Elizabeth's Reviews > Fair and Tender Ladies

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
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's review
May 24, 11

it was amazing
bookshelves: top-shelf
Read in March, 2011

Lee Smith (female) is the author of The Devil’s Dream, one of my favorite books from adolescence. Like so many of my books from that period, it’s a remaindered hardback I bought at Bookland in Corbin, Kentucky. The bookstore is no longer there, but whenever I pass Belk Simpson on 25E, I remember it. Bookland was situated to the left of one of the entrances to that southern chain department store.

Anyway, this is an epistolary novel. It begins by chronicling the life of Ivy Rowe, a girl living in rural southwest Virginia (is there any other kind of southwest Virginia??), through the letters she writes to various people. She writes to relatives, teachers, a Dutch pen pal who never answers – but the best letters are to Silvaney, her older and closest sister, sent away to live in an institution after a cloudy incident with one of the girls’ brothers. The letters wind through the years to the end of Ivy’s life.

This book made me want home. It was the first new (to me) book I read since having Julian and being able to concentrate again. The Devil’s Dream is still my favorite Lee Smith book – it’s difficult to supersede fifteen years of sentimental value ... but Fair and Tender Ladies is probably the better work.
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