Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon” as Want to Read:
On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,290 Ratings  ·  189 Reviews
Emma Garnet, the heroine of Kaye Gibbons's sixth novel, takes the reader on a Southern journey through place and time, from 1842 to 1900. We see her first as a plantation owner's daughter, pampered by servants yet self-taught in subjects not then in the woman's sphere. As a girl, she does not question the South's peculiar institution, but gradually she recognizes the bruta ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Putnam Adult
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 07, 2013 Sherri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up 2nd hand. I have read Kaye's books before and I thought it sounded like an interesting story. After reading some of the reviews here I was worried but I really did enjoy this book. I always enjoy reading about people who lived through difficulties but come out better for them and I think this is one of those type books. If you want everything to be sunshine and roses then do not read this book. The graphic descriptions of the civil war experience could also bother some but ...more
Jan 24, 2009 Julie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
We read this one for book club and everyone was excited because they have really liked the author in the past. I found the book to have a very strange style of writing. It was very unclear… sort of a cross between stream of consciousness and flashback. It is about a Southern plantation girl who marries a Northern doctor and their experiences during the Civil War. Most of the story is her battle with her ignorant, self made father. I found some of the book interesting and it did get better toward ...more
Kristine Morris
This book was just okay. I will say that all my criticisms of the book are about things that are perhaps intentional by the author. The timeline was very difficult to follow at times. Not sure if it was purposely structured this way, since the character is sort of (but not really) retelling the story on her last day. It doesn't feel like the occasion of her last afternoon because the book rarely focuses on the present day - it's almost a bit of afterthought at the end or beginning of the chapter ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
My heart is heavy upon finishing this book, but more from solemnity than sorrow. Reviewing a lifetime will do that to you, even if it isn't your own life being reviewed. The protagonist is an old woman in the South, looking back over her many years and recounting her memories. While this book is powerful for many reasons (a consideration of race relations in the antebellum South, of how social hierarchy can bring out the worst in some people, of the deprivation and difficulty of the Civil War on ...more
Cynthia Egbert
May 31, 2016 Cynthia Egbert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
As usual, Kaye Gibbons writing was beautiful but I think I need to put aside books about war for a time. This was just too dark and hopeless for my taste. I do have a few quotes that I must share.

"Children see into the dark recesses of the soul. They are rarely fooled, seldom duped save at rummy and shell games."

"Without my brother, I would not have known to use books as a haven, a place to go when pain has invaded my citadel."

"Horace spoke that the end of literature is to instruct the mind and
Jun 20, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Kaye Gibbons novel I have read. I found the narration of human complexity with a Father that embodied all that was wrong with the South and a husband who eschewed all that was right with the North to whet my appetite to check other novels that she has written - don't authors do their best story in a first novel rather than this, her sixth? Gibbons tells the heroine, Emma Garnet's, well heeled saga as an aged and mellow woman. Her childhood, marriage, and the Civil War plus her ...more
Lora Shouse
Oct 28, 2015 Lora Shouse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book.

The narrator, speaking (or writing) on what she expects to be the last day of her life in 1900, tells the story of her family - abusive father, saintly but hard-pressed mother, sister and brothers, slaves, and the free black woman who kept the whole mess from completely disintegrating for many years.

Raised amid the Virginia 'aristocracy', Emma Garnett Tate escapes her father's frequent rages when she marries a doctor who is a relative of the famous Lowell family of Massachusetts
Apr 26, 2013 Sonya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe I've just been in a literary desert recently, but I loved this book. I generally love Kaye Gibbons and this story was beautifully written. This is a story of one woman's life from childhood, through the Civil War, and beyond. The author draws you in with beauty, brutality, heartache and the unyielding love Emma Garnet has for her family. I rarely re-read a book, but I could see myself picking this up again in a few years. I am definitely motivated to read more of Gibbons' work.
I re-read this book as a part of a reading group challenge. My book journal noted that I had enjoyed it immensely, so I was anxious to see how I would feel many years later.

The book is still a fascinating story, one that keeps you reading. Kaye Gibbons is a lovely writer whose words paint visid scenes and bring characters to life in clear detail. Against the backdrop of the Civil War, we get to see the often twisted lives of one family.

On a second reading, many years and many, many books later
Book Concierge
Gibbons grabs you at the first sentence: "I did not mean to kill the nigger!"
Here she tells the tale of the daughter of a plantation owner from the Civil war to early 20th century.

