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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  980 ratings  ·  115 reviews
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is Florence King's classic memoir of her upbringing in an eccentric Southern family, told with all the uproarious wit and gusto that has made her one of the most admired writers in the country. Florence may have been a disappointment to her Granny, whose dream of rearing a Perfect Southern Lady would never be quite fulfilled. But after...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 15th 1990 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 1985)
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Sarah Keliher
I'm not sure what marketing genius decided to saddle this book with a pink floral cover. It's unfortunate and misleading.
Once I recommended this book to a soccer-mom type looking for something for her Southern Writers Book Club. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Possibly I was only remembering how hilarious this book is, and how I actually cry with laughing every time I read it (and I'm up to my tenth rereading at this point). Or maybe I remembered the inspirational coming-of-age aspects. I thi...more
Kate Quinn
I read this book at thirteen, and my world fell into place. No longer did I have to wonder why my loved ones annoyed me, why I didn't want to hang out with friends past a certain point, why I couldn't wrap my mind around the concept of solitary confinement as a punishment. I read "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" and realized I was a misanthrope. I've gone on to read everything else published by Florence King, but this book holds a special place. At once an autobiography, a comedy of error...more
Rachel Smalter Hall
I LOVED Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady! I seriously considered giving this one five stars -- this was one of those rare instances when half-star ratings would have come in really handy.

So I differ from Florence King philosophically on several points (e.g. I'm neither a Monarchist nor a Republican), but you don't necessarily have to agree with someone to appreciate her, right?

King is one of the most hilarious and titillating authors I have ever read, and she is unapologetic about her femin...more
Autumn
To this day, I am liable to call a boring, conventional lady a 'malkin' in my head or to think 'those who study Greek must take pains with dress' when I'm at a library convention. Thanks for keeping it real, Florence!
Jamie
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by King. I laughed so hard at Granny and Jensy's descriptions of obstetrical hell that I nearly wet myself. Having lived a good portion of my early life in the south I am completely familiar with the phenomena of people coming to "stay awhile" and not departing for months/years so that also rang very true for me as well. Thanks for the opportunity to read this kayters...I really enjyed it.
Jo
I can't do this book justice in an off-the-cuff review. It is too perfect. Maybe when I have more time. Buy an old (first published 1985, I think) copy if possible, as the cover will be one of several delightfully sleazy-looking designs, and everyone on the train will think you are reading a harlequin romance novel.
Lucy
This book is a testament to why we need to have shops. I know it’s so much easier to buy a book with one click on Amazon but you can never replace the joy of perusing a book shop’s crammed shelves and coming across a book that you had not heard of. The cover and the testimonials sell it to you, this is what happened to me, whilst checking out the books in our fav book shop, ‘Gays The Word’ in Russell Square I came across this classic.

Yesterday I spent pretty much the whole day devouring it, almo...more
Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson
This is one of the most brilliant and funniest books ever written about being a southern woman. It is purportedly the autobiography of Florence King. I say purportedly because who knows how accurate the details are. It doesn't matter because the truth is in the telling. There are so many great one liners in it that it's impossible to have a favorite although I'd say that "Like charity, schizophrenia begins at home," is a pretty good start. I bought a paperback edition in London when I was dealin...more
Gail
Nov 21, 2008 Gail rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who are not easily offended
Shelves: 2008, humor, memoirs
Florence gives us a picture of growing up in the south (well, in Virginia near D.C.) that's kind of funny and gets more interesting as the book progresses.

But Flarnz (as it's pronounced in the deep south) really gets on a roll when she goes to grad school at U. of Mississippi. The monlogues of southern women, with appropriate pronounciations, are hilarious and so true to life that one laughs out loud...and is irresisitably drawn to share them with others.

On a slightly more serious side, King's...more
Mary
I read this book in college, and even though I'm not a Southern lady, King's story of coming of age and coming into her identity as a lesbian in the South in the 1940's and 50's is so roll-on-the-floor hilarious that I related to every page. This book is a triumphant shout out to being who you really are, despite having a crazy family.
Wesley
I'm loathe to admit how much I enjoyed this, seeing that Southern humor is something I actively avoid. Somehow, though, King won me over. She manages to paint the lives of herself and those around her in a way that employs a certain element of caricature without becoming schtick or saccharine.
Nora
When Florence King is funny, she's hysterically funny. There are places (the scene where she gets her diaphragm, for instance) where I had to put down the book because I was laughing so hard. She doesn't always reach that level of hilariousness, and sometimes I found myself wondering if she weren't exaggerating the Southern Gothic characters around her for effect (I must confess here that I've never lived farther south than Washington, D.C., so perhaps I'm reading this as a Yankee and would reco...more
Morgan Lillian
I just re-read this book after first encountering it in my Southern Women Writers course. In one sentence, I'd say this book is about Florence King's experience becoming her own woman in a culture that has a lot of expectations about what a woman should be. If I had another sentence, I'd add that this book is hilarious and bawdy and perfect for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

The first time around, the hilarious descriptions of Southern culture struck me most. This time, I still laughe...more
Karmon
I usually avoid autobiographies and memoirs -- something about the ego involved in writing one puts me off. This book is an exception, perhaps it is as much about the women in Ms. King's life as it is about the author. The book is humorous, many of the stories have the tone and timing of often-told oral tales. The last quarter of the book focuses on King's coming out, which is handled with the same tone (but perhaps less) humor than the rest of the book. Her exploration of the "Southern lady" ta...more
Kimberly Hudson
What did I not think about this book? At times offended by the crude subject matter, at other times shocked by the complete lack of thoughts concerning God and ease of sexuality, I spent the entire read completely convulsed in giggles.

