15 February 2009

The Moonflower Vine; Jetta Carleton

The Moonflower Vine: A Novel (P.S.) The Moonflower Vine: A Novel by Jetta Carleton

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harper Perennial is re-releasing this 1963 NYTimes Bestseller, with a foreward by Jane Smiley. Having read it, I'm not sure why: yes, it's a good read, but it's quiet (like Plainsong or Gilead, and it's very old-fashioned in terms of theme (not to mention setting: the farm doesn't have running water!).

The story takes place mostly during the years between 1900-1930, set within the bounds of a visit by the three Soames girls to their family home during the Korean War. Each gets their own story, told in the third person (except the very first bit, told in Mary Jo's voice), and even the story of Matthew has a decidedly female tinge to it. Lots of description, and a strong backbone of Rectitude on the part of Matthew and Callie, make this a different read than one might otherwise expect from a family saga. While the stories are all about different people, exploring their inner lives and motivations, you don't get that sense from reading the book: it's too much of the same piece.

In Smiley's preface, she says "[n]ovelists who write a single, excellent novel area a rare breed." I'm sure that for some, this will be that single, excellent novel; just not for me.

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  1. I think your review is poorly thought out, and not well written. Also, I
    believe you should read the novel again. Not all books published in
    the early 60's made it to the New York Times best seller list. Not all
    books published then stayed on the best seller list for 12 weeks. Not
    all books published that long ago have been reprinted several times.
    Not all books published back then are getting yet another re-printing
    in 2009. And certainly not all books that old get forewords from an
    artist as talented as Jane Smiley. This book, "The Moonflower Vine,"
    has done all those things. Perhaps you didn't read well, Lazy Gal.
    Is this possible?

  2. Dunno. Seems like Lazy says YMMV 'bout this book. I read it and didn't get the '60s fuss but then these aren't the 60s any more.