Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On the occassion of my last afternoon” as Want to Read:
On the occassion of my last afternoon
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

On the occassion of my last afternoon

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,962 ratings  ·  165 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.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On the occassion of my last afternoon, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about On the occassion of my last afternoon

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,987)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
Margot Peter
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
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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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 2 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.
Amy Warrick

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.
Kathleen McRae
There was a couple of stories hidden within this book. One was the story of a southern born woman raised in Virginia with a rabid father when she marries a northern man against her fathers wishes and the other tale is about the civil war as it played out in the south where she lived with her husband who became a surgeon during the civil war. I enjoyed this book
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
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book; found the story & characters interesting. I did not find the story difficult to follow as some reviewers mentioned. However, I felt sad when the story ended. I wasn't ready to let Emma Garnet go just yet.
This was a quick read and a book I enjoyed a great deal. It was written by Kaye Gibbons (of Ellen Foster fame) and contains Gibbon's usual courageous girl who suffers the loss of a mother. This heroine, Emma Garnet, is a wealthy southern girl during the mid nineteenth century. Her father, Sam Tate is a hateful, nasty man who represents the south and all that is wrong with it while her husband, Quincey Lowell, is the symbolic "north." He is the hard- working, kind, moral doctor. Clarice is the al ...more
Ashley Webb
Initially, I found the book hard to follow, as the storyline jumps about. However, once I got used to reading it from the viewpoint of an old woman reminiscing, I was captivated. We don't reflect on our lives in perfect chronological order; one memory ties into another, which reminds you of on and so forth. I found the story to be haunting and bittersweet, fascinating.

I suppose the fact that I live in the part of Raleigh where the story takes place helped as well; I walk the Oakwoo
Karenbike Patterson
This is one woman's life from the 1840s to the late 1800s. Mainly it is about the two pivotal men who shape her: her father and husband. Raised in the south by an abusive, bigoted, cruel father who domineers his family and slaves, Emma escapes to a husband who is just the opposite. Quincy is a doctor/surgeon who is compassionate, gentle, and loving. The story goes from antebellum Virginia, through the Civil War, and toward reconstruction. Emma sees her mother, father, sister, and trusted servant ...more
Debi Crouch
Her writing is very interesting. The characters are complicated. Relationships are deep. Very good summer read though not a very cheery story.
Mary Johnson
Not her best book, but entertaining. Made me want to go back & read again some of her other books.
This book was mostly disappointing to me. It's about a woman who is born & raised on a plantation with a very domineering father. She "escapes" by marrying a doctor who comes from Boston but they settle in the south. It is set in the pre/post Civil War era. Husband of course doctors during the Civil War and she helps. I guess I was expecting something a little more gritty or real and this seemed like a stroll down Magnolia street. It's told in first person so it's almost like the teller just ...more
Kaye Gibbons is a favorite author of mine, but I couldn't abide the character of the narrator's father who presided over everything. It was a chore to have to meet up with him each day as I read.
Kaye Gibbons, the author of Ellen Foster, creates not one, but two heroines, in this poignant Civil War story...Emma, the pampered plantation daughter with a cruel father, and Clarice, the slave who actually makes things happen there. Together, they tell the tale of a South that is flawed, majestic, tragic, and doomed. Although it has received mixed reviews here on goodreads, anyone from the South, civil war buffs, or lovers of Gone With the Wind will enjoy this read.
Damon Rogers
Sadly I was hoping the more I read, the more it would improve but it never did!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Samuel Tate 1 10 Aug 09, 2009 06:19PM  
  • The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed
  • Kate Vaiden
  • The Truest Pleasure
  • Salt Dancers
  • Short History of a Prince
  • The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton
  • Raney
  • Alice's Tulips
  • Firebird
  • Henry and Clara
  • A False Sense of Well Being
  • Before Women Had Wings
  • Until The Real Thing Comes Along
  • Salt: A Novel
  • Imposture
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...
Ellen Foster A Virtuous Woman Charms for the Easy Life A Cure for Dreams Sights Unseen

Share This Book

“This has been such a glorious afternoon -- my heart would not weep if I did not live to see another.” 4 likes
More quotes…