This book is refreshingly real and an interesting view of growing up before the glass ceiling was broken. I learned a lot.

How funny is this book? I took to reading sections to friends every chance I got.
Courtney
4.5 stars. Florence King is definitely a complicated person. She seems to embrace personality traits that were generically considered "unfeminine" during the era when she came of age- she is headstrong and stubborn, brazenly difficult, and tenaciously intelligent. What makes King's memoir really exceptional, though, is the way her disassociation from her Southern socialization does not lead to a full-scale renunciation of her family. There's no impulsive rejection of them, even though she doesn'...more
Sage
Some interesting insights, and I appreciate the candour at least. It just left me cold in the end, nowhere near as witty as was billed on the front cover. Might have smirked a couple of times but certainly didn't laugh out loud (and in broad terms it is my kind of humour). Maybe I missed something by not being American, or of that era; but good writing should trancend that.
Janis Ian
I am forever grateful to Beth Flood, who handed me this and "Southern Ladies and Gentlemen" when I first moved to Nashville from LA and told me I'd learn more about my new culture and home from them than I'd learn in a hundred years by myself. These books have saved me from abject humiliation on more than one occasion, and been a light in the darkness on many others.
Donna
Bear in mind that this review is being written by a Yankee. My mother was born in the south, but I have not even visited since I was five years old, so I can't claim any real sense of heritage, apart from a few really kick-ass, cholesterol laden recipes. And the one southerner to whom I loaned this book was deeply, deeply offended by it.

Suffice to say, it is edgy humor, graphic in places. King is not particularly afraid of boundaries, and this clearly is what accounts for some of the 'failure' t...more
Marla Glenn
Florence King is funny. Blunt. A razor sharp writer. Read her! Start with this memoir -- you won't be disappointed. (One caveat: her sexual situations are x-rated, but I think that's a good thing.)
Sarah Dobbs
Loved it! This is a book to be read again and again - too funny! "Wasp Where is Thy Sting" is another of King's books that should not be passed by.
Spoonelicious
This was my first experience reading Florence King and I laughed so hard my friends just stared at me. Her writing style is hilarious.
Nancy L.
If you like to laugh out loud as you read, this book is for you
Joanna
Although I wasn't hooked initially, I quickly became so after about 30 pages. Things improved further as Florence began college and started suffering the rampant and unashamed sexism of the age, from both men and women. The book also reflects the endemic racism of the time (1940/50s).

Despite this, the book was a delight... it didn't take itself too seriously and included some brilliant female characters, not least Florence.

"Confessions..." provided me with my first and long overdue definition...more
AJ LeBlanc
I love book group. Not only do I get to hang out with a bunch of people I like and talk about books, I get to read books that I never would have picked up on my own. Welcome to Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady. I read a lot of memoirs, but this one never would have stood out for me. I didn’t know anything about Florence King, so when this was chosen for our September meeting, I was looking forward to something new. (Yes, September book group. If you’re also behind on book reviews, let’s hol...more
Nicola
I tend to think that longwinded stories about one’s childhood belong in the therapist’s office and not on the pages of a book, so when Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady opened with numerous zany anecdotes about Florence King’s childhood, I groaned.

I’m glad I didn’t just ditch the book, though, because once King began recounting her school and college life, the misanthropic humour began to suit the material better. Growing up in mid-20th-century Washington D.C., schooled in how to be a lady b...more
Fiona
Certainly a different read, not something I would have chosen myself. Interesting account of life and sexuality in the 50's in the Deep South . Witty in places and I couldn't help but love her grandmother ! It certainly wasn't a book I couldn't put down and took me a while to read it but glad I can add it to my list of reads that don't cover my usual genre.
Alice
A very funny memoir in the vein of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, sending up the conventions of Southern propriety and expectations of femininity. Also a totally believable and sexy coming-out story. The protagonist is an intellectual born into a down-at-the-heel Virginia family with a tomboy mother, a bookish father, and a grandmother obsessed with her heritage and gynecological ailments. Like another reviewer, I found the Black dialect problematic, but King plays around a lot with accents and...more
Arna
At times laugh out loud funny - but sometimes becasuer if you didn't laugh, you's cry. The author is the product of a failyu which can only be described as unique, and was in effect raised by her grandmother who was desperate for her to be a "Southern lady" - which as far as she could determine meant having horrific "women's problems" or psychiatric illness, or possibly both. A quietly supportive father, and a mother who was perhaps not as ineffective as it might seem at first blush, notwithstan...more
Kathleen
I would agree with the word "failed." She failed to hold my attention. She failed to entice me to finish reading it. It failed to hold my respect for her as any type of lady. The passages about her childhood and even into high school, while unique and must have been hard to live through, were delightful reading. When she got into her "f-ing" phase in college, she lost me. Not just for the phase itself but how she describes it. Demeans it. And I did enjoy her trip off to grad school but again, so...more
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Born in Washington, D.C. in 1936 to a bookish British father and a tomboy American mother, Florence King spent her childhood living with her parents, her maternal grandmother, and her grandmother's maid.

King showed talent in French, but unable to pursue it as a major at American University, she switched to a dual major of history and English. She attended the University of Mississippi for graduat...more
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Southern Ladies and Gentlemen With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look At Misanthropy The Florence King Reader Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye When Sisterhood Was in Flower

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