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During the Reign of the Queen of Persia

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  94 reviews
A story of 20th-century womanhood, of Gram, the Queen of Persia herself, who rules a house where five daughters and four granddaughters spin out the tragedies and triumphs of rural life in the 1950's.
Paperback, 275 pages
Published May 12th 1984 by Ballantine Books (first published 1983)
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Average rating 3.70  · 
Rating details
 ·  478 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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(4.5) This modern classic, unfairly forgotten, deserves to be considered on par with A Thousand Acres (Jane Smiley) and Stoner (John Williams). It won a PEN/Hemingway first novel prize in 1984. Luckily, last year’s NYRB Classics reprint might just bring it the attention it deserves.

Told in the relatively rare first-person plural (“we” – a perspective I love) and set on an Ohio farm, the novel captures what four girl cousins on the cusp of adolescence learn and remember about their troubled family. The Krauss clan i
Diane Barnes
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is written in first person plural, from the point of view of 4 cousins, 2 sets of sisters who are very close in age. They are telling the story of their family, as they see it, and from family stories handed down from Gram and her five daughters. At any given time any one of the daughters may be living in Gram's huge house with 9 bedrooms, set on lots of land also owned by Gram. If this sounds like a nice family saga, think again.

Gram is a crusty old woman who cusses like a
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A few chapters into the book and I'm wondering who is telling the story. Well the answer is "We" , an interesting all encompassing voice that tells the story of highly spirited , bingo playing, horse race betting , Gram ( the Queen of Persia herself) and her 5 grown daughters and 4 granddaughters in the rural 1950's. It's a quiet tale of ordinary life events, where menfolk are mostly tolerated and Gram rules the roost. Now Gram herself , as far as I can tell , has never been any closer to Persia ...more
Feb 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This had an unusual voice, or point of view, told in the first-person plural. We. The obligatory Introduction calls it an "idiosyncratic form."

The We are two sets of sisters, cousins to each other. So, think of the We as four girls, at least for storytelling purposes. No one of the girls ever becomes an "I". Their mothers are never "Mom" but, rather, Aunt Grace and Aunt Libby.

Through various circumstances, the girls live on Gram's farm. Their mothers live there too, and a couple of other aunts come t
Beth Bonini
”’There’s nothing to be done about it,” Aunt Libby said now. She meant us, our family. Being female. She referred to it as if it was both a miracle and a calamity, that vein of fertility, that mother lode of passion buried within us, for joy and ruin. ‘None of us can no more than look at a man and we’ve having his baby.’”

As the (otherwise misleading) title suggests, this is a book about matriarchy and the matrilineal: a house full of women. ‘The Queen of Persia’ (her husband’s name for her) is
J.M. Hushour
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I live for those literary "whafuck?!" moments when you read something that you'd found blindly, that, if described to you, would have immediately excoriated and expelled from your reading horizons for sounding too much like an Oprah "Book"-of-the-Moment selection.
"During the Reign" is about a collective narrator (using the rare "We") of four teenage girls observing their mothers and their grandmother in Ohio during the 1950s. Sounds not so good, right?
Wrong. It's darkly astounding, w
James Murphy
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A reread. I'd read this 36 years ago but hadn't much liked it. In fact, I hadn't liked it enough to keep the edition I'd read at the time. I enjoyed this reading a lot.

It's a novel reflecting the points of view of its women characters. Three generations of the Krauss family gather during the summers of the 1950s on their farm outside Sherwood, Ohio. The matriarch is the curmudgeonly Gram. Her husband is a kind of stormy outcast who resentfully accepts Gram's right of place at the family's head
This is a book I wanted to love. On the surface, it has all the things I like: family saga, strong women, enormous houses that are characters in their own right (write?), and midwestern summers. Despite all that and all the wonderful things I'd heard about this book on NPR and elsewhere, this novel fell a bit flat for me. It wasn't bad it just wasn't as rich or lush as I'd imagined.

There were some wonderful passages. Chase allows you to really feel the confusion of growing up in this kind of bi
Apr 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
Reading this novel, I was captivated by both the casual violence of girlhood/adulthood experienced by the narrators and their mothers and grandmother, and by the quality of the prose that so successfully invoked memory and induced a trance-like reading state. The text speaks to how trauma can be normalized and to how violence and disappointment (along with joy) are continual companions of these women's lives. The characterization of these women was nuanced and refreshing: they are spiteful, crue ...more
Jul 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I got the sense reading the reviews of this newly-published novel from 1983 that this would be a bucolic coming-of-age story for 4 girls. Instead I think the description from a review at the time, "Norman Rockwell gone bad" is a more precise description. The men don't fare well here, and they don't have much part in the drama. On the other hand, the women (5 sisters and their mother) can change from loving to viperish as quickly as the daughters go from playing together to pulling each other's h ...more
TaraShea Nesbit
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's easy to see why this book will be rereleased by NYRB in April. It's a 1st person plural pov story set in Ohio from the perspective of a group of girl cousins as they navigate the alluring and strange parts of adolescence, observing their grandmother, aunt, uncle, and older cousin Celia: "There has been a lover once. We imagined him for ourselves. The purple clouds were plowing in on the wind from a darker distance..." (31). Gorgeous, subtle, and so very much a conjuring of my home state.
Jun 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea this book even existed. Reading it was like reading, I don't know, a mash-up of And Ladies Of The Club and My Antonia written in the 1st person plural by a group of kids. Unexpected and touching.
Feb 05, 2019 added it
This is one of the books I am always reading. I finish it and it circulates on the nightstand, in to my purse, lies beneath the couch and no sooner has it attracted some dust bunnies then I’m wiping it off and starting all over. Nate gave me his copy long ago, that hot little pint sized moody son of a gun.

