Monday, October 8, 2012

Miss Dreamville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

You know a book is good when you read it in one sitting. I would say that this is especially true recently, because I've been feeling an urge to study. Well, that and I have exams coming up again. But when I started reading Miss Dreamville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society (from now, called "Miss Dreamsville" today, I couldn't put it down! It's a good thing I had a free period.

Miss Dreamsville is about reading and books. That alone endeared me to it. The narrator Dora, is somewhat of an outcast - she's a divorcee in a small southern town. But when the (northern) Jackie comes to town, she starts up a Literary Society (something like a Salon) filled with outcasts. And of course, this makes an impact on everyone's lives.

First off, I love the range of characters here. There's the suburban mom, the (ex-convict but) still regal old lady, the Turtle Lady (Dora), a young Negro servant and so on. The wide range of characters means that many different viewpoints can be expressed without seeming forced.

Case in point: when the group read The Feminine Mystique, Jackie identifies with the book. Obsessed with reading it to the point where she neglects her household duties. On the other hand, Priscilla (the young Negro maid) finds the problems that these women go through to be luxuries only white people have. Being discriminated against, she can't afford to consider or even complain about such things.

Second, there's the setting. This book is set it 1962, Florida. This means that at that time, racism was still rampant, there was the whole South/North thing and the Klan was still active. At least, that's what I got from the book (and I have no reason to believe that's not true). The book paints a vivid picture of what small town America was like than, and pulled me into the story.

Thirdly, there's the plot. The book doesn't revolve only around books, it follows Jackie as she becomes the mysterious radio personality Miss Dreamsville, and what that entails. The plot manages to weave in themes of racism and friendship, making it a plot with a point. But it's not a message, these issues are naturally raised thanks to Jackie's personality.

And because the narrative is basically one long flashback, it allows for Dora to tell the point of view of other characters, since having hindsight, she knows what happened. That was really useful, because there were certain events that was crucial, but happened when Dora wasn't present.

Basically, this is a fantastic novel. I love how books were introduced naturally, (the discussion felt natural, because this was supposed to be a salon-style club). The plot wasn't book related, although it was sparked by the Literary Society, which made it interesting. I think this book will appeal to a wide range of people, bibliophiles and non-bibliophiles alike :D

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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