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Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,023 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Fourteen stories focus on a group of southern women who seek happiness and a sense of worth in bars, marriages, divorces, art, drug use, lovers' arms, and earthquakes
Paperback, 277 pages
Published September 30th 1985 by Back Bay Books (first published 1984)
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4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,023 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Mar 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me last summer by a former teacher who is also an Episcopalian minister. In December, I entered a "Secret Santa" drawing involving alumni of my alma mater (Grinnell College whaaaaat) and, per statistical probability, drew a woman I'd never met (Which is a good thing! This is why we do this in the first place, to meet other alumni/ae we don't know, and make great connections while impressing them!)

Anyway, she described herself as a "book slut", which is great, because
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not a war book!

I'm ashamed to say I only now am discovering Ellen Gilchrist, one of America's best authors, certainly of short stories.
These stories must have been written in the seventies or early eighties, they were acclaimed upon publication, and deservedly so. That said, they are more fun than profound. Gilchrist writes about rich southern women who are "empowered" in a way that today's kick-boxing heroines might well look into. These ladies drink, smoke, diet and have sex as much as they w
Larry Bassett
You should not trust an author with “christ” in her name. That’s what I think.

I was going to say that Victory Over Japan is a weird book but what is really weird is that this is December 7th. What do you think of that? Maybe I will just quote a paragraph and let you decide for yourself what you think. Here goes.
A miracle, the sisters at the Academy of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus would have said. Chemistry, Maurice would say. Energy, Mirium Sallisaw would declare. This particular miraculous e
Mike Zickar
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A delightful set of stories by an author that I had never read before. It might be a cliché to compare Gilchrist to Flannery O'Connor but these stories share a lot in common with some of O'Connor's best work: Dark, often unexpected things happen to people in delightful settings mostly in the South.

Several of these stories are nested together, with a central character across 3 or 4 stories, done in a very interesting way. I'd give the collection a total of 5 stars, except I felt that the last s
He touched a book on his desk. Tropic of Cancer, it said on the dustjacket. Inside was a dictionary.

The above made me laugh - Defender of the Little Falaya was probably my favourite story here, although it was a little unlike Gilchrist's other stories, centered on driftless Southern women. Aside from the humour of the stories there wasn't a lot for me to take to, as they're all a bit too similar. The curious charm of the early Rhoda stories wears off by the third, when Gilchrist's style, which I
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012
A belle in bed, most likely suffering from a deep chemical depression, is lost in thought while her companion, a black cat, pokes its head through the cloud of comforters and fixes with stern gaze the reader, the holder. That's the cover. That's what that is. ...

Where Lorrie Moore charts the trajectory of college educated Midwesterners and Bobbie Ann Mason traces the comings and goings of middle class and povertyline Southerners, Gilchrist notes the downward spiral of Southern girls whose beehiv
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
The title is misleading. Victory Over Japan has nothing to do with Japan. It is not about slapstick G.I. hijinks in Occupied Japan, it’s not about the gruesome Pacific Island campaign, it’s not about the incendiary bombing of greater Tokyo or the horror of the A-bomb (although the A-bomb does make a brief appearance in the first story). Instead, a collection of spoiled/flawed characters from upper class families struggle their way across parts of the American south and west of the forties, fifti ...more
Dec 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: southern lit fans.
Shelves: favorites, the-south
The best known of Gilchrist's work and the winner of the American Book Award, Victory Over Japan is a collection of stories populated by such over-the-top, laugh-out-loud stereotypes of Southerners that it runs the risk of being cartoonish - but Gilchrist pulls it off masterfully. She subtly and slyly pokes fun at what she knows best, but at the same time you see her admiration and love for the culture she was raised in. It is in this collection that we first meet Rhoda Manning, Gilchrist's alte ...more
Her voice was rising. “Traceleen, are you listening? Can you hear me? This is everything I know about love I’m telling you. Everything I know about everything.”

