Jennifer's Journal


Sunday, May 29, 2005


I’m always reading—the love of books is what set me on the path to writing after all.  Last night, I finished PEACHTREE ROAD by Anne Rivers Siddons, called by Pat Conroy “The Southern novel of our generation.”  Covering a time period from the Thirties to the Seventies, and the childhood-to-middle-age of the characters, it’s a rich and evocative read with much to think about in its pages.  Still, it begins with: “The South killed Lucy Bondurant Venable on the day she was born.  It just took her until now to die.” It then continues with the tale of this pivotal character’s life as seen through the eyes of her male cousin, illustrating how the strictures of Southern society led to her madness and death.  It’s a flawed idea, I think.  The kind of restrictions and denigration of female worth depicted—especially the idea that a woman is nothing without a man—have never been restricted to the South.  Oh, yes, we have always had our dominate male types, our “macho men”, but it was patriarchal society, not the South, per se, that prevented women from becoming all they could be in the past.  And though the generation covered seemed particularly affected, maybe because of the contrast between extreme modern progress and this old-fashioned agenda, the many tragedies caused by the attitudes extend far back into time.  Another bone I have to pick with the book is the ending.  It would, I suppose, have been just too, too “romance novel” to give the narrator a happy ending to his angst-ridden story.  So, instead, the ending is written to be deliberately ambiguous.  The poor guy jumps off a bridge, but we never see him land so don’t know whether it’s a defining moment for him when he overcomes his fear of heights and swims toward his future which happens to be his old love waiting on the river bank, or if he dies in the rushing high-water of spring while trying to escape his own tragedy and prove something to himself.  If the happy-ever-after ending is just too, too formulaic in popular fiction, isn’t the unhappy or unresolved ending in mainstream or literary fiction just as much of a formula?


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