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The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307395030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307395030
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #475,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gilmore's lackluster second effort (after Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen) never manages to find its way out of humdrum territory. In 1960s Nashville, Bezellia Grove, the darling teenage daughter of an important family, has a henpecked father who spends all his time at work, and a status-obsessed mother who has no problem verbally savaging Maizelle Cooper and Nathaniel Stephenson, the black hired help whom Bezellia considers kin. Everyone is alarmed when obvious sparks fly between Bezellia and Nathaniel's son, Samuel; though Bezellia loves him, they are kept apart, and when Bezellia's not shielding her younger sister from their mother's drunken rages, she frolics with Ruddy Semple, a young man from the wrong sort of family. After Bezellia heads to college and her horizons are expectedly expanded, fortunes are lost and secrets are revealed, some entirely out of left field and others without narrative purpose. This very mixed bag contains just about every half-baked trope of Southern women's fiction, but it doesn't do anything new with the material.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Bezellia Grove, who is one of a long line of Bezellia Groves in one of Nashville’s oldest families, dreams of someday living up to the name that looms so large in her heritage. But her family is not as stable as everyone thinks. Her mother is strict and proper, when not drinking, and her father is never home, preferring to work long hours. Bezellia and her younger sister are raised by the household servants, Nathaniel and Maizelle, who are more like parents to them than their real ones. When Nathaniel’s smart, good-looking son Samuel appears, Bezellia is completely smitten. But the South in the 1960s is not a welcoming place for Samuel, especially when he falls in love with a white woman. Bezellia must decide whether it’s her heart or her heritage that is most important. Gilmore’s second novel (after Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, 2008) is a highly emotional story that vividly evokes a sense of place, the 1960s era, and the heady feelings of first love. --Hilary Hatton

More About the Author

Susan Gregg Gilmore was born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1961. Her mother is a painter, and her father was the son of a revival-bred preacher, a rich storyteller, and an insurance executive whose work moved his family across the country. But every summer, he brought his four children back to their native Tennessee to fish, swim, catch lighting bugs and grow the perfect tomato.

After graduating from the University of Virginia, Susan worked as a secretary for the Smithsonian Institution. And after graduating with a Master's degree from the University of Texas, she birthed three babies, whipped up cookies for bake sales, chaired community fundraisers, taught Sunday School, and somewhere along the way free-lanced for newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Then one afternoon, she decided to write a screenplay. And when she sat down at her desk, she began writing a novel.

Susan now lives once again in Nashville, Tennessee, on the same street she lived on as a young girl. And although she has tired of sweet tea, she continues to write about her beloved South.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 80 customer reviews
Very well written and keeps you reading.
Evangeline Kessler
I also enjoyed the setting of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove - I'm a big fan of books set in the South, especially during that time period.
BermudaOnion
I really liked the beginning and the middle and even some parts towards the end, until I got to the end.
T. C. Oranje

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca L. Brothers on August 20, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Yes, Bezellia is a "poor little rich girl" but she's not the typical tragic princess you're thinking of. She's no hero, and that's why I like her so darn much. She's as imperfect as any other teenage girl and her world is just as narrow. And that's a good thing. It makes her real, makes her someone I can relate to. Bezellia is spunky but she's powerless to change her world, just as most of us feel. She loves the wrong boy at the wrong time--a white girl cannot be with a black boy in Bezellia's world. The issues of race are dealt with here with a lot of depth. I like that Gilmore doesn't sugar coat the discrimination of the 1960's South. But what I like even more is that Gilmore doesn't make her white characters into heroes, people too good to be real. They are just as flawed as the real people you know. For every good deed that is done, motives are questioned. For every reach across the racial gap, hearts are hurt as often as they are healed. Gilmore doesn't try to leave us with the impression that all is right with race in the South, even now. She keeps it real. She keeps it honest, as bitter as that pill may be to swallow. And she does it all in a rich, beautiful language that is a pleasure to read. There are several passages I read over and over because I loved the poetry in them. It's a great story told with the gravity the subject deserves.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Brown on September 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in two days. The cover, although, beautiful, does not show the depth between the pages in this novel set in the dark hours before the Civil Rights movement. I'm a southern girl and it accurately depicts an era of which I'm quite familiar. No stereotypes here. A beautiful read!!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sunny Mom on October 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book. The author was spot on with her writing about the life of the people in the South during the 50's and 60's. I was transported back to my teenage years and felt like I was reliving the past. I highly recommend this novel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Anne L. Molinarolo on November 15, 2011
Format: Library Binding
I don't get the Title: THE IMPROPER LIFE OF BEZELLIA GROVE. Could it be that Bezellia Grove bucks the "gentile" South of the 1960's by her relationships with the poor boy from the other side of the lake? Or that she sees Mazelle Cooper and Nathaniel Stephenson as people rather than servants to the "big" house? Or she rebels against her mother who loves Gin and social status more than her two daughters? Or that like her namesake, young Bezellia sees her great love bleeding in her arms and can't do anything about it in the segregated South?

