Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

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Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

by Frances Mayes

Crown Publishing Group | April 1, 2014 | Hardcover |

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A lyrical and evocative memoir from Frances Mayes, the Bard of Tuscany, about coming of age in the Deep South and the region's powerful influence on her life.


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.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 Pages, 5.91 × 8.27 × 1.18 in

Published: April 1, 2014

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307885917

ISBN - 13: 9780307885913

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– More About This Product –

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir

by Frances Mayes

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 336 Pages, 5.91 × 8.27 × 1.18 in

Published: April 1, 2014

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0307885917

ISBN - 13: 9780307885913

Read from the Book

A SILVER GLOBE IN THE GARDEN   As I open a book that I once pulled from the ashes of my grandparents’ house, the dusty, mildewed scent catapults me to their back hallway.   Through the double door, made of tiny mullioned panes, I see the entrance hall waver, a quivering of claret and sunlight from the front door. Wafting from the kitchen, the smell of chicken smothered in cream and pepper until it’s falling off the bone. I’m playing an ancient wind-up record left over from when my father was a boy; “K-K-K-Katy” crackles in my ear. Through my grandmother’s open bedroom door, I glimpse chintz dust ruffles, hatboxes, the slender oval mirror over the dressing table, where she leans, and I see her dab the fluffy puff between her legs.   That’s it: brief cloud of bath powder, grinding consonant K-K-K-Katy ( I’ ll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door ), warped light throwing rainbows back through the door. And I wonder, always, why do such fragments remain forever engraved, when, surely, significant ones are lost? The kitchen fragrance, no mystery. For who, ever, could forget Fanny’s smothered chicken?   An early memory of my father: He opens his buff hunting coat, and in all the small interior pockets, doves’ heads droop. He and his friends Bascom and Royce break out the bourbon. From my room in the back of the house, right off the kitchen, I see through the keyhole (keyholes are a large part of childho
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From the Publisher

A lyrical and evocative memoir from Frances Mayes, the Bard of Tuscany, about coming of age in the Deep South and the region's powerful influence on her life.


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.

About the Author

In addition to her worldwide bestselling Tuscany memoirs Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany, and Every Day in Tuscany, FRANCES MAYES is the author of the travel memoir, A Year in the World, illustrated books In Tuscany and Bringing Tuscany Home (with Edward Mayes), and The Tuscan Sun Cookbook (also with Edward Mayes). She has published a novel, Swan, set in the South, The Discovery of Poetry: A Guide for Readers and Writers, and five books of poetry. Her books have been translated into more than fifty languages. She divides her time between Tuscany and North Carolina. Visit her at www.francesmayesbooks.com.

Editorial Reviews

Southern Independent Booksellers Association Spring 2014 Okra Pick “The strength of  Under Magnolia  lies in the very claustrophobia Mayes aches to flee as a child…In certain heightened moments of this memoir, Mayes breathes the same air as [Carson] McCullers.” – New York Times Book Review “As gothic as anything Faulkner could have dreamed up, populated by characters straight out of a Flannery O’Connor story…a thorny memoir that strips away the polite Southern masks, sweet magnolias be damned. Unforgettable.” – Atlanta Journal Constitution “With perfect-pitch language, Mayes unblinkingly describes her growing-up years… One can almost taste the mushiness of ‘a pot of once-green beans falling apart in salt pork’; one can almost smell the cloying scent of honeysuckle, gardenias and overripe peaches that infuse the always-too-humid air.”– USAToday.com “Just the right balance of humor, irony and tragedy. And no tourist guide or coffee table book will offer a more sensually pleasing portrait of the culture, food, language, and landscape of the place she now calls home.”  –Roanoke Times “Under Magnolia is a vibrant example of Mayes’ literary artistry. Her memoir teems with beautiful, pellucid vignettes, described with a painter’s eye for detail, [about a young girl maturing to adulthood amidst domestic tumult].” –Arts A
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Bookclub Guide

US

1. Frances Mayes begins Under Magnolia by recalling a chance weekend in Oxford, Mississippi, where she stood "on the X, not knowing it's time to leap, when, really, I'd only meant to pause." When have you experienced a similar crossroad? What did it take to make you leap?

2. As Mayes describes surreptitiously touring William Faulkner''s house, what truths emerge about the humanity of great writers? Why has the South produced so much enduring literature?

3. How did Willie Bell help Mayes master the art of endurance? What prevented Mayes's mother, Frankye, from being more self-sufficient? What did both women teach Mayes about her role in the world?

4. As Mayes describes attending college both at Randolph-Macon and the University of Florida, before the easy availability of the Pill, what can we discover about the impact of the 1960s on young women in America? How does Mayes''s college experience compare to yours?

5. Mayes describes her young self as a free spirit with an independent mind, transfixed by literature and disinterested in other subjects in school. How did these attributes feed her highly successful career, first as a professor and then as a bestselling author? What does her story tell us about the keys to success and fulfillment?

6. From reading this background story, what future would you have predicted for this child?

7. What does Under Magnolia tell us about Mayes'' early perceptions of home? What spurred her to move to California? What called her home to the South so many years later?

8. Discuss the freedoms and restrictions Mayes experienced throughout her youth. How did her family manage resources, particularly Daddy Jack's assistance? How did Mayes define "fortunate"?

9. How did the presence and absence of Mayes''s father influence her life? How did she heal the scars of his anger, and the trauma of his early death?

10. Discuss the similarities Mayes observes between Tuscany and the South, both her native Georgia and her current homeland of North Carolina. What draws her to these locales? Is the sense of community so strong in these places because of history and landscape, or are there other factors?

11. How has Mayes's experience of love and relationships evolved since she was a young woman? How did her experiences with Paul and Frank shape her sense of self? How did her parents'' marriage affect her expectations for happiness in a relationship?

12. What did you discover about Mayes''s literary approach as you read her descriptions of her earliest memories? If you've read other works by Frances Mayes, how does Under Magnolia enrich your experience of them, including her fiction and poetry?

13. What are the defining traits of the town where you were raised, especially the food and the customs as well as architecture, history, or even special words or phrases? Would you like to return to your birthplace?

14. Southern writers are especially strong on conveying a sense of place. In Under Magnolia, how is Mayes shaped by the landscape?

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