Gibbons captures the reader, who lets go ever so reluctantly at the end of each novel. Her writing is to be treasured. Read ALL you can of her!
Jun 18, 2007 Kim rated it really liked it
This was Gibbon's first historical fiction about the South during the Civil War. The story, told by a 70-year-old woman looking back at herself when she was a girl of 12, living on a plantation ruled by her bitterly angry father. It starts out when he "accidently" kills one of his slaves in anger. Short and poignant.
Katy M
Aug 08, 2014 Katy M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were good parts of the book, but I have a lot of problems with it.

1. Emma Garnet is writing this at the end of her life. Usually when characters do that, they have it all mean something, and I couldn't come up with anything.

2. I realize this is the story of her life, but I don't feel like we get to know any of the other characters. She tells us her husband is a wonderful man that she loves, but I can't really see why. she doesn't really show much of his personality and one of the few scene
Mar 03, 2014 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book felt like a lot of work had been put in to modernize an old topic, but I'm not sure the two fit together very well. The writing was unclear and a little forced, and at times it felt like the author was using big or obscure words just to make the narrator sound uber educated, but it was really just uber annoying. The characters were also almost entirely one-dimensional, and I was pretty much done with the narrators' complaints about her oh so wicked father by about page three; unfortuna ...more
Some of the things other reviewers didn't like about this book are things I liked a lot: the nonlinear narrative, the way it drifts back and forth in time (as you would expect of a character recalling her life as it's ending), the way the main character's recollections remind her of something else and move into lengthy digressions, the elevated language she uses. I wasn't that interested in it at the beginning, though, mostly because I wonder why we need any more books about slaveholding white S ...more
Margot Peter
Apr 28, 2014 Margot Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A magnificent story of love, and survival. Emma Garnet had a father who was an insane brute, who denigrated everyone in his household, including Clarice the freed woman servant who rescued him as a child and who was the only person who truly understood what made him such a monstrous person. This is Emma's story, a love story for the man who rescued her from her fathers heavy hand and brought her To Raleigh to tend the wounded and dying of the Civil War. Looking back from 1900 to earlier times, E ...more
Carol Ann
I didn't make many notes in my journal about this book--but that may be because I was reading during my time at the beach in Roatan, Honduras, and my time soaking up the pleasantries of the Sanctuary on board ship. I did not like this book as well as her others, like Ellen Foster. I may be a little fatigued by the book because the last few I have read have had tragedy and unpleasantries in them, as did this one. Her father clung to his beliefs in the old South, and he was, as she said, a liar.
Jun 04, 2013 Marleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kaye-gibbons
Once I got used to the fact that this story doesn’t stick to a chronological time-line (not even in the same chapter), I could start to enjoy it, more or less. This story is actually the reminiscing of an old woman on her last day of life on earth, looking back on her growing up with a tyrant of a father, a plantation owner, who clearly suffered of delusion and airs of grandeur. Her mother was a kind-hearted Southern Belle, who was equally affected by the verbal abuse of this cruel and complex m ...more
Dec 04, 2008 Jodi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women
Recommended to Jodi by: Carlisle Book Club
Shelves: book-club-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 30, 2012 Mandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a fictional autobiography of a southern woman, growing up on a plantation before the Civil War, and her marriage to a Yankee Doctor. Often, when reading old books, I find myself confused about why a character is so upset, or what on earth they are talking about, simply because the language and culture of the era in which it was written is so different from my own. This book succeeded (sometimes) in making me feel that way, which was very appropriate considering its antebellum voice. ...more
This book was assigned to us in my reading group, and I found it intensely depressing, while at the same time it was a REALLY easy read.

The story is told from the point of view of the main character, who is reminiscing about her life as she's about to pass away from old age. Yeah, you can tell just from that and the title that this will NOT be a happy book. Her life seems to be a series of tragic incidents (Horrible father, middle of the Civil War, first one person dies, then another person comm
Janis Harrington
Jul 07, 2013 Janis Harrington rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Janis by: no one
Emma Garnet narrates her life's story from living with her abusive, bigoted, Southern father, marrying Quincy Lowell of the Lowell family of Massachusetts, nursing the soldiers in her home, turned hospital, and in an actual hospital to her life in Boston after her husband's death to her return to Raleigh where she doled out most of her money and time to charities.

