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Alma Mater Paperback – October 29, 2002


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My Struggle: Book Four
Eighteen-year-old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fishing village in the Arctic Circle to work as a school teacher. As the nights get longer, the shadow cast by his father's own sharply increasing alcohol consumption, also gets longer. Read the full description
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Alma Mater + Fox Tracks: A Novel ("Sister" Jane) + The Hounds and the Fury: A Novel ("Sister" Jane)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

opular and prolific Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle, etc.) lavishes her attention and breathless prose on another lesbian coming-of-age tale set in Southern belle territory. Victoria "Vic" Savedge is a gorgeous 22-year-old senior at the College of William and Mary in present-day Virginia. Her parents, Frank and R.J., little sister Mignon and best friend Jinx Baptista all expect Vic to marry her rich football star boyfriend Charly Harrison after graduation. However, in the opening scene, Vic meets Chris Carter, a female transfer student to whom she is increasingly attracted. Their flirtatious behavior deflates any suspense Brown may have hoped to create; it's clear Vic's commitment to Charly is shaky. As she unconvincingly struggles to choose between lovers, Vic ponders with Jinx the roles fate, honor and individual responsibility play in life. During weekend visits to her ancestral home, Surry Crossing, Va., Vic is entertained by the smalltown antics of her womanizing Uncle Don and sex-deprived Aunt Bunny, and the Wallaces, neighboring middle-aged sisters who pathetically vie for their elderly father's favor. Brown's tendency to tell rather than show ("Raised in a judgmental family, Chris had survived by nourishing her sense of rebellion. She didn't know what she was looking for until she met Vic") and filler dialogue ("Sit down. It's my turn to give you a Coke" and "Mother, do you want a refill?" "No, thank you. But you may clean the ashtray") wear on the reader, and the one-dimensional characters and soap opera story line provide little relief. Brown's good-natured humor and exuberant treatment of her themes may satisfy her fans, but she's unlikely to pick up new readers this time around. 8-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Brown, the author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries, returns to her lesbian roots in Alma Mater. Vic and Chris are two coeds who meet at William and Mary College and, much to their surprise, are mutually attracted and launch an intense affair. Though Vic is involved with the star football player, and though neither woman has ever considered the possibility that she might not be heterosexual, this life-changing turn of events does not seem to faze either of them. Brown usually excels at offbeat characters, and while she does offer readers an amusing and outlandish supporting cast (thanks to the Southern locale), her latest novel lacks the freshness and believability of her now classic Rubyfruit Jungle. Still, fans will welcome her return to the theme of her earlier work. Recommended for most public libraries.
- Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (October 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345455320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345455321
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sister Jane novels-Outfoxed, Hotspur, Full Cry, The Hunt Ball, The Hounds and the Fury, The Tell-Tale Horse, and Hounded to Death-as well as the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries and Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, and The Sand Castle, among many others. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
I for some reason wanted to read a particular Rita Mae Brown book (this wasn't it) but forgot which one when I went to the library. So I chose this one off the shelf because I went to the College of William and Mary, a prestigious university. I wish she'd just made up some school, because it embarrasses me that she's supposed to be writing about my alma mater. She has no idea what she's talking about and is way off on a lot of the details, terminology, and layout, which just bugged the heck out of me. Now those of you unfamiliar with W&M may say, "So what?" and not care, but this just shows you that the author did not do her research and thus you have to wonder about the research, thought, and effort that went into the rest of this book and her other books. If you're going to pick a real university as your backdrop, get the details right!
A student with a clean record would not be expelled for dressing up a statue with no permanent damage, even if the statue were a religious one off campus, as it is in this book. On W&M's campus, Thomas Jefferson gets a party hat and balloons every year on his birthday, and a pumpkin on his head for Halloween.
I don't think her depiction of life and attitudes in that part of Virginia is at all accurate, even for 1980, which is when the story takes place. And I seriously doubt there are several new car dealerships in Surry County (if any). The little details can make all the difference, and when they're inaccurate, the entire work suffers.
The characters are not fully developed and I didn't care about a single one of them. The writing was poor and the story fairly predictable. I found myself skipping over large parts of text and skimming a lot. The epilogue crams the resolutions of the characters' lives into a hastily written five pages.
Reading this was a waste of time.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By C. Wilcox on November 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I confess. Once upon a time I was a great fan of Rita Mae Brown. Unfortunately, "Alma Mater" provides indisputable proof that her talent is diminishing at an alarming rate. This story of a young woman's coming to terms with her sexuality is inexplicably set in 1980. There is no reference to the culture or politics of the time (do Ronald Reagan & Anita Bryant ring a bell?). The only apparent reason for the trip back in time is so that the characters can indulge in unprotected sex. And even those pedestrian sex scenes can't spice up this tripe. The book follows the life of college senior Victoria Savedge and her family, friends and neighbors, good Southerners all. Ms. Brown has a tendency to create flat characters who are all flawlessly beautiful, who say and do the right thing. She doesn't seem to know the difference between dialog and diatribe. The book is full of lengthy speeches and ruminations on the nature of love, loyalty, fate, etc. Victoria must choose between the expectations of her parent & society or following her own heart (and other parts of her anatomy). This is ground that Ms. Brown has covered previously, and it's not clear why she feels the need to repeat herself. If Ms. Brown spent as much time plotting her novel as she does describing the Virginia sky, this would probably be a different book altogether. As it is, one finds it difficult to care about the characters, especially when their actions and reactions are so unrealistic as to border on ridiculous. Overall, this book feels like a first draft that was never corrected -- an oversimplified plot, cardboard characters, and a rushed and unsatisfactory ending. A story with a lot of potential that follows the most predictable, and sometimes ludicrous, path. So don't waste your time. Read some of Rita Mae's work prior to 1987 if you want to find out what a great writer she used to be.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
For years, one of my pleasures has been reading books by Rita Mae Brown. However, I am quite bothered by the laziness that has marked her more recent books, the lack of self-editing, and the lapsing into formula. "Alma Mater" is a particularly dreadful example of the latter.... When I compare any of Rita's recent books to "Rubyfruit Jungle" especially, but even to "Six of One" and its sequels, I just cringe. She definitely knows better, but hasn't had to push herself given that we, her loyal readers, have been snapping up even mediocre stuff from her because we know we will find at least a few lines that amuse us in each work. From now on, I'm reading reviews before I give Rita any more money, and I advise everyone else to do the same--let this be some tough love to coax better work out of a good writer who should not cheat her fans.
Not only is "Alma Mater" poorly designed and populated with weak characters, but the lack of research is readily apparent to me, who attended William and Mary at the same time as the characters in the book. Although this fine institution is located in southern Virginia, it is not some backward, Dixie university, for the vast majority of the students come from suburbs of Washington, D.C., or New York City, and most of the faculty members hold degrees from Ivy League schools. Rita would have you believe that feminism was some foreign concept at W&M in 1980, but that is ludicrous. All of the women I knew there were smart, ambitious, and intent on having careers. Also, W&M has a history of having its statues decorated humorously, especially that of Lord Botetourt, so the harmless prank Vic gets involved in at the local Catholic church would not have led to her expulsion... If anything, the school certainly has more conservative students now than it had in my day. So, Rita, you really got it wrong! Next time, honey, do your homework as well as the W&M students do theirs!
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