My first book finished in 2016 and my first 5-star rating. A wonderful account of life in the South in the time leading up to and through the horrible Civil War. Not a battle view look - but a look through a flawed family's eyes. Poignant and sad, and a little hard to follow at times, I admire the writing and will soon read more by this uber-talented writer.
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Like America in the mid-nineteenth century, Emma Garnet Tate is a woman at war with herself. Born to privilege on a James River plantation, she grows up increasingly aware that her family's prosperity is inextricably linked to the institution of slavery.
As she tells her story in 1900, she is still prey to her childhood, to the memories of a life that was made bearable in the main by the indomitable family servant Clarice. She secedes from the control of her overbearing father to marry Quincy Lowell, a member of the distinguished Boston family. Living in Raleigh on the eve of the Civil War, Emma Garnet and Quincy, with Clarice's constant help, create the ideal happy home.
When war destroys the rhythm of their days, Emma Garnet works alongside Quincy, an accomplished surgeon. As she assists him in the treatment of wounded soldiers, she comes to see the war as a "conflict perpetrated by rich men and fought by poor boys against hungry women and babies." After Appomattox, Emma Garnet sets out to take the exhausted Quincy home to Boston, where she begins the journey of her own reconstruction.
As in her five previous novels, Kaye Gibbons demonstrates her subtle mastery of detail and her unmistakable voice. Told in graceful cadences, On the Occasion of My Last Afternoonis a shimmering meditation on the divisions of the human heart.On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon - Audiobook
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My first book finished...
This is my first foray...
This is my first foray into a Kaye Gibbons book. Gibbons portrayal of an elderly woman's musing about her life stuck all the right chords with me. The tone is muted, reflective in nature but there are no rose-coloured glasses at work here. The Tate family, under the rule of Emma's bigoted, self-made father is dysfunctional, so it comes as no surprise that Emma seeks escape in a marriage to a doctor from a well-to-do Boston family. Gibbons may have been a bit extreme in her portrayal of Emma's tyrannical father (a man Emma's sister tries to explain by saying "''You know he thinks he himself is the South,'') and her mother's quiet acquiescence to his raving demands, but even that effect is dulled down by the portrayal of the ravages the Civil War inflicted on everything and everyone in its path. Through it all, Clarice is the skilled navigator of choppy waters and it is her wisdom that shines through in this story: "We knew what she believed to be moral, and while at the top of her list was eliminating slavery, she did not interfere in its flourishing. Her mission was not to change history but to help both white and black prevail over the circumstances of living in that place, the South, in our time. She worked with the consequences dealt her by others, in the travails of her race. She was not merely dignified, and to label her such would be not an error of judgement but one of degree. No, she was dignity herself." As summarized by one reviewer, this novel is "above all, a story of how Southern women suffered and endured the deprivations of the home front during the Civil War. But it is so much more." A worthy read, IMO.
A beautifully written ...
A beautifully written account of a strong southern woman who, after being abused by her father in her childhood, learns compassion and healing for soldiers during the Civil War. The last line stays with me: "This has been such a glorious afternoon -- my heart would not weep if I did not live to see another."
Loved the title, liked...
Loved the title, liked the book.
Pre-Civil War south a ...
Pre-Civil War south a family is ruled by an arrogant and insensitive father, with a past that would destroy his family and their achievements. Very well written and a look at a side of the Civil War that I've never seen.
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