I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
A Southern “Girls” Junior College, a bit socially exclusive, traditional, and full of interesting “spare women” who missed out on marriage (presumably) was just the thing to catch my interest. That it was in my mother’s college “era” was even better.
Tobacco heiress Merry Jellico and mystery girl Ferron Hood are roommates during their first semester at Lovegood. Merry has led a typical sheltered life–the worst thing that has happened in her life is her dog died. Ferron has a mysterious past, but one that includes ties to the college. She is inducted into the sorority of Lovegood legacies. The pivotal moment in the early part of the story is Ferron reading Merry’s short story. Merry is a natural writer. Ferron is an excellent writer, too, but had not considered it as a career until that moment. Sadly, at the start of Christmas break their worlds change forever.
To me, that was the end of the novel. The rest of the story was an annoying back-and-forth through decades then memories, then a new decade. I suppose the term another reviewer used, “stream of consciousness” is the correct term for the structure of the second half of the novel.
I found the memory of that first semester’s friendship to be silly. One semester? I don’t even remember my first-semester roommate’s last name. Was Ferron jealous of Merry? Did Merry just know she was better but use the excuse of that (no spoilers) incident keep from following up her one real success? To be honest, I didn’t care enough to figure it out.
This book would have been much better if Godwin had dwelt on the faculty and workings of the college–with Ferron and Merry just a part of that. If she had skipped the rambling and the rapid changes in decade, too, reading it would have been easier. The characters of several of the instructors/professors were far more interesting that mystery girl Ferron or old money Merry.
I’ve given it a higher rating because I do not like stream of consciousness novels much and it probably will delight people who enjoy them.
Old Lovegood Girls by Gail Godwin available May 5.
My 2013 review from my old blog of Gail Godwin’s Flora
When certain friends recommend books, I sit up and listen! Flora is one such book. And, what a book! A marvelous book–she captures the spirit, soul and very essence of her characters.
When the spinster cousin comes to take care of her little cousin–an orphan of sorts–neither imagine the impact they will each have on the other one’s life. The back story of the house, it’s “ghosts,” and its use would make a fascinating second book!