a good book about growing up and coming of age in the south. The author is about ten years older than I am so I thought much of her memories of growing up in a small Georgia town would resonate with me. Was I ever wrong! Ms Mayes life was nothing like my own and while I enjoyed some of the stories she related, I found the book rather depressing and as I neared the end, I was just skimming through it.
Lonna Pierce
A vivid portrait of "Under Tuscany" author, Frances Mayes's difficult childhood growing up in Georgia, every phrase is deliciously crafted by a wordsmith of the highest order. The poetry, word etymologies, and memoir are fragrant and palatable, creating word pictures rife with memorable imagery.
Gail Strickland
I swear Frances Mayes has written the story of my childhood and an excellent primer for anyone wondering about "The South".
Under Magnolia is terrific. I really loved Maye's story. It's no wonder she waited into her 70's to write this memoir. I am sure it took much reflection to be able to reconstruct such memories. There aren't many fiction novels that would have held my attention of a Southern family as this one did.

I almost want to describe her family as tragic but I guess Mayes is the proof that it wasn't a tragedy after all. I think she was insightful about her father having stayed behind and therefore missing...more
Nancy Narma
“Not All I Had Hoped It Would Be”

With the exception of the preface, the first few and last chapters—this collection of memories was a disappointment. The Author has also written “Under the Tuscan Sun”, and with it being one of my favorite movies, I was more than a little excited to delve into “Under Magnolia--A Southern Memoir”. I was thoroughly enticed by the preface and first chapters –including her move to Hillsborough, North Carolina (and the pleasantries discovered within) from their former...more
Forrest Gander
For those of us growing old visiting our parents in nursing homes, for those of us who have dreamed of being pursued by a panther or wolf and lying deathly still while it sniffs us, for anyone who has had to crack the shell of one world in order to be born into another, this is a memoir that opens to us.

Reading the book is a delicious experience, even when the incidents and characters are appalling. Mayes' language is as ever, poetically on point. "She humped glory....grabbled in the dirt....her...more
Enchanted Prose
Southern Memories – The enduring power of a passion for reading, writing, friendship, and a “sense of place”: It’s wonderfully fitting that the first book I can’t wait to share that’s outside the historical/contemporary fiction genre Enchanted Prose mostly blogs about is a gorgeous Southern memoir by the “Bard of Tuscany” whose madly in love with prose. You don’t even need Frances Mayes to say she “loves imagery, I will practice writing as though I were painting.” Her writing is so sensory and p...more
Khamneithang Vaiphei
Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes is a deep, thoughtful and intensely honest but at times strikingly humorous recollection of a youthful life, brimming with optimism and the vagaries of life. While some may be a tad confused by the metaphors used, she revels in painting the perfect imagery for anyone with the proclivity to see it. Under Magnolia is a memoir that is both gentle and rough, a memoir that is crafted the way memoirs should be written.

What is stranger than memory, tha...more
Marcie Kremer
In her recent memoir, Frances Mayes has come full circle, coming to terms with – and celebrating – her southern upbringing. Mayes uses the rich imagery that graced her Tuscan memoirs and applies her vivid descriptive powers to the South of her girlhood, indeed the South, as we discover, that created her love of words. She explains: "Since I love imagery, I will practice writing as though I were painting, as if my words could re-create a single glimpse of a panel of sunlight on the grass, the fla...more
A chaotic Southern childhood
BookPage® Review by Amy Scribner

Frances Mayes’ lyrical memoir of growing up Southern was a long time coming. Worried about upsetting her family, she stopped and started Under Magnolia many times over: “Anytime I felt the impulse to start my Southern opus again, I instead headed for a movie or a new Thai restaurant,” she writes. “I’d go jogging or read a novel until the impulse faded.”

Thank goodness she finally gave in to her impulses to dare alla luce, as the Tuscans...more
I was excited to win this in a Goodreads First Reads Givaway. I find stories of people who struggle with adversity and thrive in spite of it all to be inspiring. Being a northerner, I enjoyed reading about her life growing up in the South and her move to California, Italy and ultimately back to the South. I have enjoyed her writing in the past and she describes places so well - the scents of flowers, heat, customs and relatives. She brings it to life.
My impression of Frances Mayes is changing so much as a result of reading this book that I'm feeling compelled to re-read at least one of her books written about Tuscany.

I was reminded of the comment of one of the members of a book club that I belong to after we read the second book in a row by well known Southern authors that we needed to take a break from the difficult topics that seem to be part of every great Southern novel (dysfunctional families, cruel parents, alcoholism, poverty, diffic...more
Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir is Frances Mayes latest book and it shows a much different Frances Mayes than most of her readers are likely used to. In this memoir she takes us back to her roots and to the struggles and triumphs that made her who she is today. I listened to the audio book which is narrated by Frances Mayes herself and I thought she did a wonderful job. To me a memoir is made all the more powerful when the author reads it themselves.

Frances didn’t have a rosy childhood with a...more
Jane E.
I did not love this book until mid-way, and then I went straight to envy. I had not read Mayes' previous books, and did not know she was a poet. I might have known she was a poet by her prose, especially her evocation of Southern summers. "Cicadas, the deep end of summer, this is how night sounds when it breathes." And, "Noon burns the whole town into stillness. My house is dark against the heat, the heavy draperies closed. ... the air conditioner labors and sweats...what's left but the burned-u...more
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Frances Mayes's new book is Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir , published by Crown. With her husband, Edward Mayes she recently published The Tuscan Sun Cookbook. Every Day in Tuscany is the third volume in her bestselling Tuscany memoir series.

In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany , Frances Mayes is the author of the travel memoir A Year in the Worl...more
More about Frances Mayes...
Under the Tuscan Sun Bella Tuscany A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller In Tuscany Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life

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