Funny and sad, cheeky, readable; you can’t keep a Southern woman down. These are just the kind of short stories I like: whip-smart and surprising. My interest often waxes and wanes with short story collections, but that was not the case here. I read eagerly. I particularly liked Ellen Gilchrist’s technique of series of short stories about
Nancy Groves
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Full of wit and dark, Southern Gothic humor, these stories mostly feature girls and women having trouble with men, mothers, and money, not to mention too much booze and drugs. But somehow you get the impression they might just come out on top, in some form or fashion. Although set in the South, black characters are mostly relegated to the background. In the one set of linked stories narrated by a black woman, she's a maid, describing the craziness of her employer, yet remaining in her job becaus ...more
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd never read any of Ellen Gilchrists books before this. It's a collection of short stories divided into four sections, each featuring a different female character. All four characters are from the southern states which might suggest a comparison with Flannery O'Connor, but in fact the stories reminded me of Raymond Carver almost as much, particularly the unique, slightly odd, main characters, who range in age from (pre) teen to middle age, and are not like anyone I've ever met. Well worth read ...more
Lyndy  Berryhill
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This collection of short stories was very enjoyable to read. I love that Gilchrist draws upon her studies and interactions with Eudora Welty to create an inner world of characters, who are all related. She writes effortlessly, at times, hilariously. Her characters are outrageous, unsatisfied and competitive, but wholly lovable. This had led me to read several other collections of her short stories and I have not been disappointed.
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was written by a woman who lives in the same town as me. A book of short stories featuring female main characters. I enjoyed this, honestly, although I didn’t expect to with the somewhat sexual themes. Each story focuses on some dramatic event. It’s funny how we normalize things, but when you look at the stories here I can see each and every one being real. But they are so crazy!
Amy Dickinson
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pay attention!

I enjoyed this book and am embarrassed to admit it took a while to figure out that the stories were related-Pay attention but if you've read reviews you will know the stories are related and the mysteries will unlock themselves -a fun read
RD Chiriboga Moncayo
Humor, pathos, vibrant characters and lively, colorful language are features of these stories set, mostly, in the American South.
Jerry Cagle
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Another tour de force by Ellen Gilchrist. Powerful stories about powerful southern women that take life as they want.
Dec 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this years ago and read every Ellen Gilchrist book I see ever since. Excellent writing.
Jerry Pogan
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it
A good collection of short stories, most of them have the same recurring characters. The stories are a little kinky and off-beat and deal mostly with womens sexuality.
These stories are addictive. I want more! Guess I'll have to read In the Land of Dreamy Dreams.
Susan Oleksiw
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
In fourteen linked stories, Ellen Gilchrist inhabits women of the South growing up in a world that offers little opportunity and less freedom for them outside their prescribed roles, yet they are strong women determined to break out, if they could only figure out how. The stories are grouped around recurring characters.

In the first three stories a young girl named Rhoda struggles against the confines of her family's efforts, at first finding success but in the end succumbing to her own need to m
Kai Coates
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-bingo
My first Gilchrist read, despite Collected Stories languishing on my shelf for the better part of a decade. Her writing is a revelation - funny, insightful, a rollicking good time. Plus, there is the added bonus (for me) that a lot of the book takes place in areas of Louisiana where I grew up. The beauty of reading about a familiar place as seen by Gilchrist's brassy characters.

