Under Magnolia: Book summary and reviews of Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes

Under Magnolia

A Southern Memoir

by Frances Mayes

Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes X
Under Magnolia by Frances Mayes
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2014
    336 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

The author of three beloved books about her life in Italy, including Under the Tuscan Sun and Every Day in Tuscany, Frances Mayes revisits the turning points that defined her early years in Fitzgerald, Georgia. With her signature style and grace, Mayes explores the power of landscape, the idea of home, and the lasting force of a chaotic and loving family.

From her years as a spirited, secretive child, through her university studies - a period of exquisite freedom that imbued her with a profound appreciation of friendship and a love of travel - to her escape to a new life in California, Mayes exuberantly recreates the intense relationships of her past, recounting the bitter and sweet stories of her complicated family: her beautiful yet fragile mother, Frankye; her unpredictable father, Garbert; Daddy Jack, whose life Garbert saved; grandmother Mother Mayes; and the family maid, Frances's confidant Willie Bell.

Under Magnolia is a searingly honest, humorous, and moving ode to family and place, and a thoughtful meditation on the ways they define us, or cause us to define ourselves. With acute sensory language, Mayes relishes the sweetness of the South, the smells and tastes at her family table, the fragrance of her hometown trees, and writes an unforgettable story of a girl whose perspicacity and dawning self-knowledge lead her out of the South and into the rest of the world, and then to a profound return home.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. One of those books you want to devour but realize it's more satisfying to savor for as long as possible." – Kirkus

"A best-selling sensation worldwide, Mayes will galvanize readers with this vigorously promoted coming-of-age tale set on her home terrain." - Booklist

"[A] gutsy, honest portrait of the artist as a young girl." – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"In her new southern memoir, Under Magnolia, Frances Mayes describes the birth of her extraordinary sensibility, the deep-pooled clarity of her writing, her giddy love of nature, and her sharp and satirical eye for those who brought her up to honorable womanhood in the tortured South of her girlhood. Her prose style is seamless to me and she writes in a royal style." –Pat Conroy, New York Times bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and The Death of Santini

"Under Magnolia is a love song, a rich and beautiful book." – Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle and Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

"No one could have invented a more combustible, joy-starved pair of glam and oblivious parents or a more incandescent child to dive into the blue ruins, explore the sealed-off passages, blacked-out dreams and neglected outlets by the beams of her own incredulous eyes; then break the surface a smart-mouthed, truth-seeing sensualist, fully in attendance to the vibratory moment." – C.D. Wright, author of One with Others

"This is a book to be savored, a feast for both mind and soul." – Carlos Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana

"Mayes has written a brash and delightful, cringe-worthy and uproariously funny memoir. As I read, I wished Mayes had been my teenage neighbor. Wit–as well as misery–loves company." –Margaret Sartor, author of Miss American Pie

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Reader Reviews

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Diane S.

Under Magnolia
A charming and thoughtful meditation of her youth growing up in Fitzgerald, Ga. Although she early escaped to California and fell in love with Tuscany, buying a house there, it only takes a trip to do a reading at Square Books in Oxford, MS., to bring back much of what it means to be Southern. She quotes Faulkner quite extensively, even visiting his house, though it was not open at the time and she had to be satisfied with peaking through the window and imagining his life within.

Often humorous in her antidotes about her complicated family history, though many are less than joyful, many difficult to relate, her attempt to comes to terms with the past, is evident. The smells of magnolia, wisteria, the pecan trees among others, NeHi orange and wrap around porches, the generosity and friendliness of the people all seem to be calling her back. Infusing her memory with visible evidence. She and her husband actually do move back, but this time to North Carolina.

A charming and insightful read. Now I need to read book:Absalom, Absalom!|373755, which she refers to in her book.

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Author Information

Frances Mayes Author Biography

Photo: francesmayesbooks.com

Frances Mayes is an American university professor, poet, memoirist, essayist, and novelist.

Born and raised in Fitzgerald, Georgia, Mayes attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, and obtained her BA from the University of Florida. In 1975 she earned her MA from San Francisco State University, where she eventually became Professor of Creative Writing, director of The Poetry Center, and chair of the Department of Creative Writing.

Her works include Climbing Aconcagua (1977), Sunday in Another Country (1977), After Such Pleasures (1979), and Ex Voto (1995). In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany, she has authored the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home; Swan, a novel and The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers....

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