I liked this book, I liked the writing, I liked the characters (for the most part), I like that it takes place in my part of the country, but I also l...moreI liked this book, I liked the writing, I liked the characters (for the most part), I like that it takes place in my part of the country, but I also like happy endings, so I can only give it 4 stars. Without giving anything away, the ending also felt a little bit cheesy. (less)
Finally! A great book! I was on a mediocre stretch there for a while.
On Agate Hill is the story of Molly Petree, an orphan girl growing up in the Reco...moreFinally! A great book! I was on a mediocre stretch there for a while.
On Agate Hill is the story of Molly Petree, an orphan girl growing up in the Reconstruction South. The book is made up of a lot of journal entries and letters, and it begins with a young Molly telling her own story, the story of her as a "ghost girl" growing up on her uncle's plantation, Agate Hill. Then the story is picked up by the headmistress of Gatewood Academy, a sort of finishing school for girls. The headmistress, Mariah Snow, sees herself in Molly and so never trusts or likes her. The next part is picked up by one of the teachers at Gatewood, when she and Molly head off on their own. Then we have a section told by Molly's husband's cousin, telling about her married life. Then it finishes up with Molly filling in some of the blanks as she looks back on her life from her old age.
This was a great book, filled with believable characters. Molly is flawed, but very likeable. There are parts of Molly's story, and Molly herself, that I think every woman can probably relate to.
This reminded me a little of one of Lee Smith's other novels, Fair and Tender Ladies, which is one of my all-time favorite books. On Agate Hill at first felt to me like the story that would have been Ivy Rowe's if she had gone to school. But then it did become its own story. I like Fair and Tender Ladies better because I liked Ivy Rowe better than Molly, but this is still a fantastic book.(less)
The title intrigued me. What would she have to say? A lot. It's the story of her marriage to a Confederate soldier who never got over losing his best...moreThe title intrigued me. What would she have to say? A lot. It's the story of her marriage to a Confederate soldier who never got over losing his best friend. But it's also the story of her mother; her housekeeper, who used to be the narrator's husband's slave; her husband; and others. In fact, I thought about including it on my short story bookshelf. Some of the anecdotes were very good, others seemed to drag on forever. I didn't think the slave's story was ever going to end. It's hit or miss, but you could really probably just dip into a section at a time rather than trying to read the whole thing as a novel.(less)
This is a story told from many points of view. First is Zebulon Vance, the real life Civil War governor of North Carolina. We follow him from his days...moreThis is a story told from many points of view. First is Zebulon Vance, the real life Civil War governor of North Carolina. We follow him from his days as a hotel porter fresh off the farm until his rise to governor. Next is Malinda Blalock, a tough mountain woman who follows her husband to war and beyond. Then there's Rattler, a modern day man with a touch of the second sight who realizes that the Civil War re-enactors of the mountains are calling up uneasy spirits who are best left alone.
I enjoyed reading about my region's role in the Civil War. I'd heard somewhere that we were exceptionally torn apart during that conflict because we weren't wealthy landowners and so had no clear-cut reason to join either side. This book showed that.
The voices of the different narrators were done very well. They were each very distinct. The only negative I have to say about it is that Malinda's voice didn't ring entirely true. The author gave it a good try, but she didn't quite get the accent and the language right. Lee Smith does a much better job with our Appalachian dialect.
There was one other narrator in the book, but he had a very minor role. In fact, I'm not entirely sure why his parts were even included. He only had a few chapters, but I felt like they could have been cut out completely without really hurting the story.
I'll be a little devilish here and say that I also enjoyed the way McCrumb wrote about our transplants from Florida. They were sort of caricatures, and we don't really think they're all like that, but we do feel like some newcomers think us locals are barbarians who should just leave and let them enjoy their cliffside homes. A little brutally honest, perhaps, but there you go.
But overall, this was an interesting book. I wasn't riveted to the page, but I did enjoy it. Not enough to think about reading it again, but it was time well-spent.(less)
This sweeping epic portrays life during the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a young Southern belle who has a stubbor...moreThis sweeping epic portrays life during the Civil War and Reconstruction through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a young Southern belle who has a stubborn streak a mile wide. She's in love with the wrong man, marries the wrong men, and is irredeemably selfish, but she's a survivor. Through it all, she steadfastly refuses the advances of reprobate blockade runner Rhett Butler. Their story is as timeless as it is turbulent.
I feel like the last Southern woman to read Gone With the Wind. My excuse, such as it is: I did try to read it once before, when I was way too young. I thought Scarlett was mean, Miss Melly was a wimp, and Ashley was just useless. I put it down very early on and never wanted to pick it up again. However, as the host of The Southern Literature Reading Challenge, people were shocked that I'd never read this Southern classic, my aunt perhaps most of all. She has read it multiple times and re-watches the movie religiously. She finally told me last year when we were at the Decatur Book Festival together, "How about we do a read-a-long? It's been years since I re-read it and I would love to get your reactions as you're reading it for the first time." With her shove support, I finally got up the nerve to tackle this beast.
I loved it. I'm more inclined to give it 4.5 stars, but I'll round up to 5 in honor of Pat. I have an ancient old mass market paperback with the tiniest font known to man and I still plowed through. My eyes physically hurt from the strain of reading almost 1000 pages of "ant prints" as I call fonts that small, and I still could not put it down.
These characters just came to life for me. Don't ask me if I hated them or loved them because I still couldn't tell you and it's been over 6 months since I finished it. Rhett--I eventually loved him, even though there were times I wanted to smack that smirk off his face. Ashley--I didn't respect him at all. He was a weak excuse of a man. Melanie--I thought she was weak and silly at first, but she's probably the strongest character in the book in a lot of ways. She surprised me. Just when I wrote her off as hopeless, she would do something to make me change my mind. Scarlett--I was all over the place. I loathed her, I respected her. She was selfish, she was a survivor. She's a bitch, she's a forerunner of the women's movement. She is complicated. That's all I know for sure.
I have seen enough of the movie in the past to have a very good idea about the story. I was surprised when these extra kids and marriages suddenly showed up in Scarlett's life. Holy cow, she was a busy woman. Maybe I missed something, but I think they cleaned her up just a little for the movie.
Grab a copy with a readable font (I do not recommend reading until your eyes hurt), and give this a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the epic story you'll find within.(less)