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A Summons to Memphis

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  5,181 Ratings  ·  295 Reviews
One of the most celebrated novels of its time, the Pulitzer Prize winner A Summons to Memphis introduces the Carver family, natives of Nashville, residents, with the exception of Phillip, of Memphis, Tennessee.

During the twilight of a Sunday afternoon in March, New York book editor Phillip Carver receives an urgent phone call from each of his older, unmarried sisters. They
Paperback, 209 pages
Published June 29th 1999 by Vintage (first published June 29th 1986)
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Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Pulitzer winning A Summon to Memphis by Peter Taylor as part of my classic bingo card. I found the concept of this novel, a middle aged son returning home to prevent his widower father from remarrying, to be thought provoking. Taylor details the differences of life between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, creating a premise in which a family's move from one city to the other causes a family to crumble.

Phillip Carver is thirteen years old when his father meets financial ruin and moves hi
Bill  Kerwin
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it

A brief, leisurely novel written by a master of the short story, A Summons to Memphis is an excellent example of what Henry James referred to as "the beautiful and blessed nouvelle." The narrator Phillip, a New York City book editor, is the son of imposing Memphis lawyer George Carver. Phillip returns home when the family is disrupted by his octogenarian father's desire to remarry, and his older sisters' determination to thwart him. Phillip, meanwhile, is still obsessed with the belief that his
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Peter Taylor's Pulitzer Prize winning A Summons to Memphis is an extraordinary piece of literary fiction.

The narrator is Phillip Carver, a 49 year old man living in New York City working as an editor and rare books dealer in the mid 1960s. The drama begins when Phillip receives separate telephone calls from his sisters Betsy and Josephine complaining that their 81 year old father has the unthinkable and disgraceful notion to remarry. The crux of the story, however, is the family's history.

The Ca
Glenn Sumi
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pulitzer-winners
Memphis Beau

Do we ever get over the pain and betrayals – or what we remember as the pain and betrayals – from childhood? That’s one of the themes in this quiet, nuanced and beguiling novel by Peter Taylor, who’s best known for his short stories about genteel, upper class Southerners.

Middle-aged editor and book collector Phillip Carver has fled the languid, gossipy world of Tennessee and has lived in bustling Manhattan for decades. When he gets consecutive phone calls from his two older sisters
Diane Barnes
Aug 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is really a very strong 4.5 rating.

I read this book many years ago, but remember nothing of the story at all. I only remember that I loved it, but obviously not why. It may be that it was a completely different book to the much younger Diane. In any case, here's what I think of it now.

The title is brilliant, because of the many different connotations of the word summons. Phillip is summoned to Memphis from NY by his sisters when their 81 year old widowed father wants to re-marry. The family
Nov 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lawyer by: The Modern Library: The Best 200 Novels Written in English Since 1950
Better known for his short stories, Peter Taylor pulled out all the stops with "A Summons to Memphis," winning the National Book Critics Award in 1986 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987. Taylor, born in 1917, to a wealthy Nashville family, obviously wrote what he knew.

George Carver is a well known Nashville Lawyer. However, his origins are of a more humble nature. Carver's roots were in Thorne County, outside Memphis, a member of the planter class, whose wealth was based on slavery, cott
Robert Beveridge
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Hardcore Peter Taylor fans
1986 must have been a singularly awful year for literature, because the book that won the Pulitzer that year would have struggled during the years when Taylor (most of whose work was released during the forties) was in his salad days.

This is not to say A Summons to Memphis, Taylor's first novel in forty years, is a bad book. It's a decent book, a nice book. And that's exactly why it doesn't deserve one of the highest honors that can be conferred on a novel. It's nice. What's so great about nice?
Emilio Berra
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: letto
Siamo negli anni '70. Il protagonista è un agiato signore di mezz'età in crisi con la propria compagna, quando viene coinvolto dalle due sorelle che vivono lontano, appunto a Memphis, per una questione molto particolare.
Queste due bizzarre donne ultracinquantenni, nubili, dalla doppia o tripla vita, aggiornano il fratello sull'ottuogenario padre rimasto recentemente vedovo : "qualsiasi idea sbagliata avesse di sé e del mondo, il vecchio gentiluomo sapeva senza dubbio quali vestiti gli stavano be
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As the narrator, Phillip Carver, tells his family’s story, the author Peter Taylor shows the waning way of life of genteel society in Nashville and Memphis. This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987.

