Swan: A Novel from the author of Under the Tuscan Sun

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Swan: A Novel from the author of Under the Tuscan Sun

by Frances Mayes

Crown Publishing Group | August 26, 2003 | Trade Paperback |

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A haunting southern tale of long-buried family secrets by the New York Times bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun and Under Magnolia

In her celebrated memoirs of life in Tuscany, Frances Mayes writes masterfully about people in a powerful and shaping place. In Swan, her first novel, she has created an equally intimate world, rich with striking characters and intriguing twists of fate, that hearkens back to her southern roots.

The Masons are a prominent but now fragmented family who have lived for generations in Swan, an edenic, hidebound small town in Georgia. As Swan opens, a bizarre crime pulls Ginger Mason home from her life as an archeologist in Italy: The body of her mother, Catherine, a suicide nineteen years before, has been mysteriously exhumed. Reunited on new terms with her troubled, isolated brother J.J., who has never ventured far from Swan, the Mason children grapple with the profound effects of their mother''s life and death on their own lives. When a new explanation for Catherine's death emerges, and other closely guarded family secrets rise to the surface as well, Ginger and J.J. are confronted with startling truths about their family, a particular ordeal in a family and a town that wants to keep the past buried.

Beautifully evoking the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of the deep South while telling an utterly compelling story of the complexity of family ties, Swan marks the remarkable fiction debut of one of America's best-loved writers.

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: August 26, 2003

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0767902866

ISBN - 13: 9780767902861

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– More About This Product –

Swan: A Novel from the author of Under the Tuscan Sun

by Frances Mayes

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: August 26, 2003

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0767902866

ISBN - 13: 9780767902861

Read from the Book

J. J. stood on the end of the dock, feeling as if the four pilings might rip loose in the current and send him rafting. But the dock held. He loved the smell of rivers. In July heat, in wavy air, in the throbbing of cicadas, in the first light on the river, he was what he would call happy. A full moon angled down between pines, casting a spiraling silver rope across the curve of the water. He watched the light, flicking through his mind for words to describe it. Luminous, flashing. Ordinary. The light seemed liquid, alive, annealed to the water, too changeable for any word. The river rode high after two storms. A cloud of gnats swarmed his foot, then moved as a single body over a swirl in the current. He stepped out of his faded red bathing suit--automatically he pulled on this suit every morning when he got out of bed--and climbed down the ladder into the water. His morning libations, he called this routine. In all the good months, and sometimes in the cold ones just for sheer cussedness, he dipped himself in the river early in the morning. Near the dock he could stand on the bottom, feeling the swiftness or languidness of the current, sometimes jumping as a fish nipped at the hairs on his legs and chest. He floated for a minute, listening to water whirl around his head, letting himself be carried, then turned his body sharply and swam over to the crescent of washed-sand beach his parents had cleared years ago. From there he could walk out of the river and follow a trace cov
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From the Publisher

A haunting southern tale of long-buried family secrets by the New York Times bestselling author of Under the Tuscan Sun and Under Magnolia

In her celebrated memoirs of life in Tuscany, Frances Mayes writes masterfully about people in a powerful and shaping place. In Swan, her first novel, she has created an equally intimate world, rich with striking characters and intriguing twists of fate, that hearkens back to her southern roots.

The Masons are a prominent but now fragmented family who have lived for generations in Swan, an edenic, hidebound small town in Georgia. As Swan opens, a bizarre crime pulls Ginger Mason home from her life as an archeologist in Italy: The body of her mother, Catherine, a suicide nineteen years before, has been mysteriously exhumed. Reunited on new terms with her troubled, isolated brother J.J., who has never ventured far from Swan, the Mason children grapple with the profound effects of their mother''s life and death on their own lives. When a new explanation for Catherine's death emerges, and other closely guarded family secrets rise to the surface as well, Ginger and J.J. are confronted with startling truths about their family, a particular ordeal in a family and a town that wants to keep the past buried.

Beautifully evoking the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of the deep South while telling an utterly compelling story of the complexity of family ties, Swan marks the remarkable fiction debut of one of America's best-loved writers.

