Summary and book reviews of Gloria by Keith Maillard

Gloria

by Keith Maillard

Gloria
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2000, 680 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2001, 656 pages

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Book Summary

Gloria has everything except what she wants. A vivid portrayal of the class structure of America in the 1950s and of the assumptions concerning gender that underlay society. It is about friendship, loyalty, sexuality, and love, and the dynamics of Gloria's family.

On her last trip to New York with her mother, she'd been fitted for a new formal, one that was older and more sophisticated than she'd ever worn before; it was smoke and silver, princess length, quite low cut, and she didn't want to wear it-would have preferred to revert to her jeune fille Cinderella persona-but she didn't have any choice; she couldn't very well get another one made at this late date. Preparing to do her makeup, looking in the mirror at her freshly scrubbed, bare skin, she saw a sad, tired girl who wanted to stay home with a book. Maybe if I put on lots and lots of makeup, she thought, just gobs of it, nobody will be able to see me at all.

Gloria has all the Traina-Norell dresses and Ben Zuckerman suits a girl could ask for. She is a prom queen, a popular sorority girl-class of '57. Her father is vice president of a steel company and her mother is a society matron. Gloria is attractive, popular, and pinned-engaged to be engaged. So why is she so dissatisfied? A story set in John O'Hara territory, Gloria is a vivid portrayal of the class structure of America in that era and of the assumptions concerning gender that underlay society. It is about friendship, loyalty, sexuality, and love, and the dynamics of Gloria's family. But mostly it is about Gloria and her last summer at home before setting out for the larger world that she longs to engage.

Reminiscent of Carnal Knowledge and By Love Possessed, this is the story of a young woman whose courage, intellectual integrity, and creative gifts defy expectations.

Who list her hount, I put him owte of dowbte,
As well as I may spend his tyme in vain:
And, graven with Diamonds, in letters plain
There is written her faier neck rounde abowte:
Noli me tangere, for Cesars I ame;
And wylde for to hold though I seme tame.
--Sir Thomas Wyatt

Chapter One

It was well past the time when anyone should feel the least bit embarrassed by asking for another drink. The worst of the day, in fact, was nearly over -- that tedious span of muggy afternoon when one deeply regrets the second helping of Crab Louis and the second (or was it the third?) Scotch, while the sun -- fat and yellow and simple as a kid's drawing -- blazes away in an impossibly blue sky complete with the corniest of cotton clouds, and one must, somehow, maintain the pretense that one is having a hell of a good time on one's day off.

A faint breeze had sprung up; now it stirred the drapes in the open window of the guest room upstairs; through that window one could ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How have the social pressures of each of their eras formed the characters of each of the three female generations in Gloria's family — Gloria, her mother and grandmother?

  2. Discuss the prominence and acceptance of alcohol in the 1950s and how it affects each of the characters.

  3. Discuss female friendship, love and adoration (or lack of) in Gloria's life.

  4. Discuss Bill Dougherty as Ted Cotter's "shadow." Why does Gloria get involved with Billy Dougherty? What is her dilemma? Comment on Gloria's character, Billy's character and social/class pressures: e.g. politeness, paternalism, honor, independence, etc.

  5. Are any of the characters Jewish, Catholic or African–American? If not, why not? Comment on ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Toronto Star

. . . An amazing feat, a faithful re-creation of history, a delicate portrayal of character and a rousing narrative that never lags.

Booklist

A disconcerting rendering of the glaring absurdities of the '50s country-club set, the book is a surprising blend of literary references and snatches of modern poetry with a narrative style that aptly reflects the times.

Author Blurb Cecelia Holland, author of Great Maria
Like a mating of Proust and 'Cosmopolitan'...from its superwoman heroine with her gorgeous clothes and overstuffed mind, to the wild exuberance of its story -- I loved it!

Author Blurb Anne Tolstoi Wallach, author of Women's Work
'Gloria' plunges us into the 1950s women's world--when girls cinched their waistlines and their brains--so truly that those who were there will be amazed they survived and everyone else will know why the 60s had to happen.

Author Blurb Eden Robinson, author of Traplines
'Gloria' is an intimate, sexy portrait drawn with the luminous precision one has come to expect of Keith Maillard. Brooding, powerful and lush, the deftly created characters in this book inhabit mental landscapes as hot and dark as their Raysburg summer nights. Immensely readable.

Author Blurb Marion Meade, author of The Unruly Life of Woody Allen A Biography
'Gloria' is a tour de force--ambitiously conceived, vividly imagined, stylistically elegant. Even so, it gave me a bad case of the shivers. Having lived through--and survived--the 50s, a young woman similar in age to Gloria Cotter, I was not eager to be thrust back into that particular world gone by crinolines and nylons, drum majorettes and home ec. classes, above all the appalling cookie-cutter destinies, preordained for women. But while it is a decade I would not care to revisit, I found myself riveted from first page to the last.

Reader Reviews

Bessie Hamilton

At first, I started this book not really sure if I would like Gloria or sympathize with her. Maillard loads his novel with detail and Gloria's shifting perspective on her past and present give a true picture of a girl on the edge of choosing her ...   Read More

Gerald Hutchison

Being a male 5 years older than Gloria Cotter, I came to the book lured by the book blurb's reference to "John O'Hara country." No one has replaced O'Hara, of course, and I did not expect Mr. Maillard to do so, but I was looking for a ...   Read More

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