Multigenerational female bonds that I never had. A beautiful midwestern backdrop I’ve never visited. A matriarch named after the homeland of Love. Reflections of masculine anger we have all se
Jun 24, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommendation from @booksnourish_caroleann - June 2018
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The big question here is what took me so long? What a gorgeous book about the extraordinariness of ordinary people. Lyrical, romantic, earthy, unforgettable.
Pam Porell
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the writing but the family dynamic made me very sad.
A pretty slow-moving character study. I enjoyed it at first for the descriptive writing, but then it just got slow.
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was, yes, fabulous, as I was told it would be—thanks to all my good reading friends for that recommendation. I love a book where the writing is so strong it bleeds over into the day-to-day personal narrative in your head and makes it that much more vibrant and beautiful, and this book did just that. Really, really lovely. Beautiful images of the natural world and great, spiky, complex characterizations of the people.
Lolly K Dandeneau
Feb 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Women in ruins... this is raw, not a story to dive into if you're looking for silly romantic happy endings and glitter explosions. Is the weight of sadness crushing, yes it is, but I have to admit sometimes it is refreshing to read a story that relates more to actual realistic happenings in human relations than some fantasy. This story is about three generations of women growing up on an Ohio farm, sisters and cousins to each other, daughters to Gram (farmer's wife and grandmother) who is bitter ...more
Feb 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a really lovely book. I really enjoy narratives that are told in first person plural, and hardly ever get to read them as they are so uncommon, though I imagine that might be because such a perspective is a hard one to pull off successfully. Beside a handful of short stories I can only think of two I've ever read, the first being Joshua Ferris' Then We Came to the End and the second being Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides, which is the one I think most people are familiar with.

It's hard not
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is one of those rare books that you open and within a few pages, you truly believe that it was written just for you...and you alone. It reminded me of some of my favorite literary treasures, i.e., "Our Town", "Sea of Grass", "O Pioneers!" and nearly everything by Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis and Thomas Wolf. By the title, one would think it's a historical fiction set in Asia Minor. Nothing could be further from the truth. It's setting is a small farm in Ohio. The time is unspecified, but to me ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Originally published in 1983, it won the PEN/Hemingway First Novel prize.
I trudged through almost half of it before it started to grow on me and then I couldn't put it down.
It's the story of a family of 5 sisters and their Mother, narrated in first person plural by 4 granddaughters, taking place sometime between the 1950's and 1970's (it's hard to tell) on an Ohio farm. The title comes from a nickname given to the Grandmother by one of her sons in-law.
The sprawling farm house w
I was swept up in this multi-generational story that took place in 1960's rural Ohio. Told from the collective viewpoint of four young girl cousins, all of whom primarily live with their Moms and Gram, Gram being the matriarch and "the Queen of Persia" of the title. The collective narrator voice threw me a little at first, but Chase really "gets" the mentality and emotions of children. Their view of the situation and the adults illuminate the extended family dynamics, the legacy of the adults wa ...more
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Taking place on a farm in rural Ohio in the early 60's, this spectacular novel offers, at its core, four girl cousins in early to middle adolescence, and their 5 aunts. The girls spend their summers with a fierce, strong-willed grandmother and a grandfather who appears to like cows far more than any women in the household. And the grandmother hates the grandfather so much, she didn't bother to tell him, years ago of course, that she was pregnant. Chase's prose is rich, absorbing and the novel is ...more
May 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-of-2014
I hate it when I read all the way through a good book just to have an ending that leaves me hanging. Real life has plenty of loose ends, I want the books I read to end on a satisfying note. whether a happy or sad ending, just end it well. if this book had ended better If have given it another star.
May 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I have to say this is the worst book I have ever read. It was a struggle to get through it. Take my advice and don't read it.
Sue Davis
Didn't appreciate it in the mid 1980s. Decided to read it again.
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
For Maine humanities, let’s talk about it but discussion group. The book wasn’t what I had anticipated, but Margaret Atwood‘s comment that it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting gone bad really fits the book. Grandma, Lil, lives on her Ohio farm outside town, with various of her five daughters and four granddaughters and miscellaneous husbands: grumpy grouchy granpa, Libby’s husband Uncle Dan, Grace’s husband Neil, Rachel’s second husband Tom Buck, May’s unruly fatherless son Rollie. Only failed a ...more
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very authentic story about a family in rural Ohio. The story is told in an unusual way where it is sometimes difficult to know who the narrator is. This sometimes bothered me and I spent part of my reading trying to figure out who was telling the story. The blurb on the book says it was told from all four cousins' perspective but I don't think it was. I didn't I read this book in one sitting. It made me long for the days when I ran around our farm playing with my nieces in the fields and down th ...more
Tait Jensen
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An exhibition of the American Heartland: eerie, colorful, and yet deeply familiar. Chase's writing is stunningly lyrical, and one can't help but bathe in her definitive prose. Her ability to capture homespun dialogue and mannerisms, and the characters which exhibit them, is profound. This is a lovely story of female solidarity, and I would daresay a jewel within the crown of 20th century American literature.
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NYRB Classics: During the Reign of the Queen of Persia, by Joan Chase 5 28 Apr 22, 2014 10:34AM  

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