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Le ultime ragazze (2002)
di Lee Smith
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3.5 stars rounded down.
I had real reservations opening this book. I had loved my introduction to Lee Smith so much and I heard from several sources that this book was not going to live up to my expectations at all. Agreed, this is no Fair and Tender Ladies, a book that will live in my heart and mind forever, but it is a good, solid read with an engrossing story and characters that seemed real and three-dimensional.
While in college, a group of girls decided to ride a raft, ala Huckleberry Finn, down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. Four of them have come back together many years later to honor the passing of the fifth and take another voyage down the river, albeit in a more comfortable style. The book is both a glimpse into who they were as college girls and who they have become as women. If you have ever belonged to a group of friends and then moved on from them, but have never forgotten, you cannot help liking this book just on its face. I don’t think it hurts that the time period is one I feel connected to as well.
I have heard it said that the friends of our youth are the closest friends we will ever have, and I believe this to be true. Certainly it has been so for me. The boys of my childhood are the men I rely on now. For at no later time are we ever so open, so ready to offer up all that we have and all that we are, to allow others real access into our very souls. The friendships we make in later life are friendships of a different order, it seems to me.
These girls/women are not all the same, but they are all uniquely Southern, and this is something that Lee Smith knows about and portrays well. You might wonder that two very poor girls would end up rooming with girls who are rolling in daddy’s money, but I assure you it can happen. As a freshman, I was assigned a dorm room with a girl who was straight from the ritziest part of Atlanta, her house being a few doors down from the Governor’s Mansion. I was a lower middle-class scholarship student, who worked an on-campus job. She was refined and easy with everything; I was scared and out of my depth, and I we got on famously...one of the sweetest, least snobby people I have ever known in my lifetime. I think that experience may well explain why I sank into these relationships without any reluctance at all.
I found the backstory more interesting than the current one, which seems always to be the case when I read books with varying timelines. The end was a bit anticlimactic, but it would have been very difficult to have written an end to this story that made sense and wouldn’t have been so. All in all, a good effort, and a confirmation that I should continue to read Lee Smith’s books, which is good news since I have two more slated for 2019.
[a:Lee Smith|72932|Lee Smith|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1219780700p2/72932.jpg] writes about a part of the country I know, North Carolina, but she focuses on life in Appalachia, a world unto itself. I have enjoyed some of her novels very much. [b:Fair and Tender Ladies|199635|Fair and Tender Ladies|Lee Smith|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1389575982l/199635._SY75_.jpg|1437835] and [b:Oral History|8908|World War Z An Oral History of the Zombie War|Max Brooks|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1528312647l/8908._SX50_.jpg|817] come to mind. This novel has characteristics of her works that I have enjoyed, but overall it failed miserably for me. I felt the characters lacked depth and never really connected with one another; they were truly like ships passing in the night. While each of the characters was dealing with some aspect of change in their lives, this change was hidden from the other characters. It was like four character studies, independent of one another, layered in together.
[a:Lee Smith|72932|Lee Smith|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1219780700p2/72932.jpg] can be very hit and miss. The quality of her novels and her short stories can vary considerably. I felt [b:The Last Girls|126873|The Last Girls|Lee Smith|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1333577608l/126873._SX50_.jpg|2636756] was one of her poorest efforts.
I kept waiting to connect these ladies together, or at the very least to get to know Baby through their memories. but only Harriet talked about Baby and even she wasn't given a strong enough narrative for me to feel there was some insight into their younger lives. and all the others angsting over their first world problems just kept happening in their individual silos. my last hope was for the letter and the memorial and that too was terribly disappointing with still no connection between the last girls or any real revelation. finally, how awful it was not to know if Courtney changed her mind or if Harriet stayed the weekend in New Orleans. Baby should have at least been honored for impacting their lives with her passing. bummer all around.
Because I am going to hear Lee Smith speak next week, I read her excellent memoir, Dimestore, and thought I'd like to read one of her novels before going to hear her. One of the essays in her memoir has to do with the trip she made as a college girl with 13 Hollins friends on a raft down the Mississippi in 1966, and how this novel came from that group, that time.So I chose The Last Girls to read and enjoyed it very much. Unlike other reviewers, I liked all the characters, and the Southern setting, the times - those of my own youth and aging - the friendships with their ups and downs. Another thing I especially enjoyed was the description of the Mississippi River Boat tour itself. I was torn between giving the book three and a half stars or four, because as novels go, it wasn't that outstanding, notice other reviewers gave it every category star there is! But because of all these factors personal to me, I found it to be a really good read just now, so I'm going with four stars. I'm very glad to have read the book.
1-5 di 17 (prossimo | mostra tutto)
On a beautiful June day in 1965, a dozen girls-classmates at a picturesque Blue Ridge women's college-launched their homemade raft (inspired by Huck Finn's) on a trip down the Mississippi. It's Girls A-Go-Go Down the Mississippi read the headline in the Paducah, Kentucky, paper. Thirty-five years later, four of those "girls" reunite to cruise the river again. This time it's on the luxury steamboat, The Belle of Natchez, and there's no publicity. This time, when they reach New Orleans, they'll give the river the ashes of a fifth rafter-beautiful Margaret ("Baby") Ballou. Revered for her powerful female characters, here Lee Smith tells a brilliantly authoritative story of how college pals who grew up in an era when they were still called "girls" have negotiated life as "women." Harriet Holding is a hesitant teacher who has never married (she can't explain why, even to herself). Courtney Gray struggles to step away from her Southern Living-style life. Catherine Wilson, a sculptor, is suffocating in her happy third marriage. Anna Todd is a world-famous romance novelist escaping her own tragedies through her fiction. And finally there is Baby, the girl they come to bury-along with their memories of her rebellions and betrayals. THE LAST GIRLS is wonderful reading. It's also wonderfully revealing of women's lives-of the idea of romance, of the relevance of past to present, of memory and desire.
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Sistema Decimale Melvil (DDC)813 — Literature English (North America) American fiction
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I'm not saying I was bored but it wasn't very interesting to me either when they were in college in 1965 nor in the present on the ship in 1999. The women seemed older than they really were for some reason to me. The plot went back and forth between 1965 and the present 1999.
The ending was so confusing to me and have no idea to the women she was referring to since they weren't in the plot and I'm not sure if they were offspring of the women since only one had children. ( )