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Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger (Shannon Ravenel Books) Hardcover – March 23, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Shannon Ravenel Books
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book; 1St Edition edition (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565129156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565129153
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,099,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smith slips effortlessly into the voices of her funny, smarter-than-they-look characters in her latest collection (after News of the Spirit), containing a handful of new works among some old favorites. In Toastmaster, a family's dinner outing is parsed from the point of view of a brainy 11-year-old who sees through the motivations of his flaky mother and demonstrates his powers of observation when a group of joking, drunken men enter the restaurant. Similarly, Big Girl allows an overweight wife who has sacrificed everything for her awful husband to tell her story while attaining the ultimate emancipation. Each tale is beautifully honed and captures in subtle detail and gentle irony the essential humanity of characters who might initially strike the reader as superficial or unsympathetic. House Tour, for instance, finds a cynical wife and mother contemplating her possible alcoholism when her house is overrun by an endearing group of similarly life-worn but irrepressible women who mistake her house for one on their home tour. Other tales about indomitable wives and mothers will be familiar to Smith's fans and round out this thoroughly enjoyable collection. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* This wonderful writer is a readers’-advisory librarian’s dream. Short stories, ordinarily a relatively hard sell to library patrons, are a different animal when they are Lee Smith’s short stories. In a very hospitable way of talking, reminiscent of Ellen Gilchrist’s style in her delicious writing, Smith offers stories that deliver an irresistible one-two punch. The first punch is—again, like Gilchrist—the humor that fills every page. She doesn’t poke fun at the ordinary folks who stock her fiction but gets us to see, by their plights and successes, the universal absurdity in their struggles to attain love and significance. The second punch is the meaningfulness of every story. All of us, in different garb, appear at some point in a Smith story. This collection contains 14 pieces, 7 new and 7 that have seen publication in previous collections. Bob, a Dog leads off, and it shows Smith in absolute control of her material; the eponymous character serves as a metaphor for freedom. The title story is entertaining and riveting from its first line, It was cocktail time. The most beautiful story is the very short Toastmaster, an imaginative narrative from the point of view of a bookish little boy. --Brad Hooper

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In Lee Smith's latest book of short stories, seven brand new ones and seven from previous collections, we see a writer at the top of her game. "House Tour" is as good as anything Ms. Smith has ever written and is the best short story I've read in ages. When I finished it, I immediately went back and read parts of it again. A group of red hat ladies on a Christmas House Tour in a North Carolina town goes to the wrong home and meets the liberal, well-traveled and well-read owner, Lynn-- she voted for Gore and cannot understand who kept voting for Jesse Helms since no one will admit it-- and is married to a writer. She decides to give them a tour of her cluttered house since they are already there and one of the ladies is winded from walking with a walker, but the events take a turn that surprises both her and the reader.

All the characteristics unique to Ms. Smith's fiction are here. Most of these stories are set somewhere in the South, either real or imagined: Key West, Charlottesville, North Alabama, North Carolina, Fernandina Beach, for example, although Smith's characters may travel to the Grenadines or Maine. "The only positive thing was that all the Maine women turned out to be big and ugly, almost as if they were doing it on purpose, so this made Nova look like a beauty queen. . . Nobody wears any makeup." ("Ultima Thule") The main characters are usually women who are often the first-person narrator. They are English teachers, newspaper columnists, secretaries, assisted-living residents, waitresses at truck stops, cashiers. And humor abounds. But just when you've had a good laugh, Ms. Smith slips up on you.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By The Loopy Librarian on August 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Forever after, when I should happen to think about Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger, I'll think of blue eyes, beaches and gin and tonics, pleasant summer evenings, and romance. But, I will also remember adultery and sadness, suicide and loss, abandonment and loneliness, and loss of youth. The thread stringing together these stories was life-changing moments when a character was inspired to choose one direction or another; to accept or not accept; to blossom or to fade away. The characters were so real to me and their choices so important that I continued reading whether I liked the story or not. I needed to know what became of these people. That is how well they were drawn. In truth, these stories had a lot of gray. Each character was flawed in some way. Maybe she drank too much, maybe he was unfaithful, maybe she was bitter, maybe he was socially awkward, but most characters felt like a neighbor or a friend. I wanted to forgive them and let them enjoy their gin and tonics on the beach. So I did; not because they deserved it, but because they trusted me with their secrets.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J Martin Jellinek on May 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I've been reading Lee Smith's books for many years now. Her writing style and characters have changed over the years. Her earlier protagonists, in books like Oral History and Fail and Tender Ladies, were younger women. Now Smith's perspective has changed. She is writing from her perspective as a more mature (definitely not older) woman who sees more nuances in life. The stories in Mrs. Darcy highlight this change in a remarkable way. Her characters are more aware of their flaws and have accepted them, not as flaws, but as part of the miraculous beings that they are. As a result, the characters seem more real.

As a master story teller, Smith still incorpoates place as a major character in each of her stories, but the stories are less about place. In reading the stories, I felt that I became part of the characters. There were parts of me that I could identify in each story.

Kudos to Lee Smith on another wonderful anthology.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Knox on June 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
These Stories remind me of when i use to ride Greyhound across the country when i was younger. they remind me of people i'd meet on the bus, where we'd exchange life stories, often tales you'd only tell a stranger you'd never see again. 100 mile friendships every bit as memorable as lifelong ones.
they are little slices of life, funny, bittersweet, or melancholy. often all three at once. having lived in the south most of my life i recognize characters, and have seen similar stories play out to a dozen different endings.
this is my first time reading Lee Smith, but it won't be the last.
Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger (Shannon Ravenel Books)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Libby P. Meggs on December 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book presents a well-rounded collection of Lee Smith's amazing talent! Her stories are funny, poignant, insightful page-turners. Through language and tiny details, she masterfully creates a sharply-focused image and voice of each character, and you end up feeling that you might know more about those characters than they know themselves. I had already read some of these stories, but they were worth reading again, and are ALL, old and new, compelling.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert H. Appleby on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While I have not yet finished the book, so far I have been utterly confused by the jumping around in time and persons. Perhaps it will be tied up in a nice ribbon before I finish, but more than half way through, it is a struggle to continue on.
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