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Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,126 Ratings  ·  253 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Crown (first published January 1st 2014)
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Diane Barnes
Jul 28, 2014 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it
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
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
Mari Anne
Apr 13, 2014 Mari Anne rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
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.
Diane S ☔
Apr 01, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
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
Sep 08, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
While this book does start off a bit slow and hard to follow, once you get into it, it is captivating and hard to put down. Don't give up on it after reading the preface, it does get better. The author's descriptive language, while sometimes distracting, mostly paints vivid pictures of her past. The stories she tells of her family and growing up in the South are interesting, and she seems to only cover important events or moments that stand out to her, rather than every detail of her life and al ...more
Nov 16, 2015 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes a book has every advantage; the circumstances of my first reading couldn't be improved. I listened to this memoir while making the familiar six-hour drive (and back)to visit my grands. I was enwombed in my car while the windshield wipers swiped at the ubiquitous rain. Frances Mayes' melodious drawl made it seem like she sitting next to me, telling her melancholy story of conflict, loss, flight. So very different from her travel memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, and A Year i ...more
Mar 25, 2014 Andie rated it liked it
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
Jennifer Grainger
Feb 09, 2014 Jennifer Grainger rated it really liked it
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
 Gigi Ann
Apr 03, 2015 Gigi Ann rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I just couldn't get into this book. I was lost in most of what I read, so decided not to finish the book. I'm sure it you are a fan of Frances Mayes you will probably like the book, however sadly this book was not for me.

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

I did not receive any type of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers and authors I am under no obligation to write a positive review.
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 (
Feb 09, 2014 Kim rated it it was amazing
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
Dana Booth
Jul 05, 2015 Dana Booth rated it did not like it
This is the next book for my book club, but I just couldn't get through it. I should have known... reading Under the Tuscan Sun was tough for me. Just something about the way Frances Mayes writes - too flowery or something. Gave up early on.
Apr 22, 2014 Lori rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, historical
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
Aug 09, 2014 George rated it it was ok

"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
Jennifer Boyce
Feb 08, 2014 Jennifer Boyce rated it liked it
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
Pamela Carroll
Jan 03, 2014 Pamela Carroll rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 07, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, library
I will say that it started off a little bit slow, but as Mayes's life story progressed, or rather, she delved further back into her memories, the book became more interesting. While she grew up in an entirely different era from me, it still resonated with me because I lived in a small Southern town, went to a small Southern college, and where I studied English. Like Mayes, I having a deep sense of place, which is also very prominent in Southern literature, is important in my life. I have a love ...more
Apr 09, 2014 Margo rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 14, 2014 Suzanne Moore rated it really liked it
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
Jun 30, 2015 Molly rated it liked it
Being a huge fan of Francis Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun, I was really excited to dig into this one. To be honest, though, I had a lot of trouble really getting into Under Magnolia. It’s written in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way that made me have to work to follow along, the story jumps from here to there and back to here so many times that I regularly got lost and had to go back and try to figure out what I was reading about for the last page or so.

Now don’t get me wrong, this book is bea
Nov 13, 2014 Carin rated it liked it
I had an unusual experience with the book. The woman who loaned it to me had said that she was "dipping in and out of it" and internally I made a face as I never, ever do that (in fact, I even stopped flipping around in Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography and started reading it straight through!) But I think that is a great way to read this book.

I was under the mistaken impression that the book was about Ms. Mayes's moving back to the South (North Carolina) as an adult (after her
Feb 24, 2015 Leah rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I should have known that Under Magnolia would be incredible as soon as I saw who wrote it. Frances Mayes has a pretty incredible resumé. Ever heard of Under the Tuscan Sun? That's what I thought. Mayes has a beautiful vocabulary - one that makes you feel the sticky heat of the South, hear the dialect of her family's maid, taste her mother's homemade dessert, and smell the sweet magnolias that always seem to be present.

Her dysfunctional family life is one that many readers can relate to, I think
Mar 28, 2014 Darlene rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
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
Cheryl Smithem
Jun 16, 2015 Cheryl Smithem rated it it was amazing
As a Southerner, I found this book to ring true to my own years growing up in a small town. Her conclusion that she was the sum of all the people -- the good and the bad -- in her life also rang true with me.

They lyric prose was balm for my soul. And I actually read this when the magnolia trees surrounding my own porch were in full bloom. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened. So there I was, rocking on my porch with the scent of magnolias in my nose, warm breezes circulating the scents f
Joan Grubbs
Apr 17, 2014 Joan Grubbs rated it liked it
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
Cindy Feigert
Jan 12, 2016 Cindy Feigert rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I have read Ms. Mayes trilogy about her life in Italy. And I like them well enough. But I must say that this is my favorite of her books. She always mentioned in her southern roots in her previous book so it was interesting to read the full story. I know this is a memoir but in many ways it was also a history of growing up in the deep south in the 50's and 60's. Willie Bell reminding me of characters from The Help. Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book; "Maybe it's the food of the sou ...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."
Jun 07, 2014 Arlene rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Jul 25, 2015 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a fan of Frances Mayes' Tuscany books, so was eager to read her memoir. I wasn't disappointed -- really enjoyed it. She really paints a vivid picture of her life growing up in a small town in Georgia.
Jul 02, 2016 Ashley rated it it was amazing
"All I'll ever be able to figure out as my religion is to love the world and the people in it. Help those you can and relish the moment as it flies... As to the creation of the universe and our purpose on this blue spinning mote in space: Bow down before the mystery because you are not going to know. In that, I have faith."
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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 Wor
More about Frances Mayes...

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“Sometimes you have to travel back in time, skirting the obstacles, in order to love someone.” 5 likes
“At a few times in my life, I’ve not been aware that I’ve just stepped onto a large X. Change might not be on my mind. Why change? I’ve always admired lives that flourish in place. The taproot reaches all the way to the aquifer, the leaves bud, flourish, fall, and grow again. I like generations following one another in the same house, where lamplight falls through the windows in squares of light on the snow, and somebody’s height chart still marks the kitchen doorway. But there I stand on the X, not knowing it’s time to leap, when, really, I’d only meant to pause.” 4 likes
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