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on July 12, 2013
The day after Martin Luther King Jr is assassinated, Dora and Frannie's father, passes away after a long illness. Shortly after, the sisters receive an invitation from their Aunt Katherine to live with her.
Living with their Aunt and her black maid Letty proves unfulfilling to the sisters. They decide to visit other relatives and this ultimately results in a road trip through America's Southern states.
As is evident from my above rating this novella (its word count is only some 63000 words) is not something I could easily recommend.
It is an agreeable and easy read but this only damns the novella with faint praise. I found the book lacking in subtlety and depth. The motifs, allusions and symbols are writ large. The pacifist Martin Luther King Jr is killed while the next day the World War II conscientious objector father of Dora and Frannie dies. America is going through huge changes and turmoil; the Vietnam War, the anti war riots, the race riots, women's liberation. These changes will irrevocably alter the country, politically, socially and culturally. America's Baby Boomers were attempting to rip the country from the hands of the pre World War II old guard and pull the country into a modern world. These events are mirrored, in a smaller way of course, in the lives of the sisters. Dora is outgoing, sexually active, gregarious and believes in a brighter future. Frannie on the other hand is old fashioned, strait laced and clings to the past and its apparent certitude.
They drive through Texas but decide not to stop in this particular state due to the oppressive heat. Of course, even five years on the sound of bullets can still be heard reverberating around the Lone Star state.
The conclusions to the all the story threads that weave through the book are foreseeable and rather too neat for a book that uses the America in the 1960s as its backdrop. The Vietnam War raged on for another four years. Nixon became President in 1969 and his Waterloo was still four years away. The times were a changin' but the old guard still had a grip on the political rudder.
If one was to read The Spinsters as anything other than an allegorical novel then one could find it enjoyable. The author Pagan Kennedy does have an elegant, clear writing style that throws up some wonderful images, a `saleslady whose hair was stiff as seven minute icing'.
Dora and Frannie's feelings of entrapment, loneliness and isolation while caring for their father will resonant with many people in an age where one in four people in the UK care for an elderly parent. The handling of this particular issue is what would earn this novella an extra half a mark.

No' of pages - 158
Sex scenes - none (there is some mild sexual references)
Profanity - none
Genre - drama
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on October 26, 1996
At the risk of sounding too Forrest Gump-ish, I would have
to say that "Spinsters" is like a box of chocolates. Each
chapter is a perfect little world, and when you finish one
you stop and say to yourself "Oh, I think I'll have just one
more." Before you know it the book is finished, and you sit
there, completely satisfied, but unsure as to exactly what
you have just consumed. So you stop for a moment, and like
remembering a particularly yummy nougat or macadadamia nut
center, you recall wonderfully realized moments, and smile
as each new memory of these characters, who have become a
part of your life, plays across the pleasure centers of your
brain. This book, like a box of chocolates, is deceptively
simple. As you bite into each chapter the chocolate is only
a facade covering the creamy, sweet inviting centers that
await with each page turn. But best of all reading this
book is an absolutely fat-free experience. All of the
pleasure, none of the guilt.
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I'd heard the buzz about Pagan Kennedy, so I figured I'd grab this and see what the fuss was all about. Set in 1968, the book is about two 30-something sisters who embark on a cross-country road trip following the death of their father, who've they've been caring for. It's more or less a belated coming of age tale for Frannie, the virgin of the two, as she gradually sheds her safe life and appearance. Although there are a couple of nice lines ("My mother understood longing better than love.") it didn't strike me as anything special and didn't enthuse me to pursue anything else by Kennedy.
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on January 8, 1999
This book is absolutely lovely, witty, and insightful. At first I was drawn into by the dead-on descriptions of New England -- houses, people, places -- which made me homesick; then I was utterly absorbed in the story -- simple (in the way only really well-crafted writing can be), subtle, and a great read. I recommended it to my book club (which means I happily got to reread it) and all eight members agreed it was the best pick of the year! (I was kind of surprised, because we never agree on anything, but apparently this book's wonderful story and writing have universal appeal.) Truly a gem.
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on January 16, 2006
Three-and-a-half stars, actually.

I had read Pagan Kennedy's non-fiction "Zine" years ago and it was one of my favorite books at the time, one I've re-read a couple of times since. I resolved then to try her fiction, but I didn't get around to it until now.

I enjoyed Spinsters, I liked the short, simple story revolving around the two sisters who embark on a road trip after their father's death inadvertantly frees them from the sheltered life they had known. This book didn't take many risks, and thus wasn't the kind of work that bowls you over, but it was still quite a nice read.

Kennedy's use of the book's time frame, 1968, was pulled off nicely, as she didn't overdo it. Instead of an exaggerated, tv-esque view of the 60s, I thought her portrayal was more quiet and well-stated. I also thought her characters were a good metaphor for the country at large breaking out of its personal repressions and taking a fresh look at their lives and the world. (I also liked the father having been a conscientious objector during WWII-and the experiments he experienced as a result; I like little nods to lesser-known history.)

I will admit to being a little disappointed by the plot curve and the ending of the story, but that didn't detract from my fondness for the book. I emphasized and had a soft spot for the sisters, and I look forward to reading more of Pagan Kennedy.
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on February 13, 2006
I liked this book more than I can say. I found the prose so overwhelmingly, sometime excruciatingly, lovely that I forced myself to read slower, to make it last, not end so soon. Then I read it again.
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on January 14, 2000
I read Kennedy's The Exes and expected a witty and engrossing book similar in style when I picked up Spinsters. The premise about two single woman on the road looking for something out of life seemed promising. I was very, very wrong. The book falls very flat. It reels you only to end when things start to get interesting. Don't read this book, read Kennedy's The Exes.
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on August 16, 1999
My book group picked it because it sounded great from the synopsis and reviews. We were (9/10 of us) disappointed. It was short, superficial, and the plot just kept plodding forward with few connections. We debated whether it was believable...more thought no than yes. Luckily it only took about 3-5 hours to read, cover to cover. Save your money; you can do better.
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