The narrator’s father was born perhaps a generation, maybe two, after slavery on one of the family estates outside of Memphis. The pages on this birth, alone, qualify for the Pulitzer. After Vanderbilt (not Princeton) football and law degree, a partnership takes him to Nashville. He marries appropriat
Kirk Smith
Aug 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I've just finished 'The Help' and a re-read of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' so my Read-ometer is in serious need of recalibration. I know there is a good short story at the core of this but the narrator's emotional remoteness failed to pull me in. So I'm just going to say it was missing that Southern "warmth" I always look for. I did on the other hand thoroughly enjoy all of the historical information and cultural descriptions of Nashville and Memphis. That was a treat. For anyone that can easily sl ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: group-challenge
This was a blind book date for me. After reading James Lee Burke’s Pulitzer nominated novel from 1987 I was curious about the one that won the prize.

When interviewed about his book Peter Taylor said that the main question A Summons to Memphis raised for him was, “how successful are we ever in understanding what has happened to us? That’s what I want to suggest in the novel” and for me his suggestion came through loud and clear.
A by-product of family dysfunction myself and collaterally dama
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I guess you can count me in the camp of people who wonder why this book was selected to win the Pulitzer Prize. Admittedly, it presents a slice of unfamiliar life in America, specifically Tennessee, circa the early-1930s. This is a fictional reflection by a man who left a domineering father to move to New York City. He is summoned back to Memphis, his family’s adopted city, several times during the book, particularly when his father is planning to remarry at the age of 81. His two spinster siste ...more
Kelly ...
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, pulitzer
This is a beautifully written book about family and both the love and pain they inflict upon us. It is about perspective and how each of us sees the same thing differently, which is why each adult sibling in a family can remember the same facts and events very differently from one another. It is about the pain of the loss of a parent, and the shock of seeing your long-married parent with someone new. It is about aging... it is about death... it is about life. These characters are true to real li ...more
If I could find one word to describe this novel it would be removed. In fact this word is used in abundance by the author and ad nauseam throughout the entire novel in all forms - remove, removed, removal and removing.

The first removal of the Carter family was when their societal status and their beloved home in Nashville is taken away from them by their father. Mr. Carter is conned and disgraced by his dear friend Mr. Shackleford and the family must move from Nashville to the other, and consid
Book Concierge

Philip Carver has escaped his controlling father and now lives in New York with his much younger Jewish girlfriend. But when he gets a surprise phone call from his older sister, followed only minutes later by a call from his second sister, and then from an old family friend, he knows he has been summoned to Memphis to help deal with the “disaster.” A mere two years after his mother’s death, his 80-something father has plans to remarry and his adult children have no intention of letting him
Feb 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Southern Literature
Recommended to Pam by: College English Teacher
A college teacher recommended this book to me over 20 years ago but I just got around to reading it and I'm glad I did. To begin with I thoroughly enjoyed his sentence construction and very good grammer. In that respect it was a pleasure to read.
I will have to admit that for awhile the story seemed a little tedious to me because it took him so long to tell us something and then he would repeat it more than once but in a little different context. At first I thought that this book was just a shor
Nov 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was incredibly tedious. It was like Holden Caulfield and Charles Dickens had a horrible ugly child. Not only is the style repetitive to the point of frustration, but the narrator is a total pile of crap. He is selfish and completely unaware of anyone else in his life having feelings or desires. He assumes that all the men who accompany his sisters are paid escorts, because who could possibly find middle-aged women attractive. He believes that his sweetheart allowed herself to be sent t ...more
Sunshine Moore
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was ok
I am bewildered. I feel empty inside as if I just spent an hour watching tele novellas. Was there actually a story in that heap of recollections? They moved, and it messed up their relationships and the kids are bitter about it. Ok. They never grow out of it. The father makes up with the guy who was the reason for the move. He dies. This story is like driving through Kansas. Sorry, Kansas.

Midpoint review:
I find this book boring but not slow. He just keeps dancing around the same set of events ov
Mar 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful surprise. I found this in a used book store in Fairhope, Alabama, and was curious. What a terrific writer Mr. Taylor is, and how I enjoyed reading about the schism between Nashville & Memphis, which I had thought I sensed when I lived in Nashville for nearly a decade in the 90's. I confess that I often wonder if people from places other than the deep South think that all Southern writers are liars and embellishers. Not so, at least in Peter Taylor's case, I think. Once agai ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
The title of of this book is what attracted me to it. A Summons to Memphis left a lot of questions in my mind. I kept guessing and structuring the plot in my head. After spending a lot of time writing my own book in my head I sat down to read Peter Taylor's book. All the excitement left me. My personal preferences overwhelmed me and prevented me from enjoying the book I thought I would enjoy.