The stories are centered around a handful of reoccurring characters so large chunks of the book feel more like novella
Nick Schroeder
Sep 25, 2010 rated it liked it
OK. Not quite as good as I had expected. The Rhoda stories and the Crystal stories were the best. Nora Jane got to be a bit tedious. The Nora Jane stories would have been fine encountered individually in a magazine but strung together in a book became a bit much. I have to say that I do remember reading "The Famous Poll at Jody's Bar" which introduces us to Nora Jane. After finishing the Crystal stories told by Traceleen, well-told by the way, I felt a need for a few fingers of Black Bush while ...more
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who think they don't like short fiction
When I picked this up, I knew I had read it before, but I thought I had only finished it half-way. It is a collection of short stories divided into four sections; I started in the middle with Nora Jane. As I read I discovered that I had in fact completed it the first time and went back to read the first half. I don't know why I forgot this book, but I'm glad I did, because on this reading I found new levels of meaning and interest. I liked the unity of this collection. Although some stories and ...more
Peter Sprengelmeyer
Feb 11, 2016 rated it liked it
What I liked: I liked the approach of linking multiple short stories to develop variations on a theme. The multiple narrators and different time periods gave the ideas more depth and development, while not sacrificing the 'snapshot' of the short story. I think that in the mid-80's, the wild-woman gone bad narrative was likely more unique, but it is still interesting. Above all, the stories are well-done and well-crafted.

What I liked less: the non-narrator characters (and especially the non-white
Susan Fetterer
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories (1984) was the final read in a collection of National Book Award-winning short stories studied by the Moveable Feast Book Club throughout 2013. I have held off the writing of the review because I'm just not certain what I want to say. My initial reaction after reading the first series of stories was, "---I'm liking these more contemporary stories." As I progressed through the book I became less enchanted, and am not sure why. One or two offerings struck me a ...more
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Carol by: Marcia
This collection of short stories mostly take place in New Orleans (~ 1980's) and involve privledged spoiled women making bad decisions. I did like some of the scenarios, but overall I got tired of the beautiful demented self centered blonde/red head. My favorite character was Nora Jane, a charasmatic 19 year old bank robber (she is so unlike other characters in the book).

This book won a National Book Award in 1984? That's a shocker. Many of the stories seem to lack plot or resolution. This made
May 08, 2009 rated it did not like it
I enjoyed young Rhoda, discovering mischievousness but older Rhoda became obnoxious. I like that Rhoda is an honest, vulnerable, flawed character but I don't like when I don't believe her or feel that she's being shallow because her motives are not clear. I like that her name is Rhoda and that she has red hair, smokes, diets- but eats cookies, likes sex, likes booze and in general doesn't apologize for these things. I don't like how dated the stories are in terms of race relations and other poli ...more
Rhonda Browning White
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted to love this book. As it turns out, it was okay, but left me far from breathless. My favorite characters were Rhoda and Crystal, and of course narrator of the Crystal stories, Traceleen. These women characters come across as spoiled little rich girls more than any of the so-called southern belles I've ever come across in my lifetime of southern living. I put the collection aside for ten days or so before writing this review, and I had to browse the stories again to determ ...more
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: covergirls
Compilation of short stories, some a series which first appeared in magazines rather than book. Author has similar female character as lead in all stories- typically brash, sometimes crass, outrageously careless about societal duty and willing to sleep with anyone, at almost any place/time for pure pleasure or to attain financial gain. Female characters are larger than life, frequently affected by poor male father figure or weak parenting by mother and father. Speaks clearly to anyone who was on ...more
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was ok
Ellen Gilchrist was on one of my lists of authors who had won a prestigious award. She won for this very book - so I checked it out without reading the cover to understand what I was getting. I imagined that it would be about the postwar period after our defeat of Japan, but discovered that it was a book of short stories about events in women's lives. The first story, with the same title as the book, had only a brief reference to people listening to the announcement on the radio that the war had ...more
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Ellen Gilchrist (born February 20, 1935) is an American novelist, short story writer, and poet. She won a National Book Award for her 1984 collection of short stories, Victory Over Japan.

Source: Wikipedia.
“She was always saying things like that but I let her be my best friend anyway.” 6 likes
“It was spring when it happened and the schoolroom windows were open all day long, and every afternoon after Billy left we had milk from little waxy cartons and Mrs. Jansma would read us chapters from a wonderful book about some children in England that had a bed that took them places at night.” 3 likes
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