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.
Book: Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir
Author: Frances Mayes
Publisher: Broadway Books
Genre: Nonfiction | Memoir
Published: March 31, 2015
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Neighborhood Library
The chance to read another Frances Mayes work, especially her memoir, Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir, was the equal to putting a good latte and dark chocolate in front of me. No way was I going to pass it up. Enjoyment was found in other of her books, such as Under the Tuscan Sun. And the title had the word “southern” in it.
Although somewhat frenetic in plot and pacing, Under Magnolia transported me back to days growing up in the South and spending summer afternoons under the shade of trees, some magnolia, trying to stay cool. Mayes clarifies her frenetic style by explaining memories jump back and forth and thus, our writing of memoir often jumps back and forth.
What is stranger than memory, that selects a certain day to remain vivid, when thousands of others are totally lost? ~ Frances Mayes in Under Magnolia
Like many others, Mayes grew up in a dysfunctional family fraught with alcoholism and depression. I felt the scars left by Mayes’s home life, and she expresses her own confusion upon learning some of her friends lived in happy homes. She states she didn’t think it possible.
And in this last quote, Mayes captures the truth of so many heartbroken people and those who write memoir:
Sometimes you have to travel back in time, skirting the obstacles, in order to love someone. ~ Frances Mayes in Under Magnolia
I believe memoir writers will find Under Magnolia not only a good read but also a memoir that teaches from the life of another writer sharing her life story. We write our best when we learn from writers in our genre.
Also, if you love reading about the lives of others and can tolerate the frenetic pace, I highly recommend this book to you as well.
Meet the Author:
In addition to her Tuscany memoirs, Under the Tuscan Sun 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 Home; Swan, a novel; The Discovery of Poetry, a text for readers; and five books of poetry. She divides her time between homes in Italy and North Carolina.