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Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,745 ratings  ·  188 reviews
Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is Florence King's classic memoir of her upbringing in an eccentric Southern family, told with all the uproarious wit and gusto that has made her one of the most admired writers in the country. Florence may have been a disappointment to her Granny, whose dream of rearing a Perfect Southern Lady would never be quite fulfilled. But after ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 1990 by St. Martins Press-3PL (first published 1985)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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else fine
May 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: womenwhokickass
I'm not sure what marketing genius decided to saddle this book with a pink floral cover. It's unfortunate and misleading.
Once I recommended this book to a soccer-mom type looking for something for her Southern Writers Book Club. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Possibly I was only remembering how hilarious this book is, and how I actually cry with laughing every time I read it (and I'm up to my tenth rereading at this point). Or maybe I remembered the inspirational coming-of-age aspects. I thi
Diane Barnes
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this many years ago and loved it because of the humor. This time around, it was just as funny, but I also appreciated the love and respect Florence had for her family, eccentric misfits all. A bookish British father (Herb) who made his living as a musician. A mother who smoked, drank and cussed with the best of them. Granny, determined to make a lady of Florence since she had failed so miserably with her own daughter, and Jenzy, Granny's black best friend who lived with them. Just imagine ...more
Kate Quinn
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book at thirteen, and my world fell into place. No longer did I have to wonder why my loved ones annoyed me, why I didn't want to hang out with friends past a certain point, why I couldn't wrap my mind around the concept of solitary confinement as a punishment. I read "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" and realized I was a misanthrope. I've gone on to read everything else published by Florence King, but this book holds a special place. At once an autobiography, a comedy of error ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read anything by Florence King (1936-2016), then it's time you started! And this zesty memoir is the place to begin. It's an amazingly fine and funny book about growing up absurd in Washington, D.C. in the Forties and Fifties. The only child of a British band musician and a take-charge mother, young Florence's life was full of contradictions, rife for comic humor. Her way with dialog alone will have you in stitches. Read about her relation with her brother "Gottapot" (a pun on a c ...more
Well I did it. I did it just under the wire, but I did it. I found my first five star read for 2019. This was not at all what I was expecting and I loved it for that. It hit that sweet spot of storytelling that’s both out of left field and so well drawn from the ingredients presented that you go along with every word. King is the best memoirist I’ve read next to Patrick Leigh Fermor and his Time
Of Gifts.
And although they are working with entirely different materials, in entirely different world
Rachel Smalter Hall
I LOVED Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady! I seriously considered giving this one five stars -- this was one of those rare instances when half-star ratings would have come in really handy.

So I differ from Florence King philosophically on several points (e.g. I'm neither a Monarchist nor a Republican), but you don't necessarily have to agree with someone to appreciate her, right?

King is one of the most hilarious and titillating authors I have ever read, and she is unapologetic about her femin
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by King. I laughed so hard at Granny and Jensy's descriptions of obstetrical hell that I nearly wet myself. Having lived a good portion of my early life in the south I am completely familiar with the phenomena of people coming to "stay awhile" and not departing for months/years so that also rang very true for me as well. Thanks for the opportunity to read this kayters...I really enjyed it. ...more
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book is a testament to why we need to have shops. I know it’s so much easier to buy a book with one click on Amazon but you can never replace the joy of perusing a book shop’s crammed shelves and coming across a book that you had not heard of. The cover and the testimonials sell it to you, this is what happened to me, whilst checking out the books in our fav book shop, ‘Gays The Word’ in Russell Square I came across this classic.

Yesterday I spent pretty much the whole day devouring it, almo
To this day, I am liable to call a boring, conventional lady a 'malkin' in my head or to think 'those who study Greek must take pains with dress' when I'm at a library convention. Thanks for keeping it real, Florence! ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't do this book justice in an off-the-cuff review. It is too perfect. Maybe when I have more time. Buy an old (first published 1985, I think) copy if possible, as the cover will be one of several delightfully sleazy-looking designs, and everyone on the train will think you are reading a harlequin romance novel. ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who are not easily offended
Shelves: 2008, humor, memoirs
Florence gives us a picture of growing up in the south (well, in Virginia near D.C.) that's kind of funny and gets more interesting as the book progresses.

But Flarnz (as it's pronounced in the deep south) really gets on a roll when she goes to grad school at U. of Mississippi. The monlogues of southern women, with appropriate pronounciations, are hilarious and so true to life that one laughs out loud...and is irresisitably drawn to share them with others.

On a slightly more serious side, King's
Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson
Feb 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: southern
This is one of the most brilliant and funniest books ever written about being a southern woman. It is purportedly the autobiography of Florence King. I say purportedly because who knows how accurate the details are. It doesn't matter because the truth is in the telling. There are so many great one liners in it that it's impossible to have a favorite although I'd say that "Like charity, schizophrenia begins at home," is a pretty good start. I bought a paperback edition in London when I was dealin ...more
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in college, and even though I'm not a Southern lady, King's story of coming of age and coming into her identity as a lesbian in the South in the 1940's and 50's is so roll-on-the-floor hilarious that I related to every page. This book is a triumphant shout out to being who you really are, despite having a crazy family. ...more
Janis Ian
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I am forever grateful to Beth Flood, who handed me this and "Southern Ladies and Gentlemen" when I first moved to Nashville from LA and told me I'd learn more about my new culture and home from them than I'd learn in a hundred years by myself. These books have saved me from abject humiliation on more than one occasion, and been a light in the darkness on many others. ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm loathe to admit how much I enjoyed this, seeing that Southern humor is something I actively avoid. Somehow, though, King won me over. She manages to paint the lives of herself and those around her in a way that employs a certain element of caricature without becoming schtick or saccharine. ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Parts of this were touching, but I'm not sure whether it was the gulf of time, the literal gulf of the ocean, or the fact Florence admitted to liking Ayn Rand that just would not allow me to connect with a lot of this.

