In love with the long-dead Robert E. Lee, the man who tended to her great-grandmother's burned bottom during the Charleston conflagration, Garnet Laney recalls her obsession's life and family in a multilayered novel of southern history.
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A clever and stylish first novel that manages to interweave separate narratives of the Old and New South through the visionary insight of a modern-day South Carolinian in love with Robert E. Lee. Garnet Laney suffers all the traumas one could expect to find in an adolescent girl in 1966--ambivalence toward sex, annoyance toward family, confusion over politics and the advent of adult life--with one remarkable difference: she develops an obsession with Robert E. Lee that eventually elevates into a full-scale love affair. The original impetus is a school project that leads her to discover an obscure family connection with Lee--and that jolts her imagination and transports her to the 19th century, where she learns that she has (somehow) led a prior life in close proximity with the General. The story thereafter proceeds along two parallel lines--one portraying Garnet's struggle to unravel the mystery of her self and her history, the other following the solitary and tragic story of Lee's life and career. The sections dealing with Lee, however, quickly overshadow the latter-day sequences--not only because they tell a livelier tale but because they don't relay on the quasi-mystical (and rather confusing) premise of Garnet's historical bilocation. Harper has attempted to broaden the perspective of the traditional coming-of-age story by setting it within a much larger framework of ancestry and recollection, but the epic scale of this approach seems out of proportion to the experience and aspirations of the narrator. This becomes especially troublesome at story's end, which relies on a blatantly magical climax to resolve the metaphorical and intellectual contradictions that have built up along the way. A fresh and likable start by a writer whose imagination has yet to find its proper boundaries. Although few readers will be able to suspend disbelief far enough to make the story work, most will want to try. -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
After a promising opener--"Contrary to popular belief, I did grow up"--this first novel about a South Carolina teen coming of age in the late '60s tumbles downhill. Garnet Laney, a self-styled "beatnik poetess," has loads of what others call personality, a quick comeback for every comment and a bum gimp/gimpy refers to the whole person leg. She's self-conscious, as befits a 16-year-old, but she has attitude to burn, and the boldness to punch out a cracker who has insulted a black. She's a born Southerner, too, who can't even recall "hearing the name Robert E. Lee for the first time." And because hormones, pride and creative imagination are a heady brew at that age, she develops a potent crush on the "Saviour of the South." Soon, chapters detailing Lee's education, military success and tragic end are alternating with Garnet's first-person exploits. But Harper isn't able to make her heroine truly interesting or her predicament involving: too many bookish youngsters have expended amorous tears on dead heroes for the syndrome to be as extraordinary as it's made out to be here. The narrative has too much telling and not enough showing; ? Harper tends to overinflate the dramatic moments, such as a concerned English teacher's after-hours talk and a grandmother's bout with dementia. The internal struggle that might fascinate in a character who is less of a caricature of a tormented teen never develops momentum because Harper's language, no matter how well deployed, remains lifeless.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Soho Press, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1569470022
Book Description Soho Press, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P111569470022
Book Description Soho Press. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 1569470022 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0666509