So when I learnt that the summons to Memphis was because the protagonist's dad, a widower, was engaging
Tim Frederick
This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. The story is about how we sometimes struggle with hurt feelings from family members and try to stay together. Some situations are easier to deal with than others, but in the end we must find our peace. I give this book three stars.
May 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This book won a Pulitzer and the Ritz-Paris Hemingway award. And it proves that I could never be a judge for those.
Apr 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzers
This book has been recommended to me for years and I am glad I finally read it. I wish I had the option to give it 2.5 stars -- it was really just between "ok" and "liked it" for me.

What I really appreciated about this little novel was the author's incredibly accurate social descriptions of Nashville from the perspectives of both an insider and an outsider. The protagonist lived in Nashville until he was 13, then moved to Memphis, and lives in Manhattan as an adult. Similarly, I moved to Nashvi
David B
Dec 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
A difficult Southern father moves his family from Nashville to Memphis after losing his fortune, and his children spend the rest of their lives dealing with the emotional turmoil of life under his thumb. Many years later, his two unmarried daughters get their opportunity for revenge.

I really did not like this slim novel and am shocked that it won the Pulitzer Prize. I have no problem believing that wealthy Southerners in the years following the Great Depression would be consumed with issues of c
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzer
This is a beautifully crafted book. Phillip Carver is summonned back to Memphis by his sisters after their father becomes romantically involved with a new partner following the death of their mother. From this premise unfolds a complex tale of Memphis culture and family politics. The family had moved in the children's teen years from Nashville, in the Upper South, to Memphis, in the Deep South in the years just before WWII. The move leaves scars on each of the family members, except perhaps fath ...more
Mar 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love Peter Taylor's short stories, the small details and human insights, the self-deluded narrators and characters. I liked this slow moving, repetitive novel that recounts a family's broken relationships through the vantage of the youngest son, now almost fifty. In the narrator's youth, the father moved the family to Memphis after a business partner's corruption became known in Nashville. The move disrupts the family and the father proceeds to destroy the potential marriages of his two daught ...more
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Both my sisters always had a good deal to say about the appropriateness and inappropriateness of other people’s dress. This may seem strange in the light of how it was they usually dressed themselves. But somehow one felt that their own attire could not and was not intended to be taken straight. Rather, their own attire seemed offered as a criticism of how those about them dressed. Or so I understood it. It seemed a kind of cruel joke between themselves and the beholder if the beholder understo ...more
Sally Ewan
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The narrator of this novel is a late middle-aged man living in New York City. He tells the story of his family's past, marked by a move from Nashville to Memphis precipitated by his father's being ruined in business by a betrayal. The move took place when the narrator was 15 and his older sisters had just 'come out'. Though the father works diligently to rebuild his career, the relocation changes the family members in ways that bear tragic consequences through the years.

So what, you say? People
Apr 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book!
Amanda Moore
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sure, there's a lot here about families and fathers, but I particularly enjoyed the cultural commentary about the differences between Nashville and Memphis. I was struck by how little race factored into this assessment, as I have learned from my past decade of living in the Nashville area that "Memphis" is often used here as a dog whistle to mean "black." This story, however, was about upper class white people during the early and mid 20th century -- and perhaps tellingly, the narrator saw no ne ...more
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On the Southern L...: A Summons to Memphis - September 2015 57 65 Oct 13, 2015 11:15AM  
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Peter Matthew Hillsman Taylor was a U.S. author and writer. Considered to be one of the finest American short story writers, Taylor's fictional milieu is the urban South. His characters, usually middle or upper class people, often are living in a time of change and struggle to discover and define their roles in society.
Peter Taylor also wrote three novels, including A Summons to Memphis in 1986, f
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“Forgetting the injustices and seeming injustices which one suffered from one’s parents during childhood and youth must be the major part of any maturing process. I kept repeating this to myself, as though it were a lesson I would at some future time be accountable for. A certain oblivion was what we must undergo in order to become adults and live peacefully with ourselves.” 2 likes
“Forgetting the injustices and seeming injustices which one suffered from one's parents during childhood and youth must be the major part of any maturing process.” 0 likes
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