It seems like there's a law that every novel set below the Mason-Dixon Line must feature a family secret, a beautiful dead mother, and a contested paternity. Also, iced tea. Swan, the debut novel from memoirist Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun, Bella Tuscany), is pretty standard stuff. J.J. Mason lives like a hermit in the woods outside the town of Swan, Georgia; his sister Ginger Mason works as an archaeologist in Italy. Their family has been in Swan forever; the whole town mourned when Caroline, Ginger, and J.J.'s mother committed suicide. Now the town joins in shock when Caroline's body is mysteriously and crudely exhumed. Ginger returns from Italy; J.J. comes into town. Over the course of a week in July 1975, and against a backdrop of townspeople, relatives, gossipy old biddies, and mill workers, the siblings explore the dark history of their mother's death. The book is competently done, and Mayes is clearly enjoying her break from the Tuscan sun--she especially seems to enjoy folksy-yet-Gothic Southernisms: "Who'd ever think someone that pretty could up and die? ... Just goes to show how quick it is from can to can't." Despite the book's grisly grave-digging, though, Mayes unearths nothing new. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Combining elements from her own life abroad and at home, Mayes presents her first novel, after a series of wildly popular Italian memoirs (Under the Tuscan Sun, etc.). The author, a Georgia native, has much working in her favor: she's built up a legion of loyal readers through her nonfiction, and this tale which takes place in a Steel Magnolias-like sleepy Southern town offers the tried and true matters of family saga, mystery and Americana. The Mason family has owned cotton mills and other valuable real estate in the town of Swan, Ga. for generations. J.J. and Ginger Mason lost their mother, Catherine, when they were children. Now they are in their early 30s, and Ginger is living where else? in Tuscany, working as an archeologist; J.J. is still in Swan, a sort of reclusive mountain man who spends his days sketching the arrowheads he finds on fishing trips. They're reunited when bad news surfaces: Catherine's body has mysteriously been dug up, 19 years after her death. Ginger flies home, and she and J.J., while at a loss as to whodunit, begin to unearth previously unknown details about their mother's life. With the steady if not necessarily riveting mystery serving as a base plot, Mayes weaves various side stories involving the unfortunate demise of Ginger and J.J.'s father and the fate of their grandfather's mistress, among others. Mayes's writing is smooth and her homespun evocations of the steamy South are moving. And although the story begins to lose its oomph after 200 or so pages, this is a pleasurable read that will please Mayes's devotees.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Mayes writes well about the South, where she grew up. An exceptionally good first novel, from an accomplished writer.Published 3 months ago by aha
What lovely imagery. I could feel the heat, the scent of magnolias and the green water. A captivating story. I hope there will be more novels to follow.Published 7 months ago by Avid Reader
Very good book, will donate to library when my family members finish reading it. I like everything Frances Mayes has written.Published 8 months ago by Jan Brandenburg
I am quite an admirer of Frances Mayes and have read all of her books. Her descriptive powers, observations of character and impish sense of humor have long attracted me. Read morePublished 11 months ago by J. Miller
As I started reading the book it was slow going until about one third into it. The descriptions of the various characters in Swan was charming and interesting. Read morePublished 12 months ago by SurfCityGal
Would better have been finished. All that time and no solution!!!Published 12 months ago by Polly Dog
I am enjoying the story very much! All her books are a great readPublished 13 months ago by libros - CA
Frances has a ability to put you in the story and make you really care about her character whether they are real or fictional.Published 13 months ago by Bookworm