Gilmore paints the race tensions in 1960s accurately with painful artistry, but fails to create characters that the reader loves or hates. Like the title of her novel, the ending left me wanting more. Gilmore just ends the story and wraps ups Bezellia's life in an obituary of a 92 year old Bezellia. Frankly, I left the novel caring more for her little sister, Adelaide who clings to her baby doll and knitting for comfort.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Sorel VINE VOICE on March 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I heard about this book through a podcast and downloaded the sample onto my Kindle. The second I read the first paragraph I rushed to the library to check it out! At just under 300 pages, this novel flies by. I read it over one weekend and could have read it within one day if I didn't have prior commitments. However, when it ended, I felt a bit let down like I had expected more of the characters and writing. Still, it is worth a read if you're looking for something to get lost in for a bit.

Susan Gregg Gilmore tells the story of Bezellia Grove who was born into a wealthy family that is at the top of high society. People covet the Groves but within the confines of their mansion, they are an incredibly unhappy family that consists of a workaholic father, an alcoholic mother, an emotionally stunted little sister, and Bezellia. Bezellia is a typical girl growing up in the south in the 1960s. Her family was one of the founding families of the town in which they live and her life is comprised of social gatherings that her mother believes are mandatory for a young woman of society. Bezellia goes along with her mother's whims even though she doubts either of her parents love her as much as the African American nanny and groundskeeper who have taken care of Bezellia since she was born. When Bezellia falls in love with the groundskeeper's son, her life is thrown off kilter. She must then decide whether to stand up for herself, her love, and her future or bow to the southern societal norms that are engrained in her family and herself.

Though I found parts of this novel to be predictable, I was still surprised by some of Bezellia's choices and felt right there with her the whole time. It certainly was a fun read if not a challenging one. I would recommend it to anyone interested in southern literature or a good novel in which you can get lost!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By PurpleHippoMama on September 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I usually do not enjoy historical fiction, but this was a great story. Bezellia is a wonderful, flawed main character, which makes her even more likable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Deborah VINE VOICE on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book was an amazing read. When I finished reading, I wanted to step back and just think for a long time. It's wonderfully written. The story is set during the 1950s & 60s in the South. I've always felt that the South and its culture is totally different from the rest of the US in its own unique way. It's almost like being in a different country from the traditions that must be followed, the food that is eaten and the way people act. This book gives a definite feel and flavor to the way people lived during that time period.

This book could almost be classified as a YA read due to the fact that the title character, who narrates the story, is pretty much a teenager throughout the entire book. There were so many times throughout the book where I just ached for Bezellia. Her relationship with her entire family is pretty much either non-existent or just dysfunctional. Instead she turns to her African-American servants who treat her better than her parents do. Their relationship transcends racial boundaries as Bezellia doesn't notice their color or their social status but is constantly reminded by her mother who deems it necessary to put them in their place. Bezelia's life just reached out to me from the beginning of the book. And oh did I feel for her throughout the entire story. There were so many episodes where I just wanted to yell out in frustration for her or cry with her. This is not to say that Bezellia was perfect. She was a flawed character as well. I think though that the first person narration helped the reader to empathize with her more.

During the first half of the book, I hated Bezellia's mother. Seriously, there were times when I wanted to jump into the book and start yelling back at her.
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