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Dorothy Allison: Bastard Out Of Carolina

Discussion in 'Fiction Books' started by Ell, Apr 30, 2002.

  1. Ell

    Ell Well-Known Member

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    * Spoiler Alert*

    Don't expect to be entertained and uplifted by reading "Bastard Out of Carolina". Thought-provoking, intense, controversial, uncomfortable - yes. Entertaining - no.

    The Boatwright family epitomizes the stereotypical image of the term "white-trash". The brothers drink, brawl, and land in jail. The women marry young, have lots of babies, and are old before their time. Yet they have a close bond with each other and are fiercely loyal to their own.

    Anney Boatwright is the youngest sister. She becomes pregnant at age 15 and has a daughter, nicknamed Bone. However, Bone's birth certificate states she is "illegitimate" because Anney refuses to name the father. Somehow this is too humiliating, even for the Boatwright clan and Anney vainly tries to have the word deleted from Bone's birth certificate year after year.

    Eventually, Anney falls in love, marries, and has a second daughter, Reese. But just as Anney thinks her life is settled, Reese's father dies. This is where the real story begins. Enter Glenn, from an affluent, successful, southern family who is a total failure in the eyes of his family. He becomes Daddy Glenn to Reese and Bone when Anney agrees to marry him. What follows is the story of Bone and the all-too-real saga of child and sexual abuse.

    The ending is unresolved, but realistic - real life usually can't be wrapped up in a few pages to produce a fairy tale ending. In comments I've read from other readers, this seems to be the most problematic part of the book for them - i.e. after suffering through an entire book of unremitting ugliness, there is no "feel-good" wrap up, no heart-warming pay-off. If that's what you're after when you read, then this is not the book for you.

    I wasn't bothered by the ending. The reality is that there are many Bones and Anneys in the world. Some manage to make the right choices and move on to a better life and others seem destined to repeat past wrongs. If you believe that sometimes looking at the ugly side of life gives you a better understanding of humanity and that books aren't always about entertainment, then give "Bastard Out of Carolina" a try.

    - April, 2002.

    From Ell's Reviews
     
  2. SilveryChris

    SilveryChris New Member

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    Ell, I saw the TV adaptation. How close would you say that was to the book? I sometimes will appreciate a book that delivers a cold, hard dose of reality, but not always. I suppose it depends a lot upon my own mood at the time of the reading. Don't you also think that the moods that we are feeling ourselves can sometimes color our perceptions and enjoyment of a book? Anyone else have a thought on this?

    Chris
     
  3. Ell

    Ell Well-Known Member

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    Chris,

    I didn't see the TV adaptation, so can't comment on how true it was to the book. Has anyone seen/read both?

    I do agree that our moods play a large part in how we interpret or enjoy a book. That's why I usually have several types of books started at the same time - I read what matches my mood at any given moment.

    A dose of reality helps us better understand ourselves and our fellow man, but a whimsical flight of fantasy helps nurture our imagination and soul. I wouldn't want too steady a dose of either.
     
  4. Prairie_Girl

    Prairie_Girl New Member

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    Bump! I'm reading this now, anyone else read it since 2002?
     
  5. Ronny

    Ronny Well-Known Member

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    I read it last year and another by her, Cavedweller. I agree with everything Ell said above. They were very grim and gritty, there was nothing warm or uplifting about them. They did seem very realistic and I saw that Bastard was somewhat an autobiography, it did contain some of her own personal history. I still remember much of the books, they have stuck with me all this time.
     
  6. Pearl

    Pearl New Member

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    Funny. This was one of the first few books I read that got me back into reading after a three year dry spell. I can't say I enjoyed it because the story was gruesome and horrible, but it was well written and made you feel so many different emotions. In a sense, yes the book was good, but I felt horrible after reading it.
     
  7. Prairie_Girl

    Prairie_Girl New Member

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    I felt a little jilted by the ending. i found it a little to sudden for me.
     
  8. Geek

    Geek New Member

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    I watched the tv movie version of this a while ago, i didn't know it was a book while i was watching the movie untill the credits. I would like to find the book and read it but now i'm not so sure i could handle it.
     
  9. Tarheel

    Tarheel New Member

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    Typical smear job on Southerners

    Having just read Ell's review (five years late), it harkens back all those Southern books that depict Southerners as deviates, low-lifes, lunatics, and slobs of the worst sort. This theme is so old its cobwebs have cobwebs.

    I have not read the book, but I can picture it now, sort of a junior grade Faulkner with a modern day edge.

    Sad indeed, since most Southerners I have met, and I have met thousands, are good and decent people whose lives may not appeal to the prurient interest of some readers, but who nonetheless are fascinating people.
     
  10. dude

    dude Member

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    I thought this book was remarkable. Southern stereotypes or not, like mentioned above, this was based on her own childhood. I don't think she makes the people out to be neanderthals or illiterate morons. Likewise, the majority of her characters could have existed in any part of the country. Take away the drawl and the slang and replace it with whatever dialect you want and you have the same people.

    I'm reading Cavedweller right now and have to say that Dorothy Allison is an extraordinary modern writer. She extracts many emotions from the reader. Even if it made you sick to your stomach or sad, the fact that she was able to draw that kind of response says enough.
     
  11. Peder

    Peder Well-Known Member

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    Good review and interesting discussion. I've seen the book on the shelf. Next time I'll pick it up and browse it. Thanks to all.
     

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