That summation sounds as if it should be an interesting book, but it isn't. I chose to read it because I loved Ellen Foster, also by K
Apr 06, 2014 Nd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this book over the course of a week-long Southern Culture and Food Tour. Though the tour didn't center on the Civil War, it covered so much Tennessee, Mississippi, & Louisiana countryside that it was a beautiful compliment to the admirable protagonist and, to my point of view, heroine of this book. Both her experiences and outlook were mesmerizing, and I'd like to think that there was someone just like her who lived during that time.
Mar 02, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Emma Garnet Tate Lowell is born to privilege on a pre Civil War Virginia plantation. Her father is a self made man who perpetuates the abuse he suffered as a child. Emma marries a Lowell from Boston and ends up making a life in North Carolina spending years assisting her physician husband treat the victims of the war. Vividly told and memorable as Emma recounts her life from the vantage point of her last afternoon in 1900.
Angie Gazdziak
Apr 02, 2015 Angie Gazdziak rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried, I really tried with this one. I love Kaye Gibbons, and I thought this might merit a re-read after a few years away. Honestly? It doesn't. It reads like a fifth-grade understanding of the Civil War. The narrator and her husband are 20th century profiles in a 19th century world, which makes for some confusing character development.

The novel opens with a murder, and there's no payoff. It serves only to shock you into reading further, and ultimately, the murderer doesn't grow or change, th
Amy Warrick
Sep 09, 2014 Amy Warrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is the book 'The Invention of Wings' should have been. I read it after scrounging through the well-worn library of a vacation house I was in, and found it terrific.
A looking-back story of a young girl/woman in the South, pre- and during- the Civil War, and the conflicts of her household.

Done very well, not light reading, but rewarding.
Deborah Sowery-Quinn
Emma is the daughter of a wealthy & cruel plantation owner. He treats his family & his slaves savagely; the one person who really understands him is Clarice, a slave who has known him since a child. Emma eventually moves away into a happy marriage whose latter years are taken with caring for the wounded from the civil war. A beautifully written story.
Joanne Dawe
May 25, 2015 Joanne Dawe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good. A families life growing up in the 1850's. Life during the was, and growing up with a mentally sick father. It tells the life and growth of the main character trying to find a loving partner. I enjoyed how the book showed how people react differently to their life situations.
Kathleen S
In Kate Gibbons' "On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon", seventy year old Emma Garnet is looking back over her life. She was born in 1830 and is the daughter of a Virginia cotton plantation owner. Her father is a bully and her mother avoids tensions with headaches or by visiting friends. Emma Garnet no longer respects her father and he knows it and thus constantly berates her. She escapes by marrying young and moving to North Carolina. But we cannot escape our families and in that time and place ...more
Jessica Jewett
Nov 15, 2015 Jessica Jewett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking, and so realistic. Fiction from the slavery period is usually very romanticized but this story proved it's possible to tell the truth and still move the reader. I loved this story so much more than I expected.
At the end of her life, a woman tells of growing up on the James River in Virginia with an overbearing and abusive plantation owning father. She escapes by marrying a Yankee doctor and moving to North Carolina before the Civil War where they spend the war taking care of wounded soldiers in a hospital. She has many regrets over her long life as she tells her story and the point is to get it out and have some closure. Because she is telling her life story at the end, it's not necessarily linear bu ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon 1 3 Jan 23, 2013 06:33PM  
Samuel Tate 1 10 Aug 09, 2009 06:19PM  
  • The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed
  • The Truest Pleasure
  • Kate Vaiden
  • The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton
  • Raney
  • Salt Dancers
  • Short History of a Prince
  • The River Midnight
  • The Vanished Child
  • Salt
  • Before Women Had Wings
  • Henry and Clara
  • Lovingkindness
  • Imposture
  • The House of Gentle Men
Kaye Gibbons was born in 1960 in Nash County, North Carolina, on Bend of the River Road. She attended North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying American and English literature. At twenty-six years old, she wrote her first novel, Ellen Foster. Praised as an extraordinary debut, Eudora Welty said that "the honesty of thought and eye and feeling and ...more
More about Kaye Gibbons...

Share This Book

“This has been such a glorious afternoon -- my heart would not weep if I did not live to see another.” 5 likes
More quotes…