From the Jacket

By the #1 bestselling author of "Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany and "In Tuscany, Swan is a haunting novel set in the deep South -- a resonant tale of long-buried family secrets and mysteries brought suddenly to light.
In her celebrated memoirs of life in Tuscany, Frances Mayes writes masterfully about people in a powerful and shaping place. In "Swan, her first novel, she has created an equally intimate world, rich with striking characters and intriguing twists of fate, that hearkens back to her southern roots.
The Masons are a prominent but now fragmented family who have lived for generations in Swan, an edenic, hidebound small town in Georgia. As "Swan opens, a bizarre crime pulls Ginger Mason home from her life as an archeologist in Italy: The body of her mother, Catherine, a suicide nineteen years before, has been mysteriously exhumed. Reunited on new terms with her troubled, isolated brother J.J., who has never ventured far from Swan, the Mason children grapple with the profound effects of their mother''s life and death on their own lives. When a new explanation for Catherine''s death emerges, and other closely guarded family secrets rise to the surface as well, Ginger and J.J. are confronted with startling truths about their family, a particular ordeal in a family and a town that wants to keep the past buried.
Beautifully evoking the rhythms and idiosyncrasies of the deep South while telling an utterly compelling story of the complexity of family ties, "Swan marks the remarkable fiction debut of one of America''s best-loved writers.

"From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Every Day in Tuscany and Bella Tuscany, FRANCES MAYES is the author of the travel memoir A Year in the World; the illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany HomeThe Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; five books of poetry; and most recently a southern memoir, Under Magnolia.  She divides her time between homes in Italy and North Carolina.  Visit France Mayes's blog at www.francesmayesbooks.com.

Editorial Reviews

"This remains a solid read, sure to please readers who enjoy Southern fiction."
-Library Journal

"An assured fiction debut...Like Richard Russo''s novel Empire Falls, it smartly dissects and dynamics of small-town relationships and the interplay between prominent families and the less powerful over several generations...carefully constructed...you''ll fall for "Swan."
-USA Today

"Fueled by irresistable, page-turning questions."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"A painstaking study of a small Southern town and its people...combining [Mayes''s] talent for vivid scene-setting that [she] showed in "Tuscan Sun" with deft plotting and solid character development."
-St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Loaded with finely-drawn minor characters and the alluring atmosphere of the American South, Swan is a well-paced...entertainment."
-New York Times Book Review


From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

US

1. The first two chapters introduce J. J. and Ginger in settings where they seem fulfilled and at peace. What does J. J.''s cabin have in common with the farmhouse Ginger rents in Italy? Is there any similarity between Ginger''s relationship with Marco and J. J.''s experience with Julianne, the teacher from Osceola? How does Julianne measure up to Georgia Larkin?

2. Discuss the narrator's voice in Swan. What traits do you recognize from Frances Mayes's non fiction and poetry? How did her accomplished writer's eye serve her in creating a novel?

3. Compare her depiction of small-town Georgia to that of Tuscany. Are there any similarities between the Mason's family house and Bramasole?

4. Frances told her editor that Swan is "a book of memory, how it cuts and comes again, and of a powerful landscape, which is always at work shaping the people who live on its surface." What are some of the ways in which memory and landscape define the inhabitants of Swan? Were Swan's "old days" good ones?

5. Holt's relationship with Lucy is considered just as taboo as Catherine's extramarital affair. As time passes, how is this legacy of racism handled in the town of Swan? In what ways do Tessie and Scott reflect their generations?

6. Frances Mayes is renowned for her description of Tuscany's cuisine. What are some of the most tempting Southern dishes presented in the novel?

7. From Big Jim to Ginger, the novel portrays a variety of traditional and highly non-traditional men and women. Discuss how Swan's characters compare to the men and women in your life. Do you think that Southern gender roles are different from those found elsewhere in America?

8. Occurring early in the novel, Ginger's passionate scene with Marco is immediately followed by gruesome events in Magnolia Cemetery. How are attitudes toward sex and death entwined in the town of Swan?

9. Why do Ginger and J. J. have such opposing reactions to their father? How did your impression of Wills change when you learned of his connection to Dachau?

10. Do you suppose that Catherine would have rebuffed Austin's marriage proposal if she had been born twenty years later? Is her situation reflected in Ginger's first marriage? How does Catherine's affair compare with her children's romances?

11. Who were your primary suspects in Catherine's murder? How would you have reacted in Sonny's place?

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