I should have learnt by now, after the Anne Lister debacle, that looking up historical gays in an effort to find some sort of chain of unity is always a mistake and leads only to irritation. The only exception is Sappho, and that's because we're missing 90% of it.
Joanna Doherty Salone
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the funniest, laugh out loud books I have ever read. When I read I like to mark the funny or interesting quotes I find, and by the end of the novel I had bookmarks everywhere, like I was studying it. Ms. King's ability to describe the Southern experience is like no other. Her point of view from being an outsider, raised in a household which was unconventional at the time, and growing up only around adults provides such a unique perspective. Her trying to find her place in a world in which ...more
My favorite misanthrope and southern cultural anthropologist.

Many years ago, my west coast born husband, out of sheer boredom, plucked King's Southern Ladies and Gentlemen from my collection. Two days later, he closed the book, gave me a long look, and said, "This explains everything."

By "everything," he meant my sister's convoluted and hyperventilating conversations, stories I'd told him about growing up in the south, certain cultural references that he felt required translation, and various
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
When Florence King is funny, she's hysterically funny. There are places (the scene where she gets her diaphragm, for instance) where I had to put down the book because I was laughing so hard. She doesn't always reach that level of hilariousness, and sometimes I found myself wondering if she weren't exaggerating the Southern Gothic characters around her for effect (I must confess here that I've never lived farther south than Washington, D.C., so perhaps I'm reading this as a Yankee and would reco ...more
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: woman, fiction
I just re-read this book after first encountering it in my Southern Women Writers course. In one sentence, I'd say this book is about Florence King's experience becoming her own woman in a culture that has a lot of expectations about what a woman should be. If I had another sentence, I'd add that this book is hilarious and bawdy and perfect for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

The first time around, the hilarious descriptions of Southern culture struck me most. This time, I still laughe
Grady Hendrix
Someone needs to build a statue of Florence King.
Synopsis- Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" is Florence King's classic memoir of her upbringing in an eccentric Southern family, told with all the uproarious wit and gusto that has made her one of the most admired writers in the country. Florence may have been a disapointment to her Granny, whose dream of rearing a Perfect Southern Lady would never quite be fulfilled. But after all, as Florence reminds us, "no matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoke on the street.

Review- I ordere
Apr 04, 2019 added it
I loved this book. One of the few that made me literally laugh out loud.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Florence King’s Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady is not for the swear word squeamish. She can be very blunt on the subject of sex and upfront about her personal flexibility with regards to her sexual activity. That said Ms King writes in her voice and in her style and is every bit her own woman. I am glad I read this book and can recommend it to anyone with the gumption to share a book with an independent mind with a sharp pen. That said I get the feeling she does not like many people and I ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I usually avoid autobiographies and memoirs -- something about the ego involved in writing one puts me off. This book is an exception, perhaps it is as much about the women in Ms. King's life as it is about the author. The book is humorous, many of the stories have the tone and timing of often-told oral tales. The last quarter of the book focuses on King's coming out, which is handled with the same tone (but perhaps less) humor than the rest of the book. Her exploration of the "Southern lady" ta ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When Florence King died a few weeks ago, this is the book everyone recommended to read first (I was only familiar with her work in National Review). It did not disappoint. She has a way with words that gently poked (great) fun at her southern upbringing while simultaneously expressing great love for her parents and grandmother. And while I could never commend her sexual ethic, her dispatches from the field of romance were, again, riotously funny while yet still touching. And her descriptions of ...more
Peter Tillman
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. I must have some notes, probably in an (unindexed!) paper journal. Remember those? How did we live without computers?

A good preview:
“No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street”
― Florence King, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady

I wish I could find the one about the lady who came to call, Flo offered wine-in-a-box. Lady turns up nose. Momma said, if the hostess offers gall & wormwood, by God you drink it!
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting insights, and I appreciate the candour at least. It just left me cold in the end, nowhere near as witty as was billed on the front cover. Might have smirked a couple of times but certainly didn't laugh out loud (and in broad terms it is my kind of humour). Maybe I missed something by not being American, or of that era; but good writing should trancend that. ...more
Katie Havard
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Andy Ferguson was right about Florence King: "She put sentences on the page the way a gifted gymnast swings her body over a pommel horse or along the parallel bars: invisible effort in service of sheer delight." Also this book is filthy and funny as hell. ...more
Nancy Loe
Oct 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like to laugh out loud as you read, this book is for you
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Born in Washington, D.C. in 1936 to a bookish British father and a tomboy American mother, Florence King spent her childhood living with her parents, her maternal grandmother, and her grandmother's maid.

King showed talent in French, but unable to pursue it as a major at American University, she switched to a dual major of history and English. She attended the University of Mississippi for graduat

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