- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book (September 1, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1565124529
- ISBN-13: 978-1565124523
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,909,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Agate Hill: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 1, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Following her 2001 Southern Book Critics Circle award–winning novel, The Last Girls, Smith's 10th novel chronicles the post–Civil War life of a precocious Southern orphan using a slapdash patchwork of journal entries, letters, poems, recipes, songs, catechism and court records. Molly Petree, the daughter of a slain Confederate soldier, begins a diary on her 13th birthday in May 1872, near Hillsborough, N.C., at Agate Hill, the plantation of her legal guardian, Uncle Junius Hall. Seeing herself as "a ghost girl wafting through this ghost house," Molly falls under the spiteful devices of Selena, the scheming housekeeper, who marries a terminally ill Junius to inherit the plantation. Under Selena's watch, Molly is neglected, mistreated and raped before Simon Black, who fought alongside Molly's father, rescues her and enrolls her in the Gatewood Academy, where she becomes "an educated, fancy woman." After graduating, Molly marries sweet-talking Jacky, but tragedy dogs her: Jacky dies a particularly miserable death, their baby dies and when Molly returns to Agate Hill, she finds it in ruins. Molly's story is moving, but Smith's structure—the narrative's pieces are the contents of "a box of old stuff" found during Agate Hill's renovation—is needlessly contrived. (Sept. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This ever-popular novelist, author of, most recently, The Last Girls(2002), now turns to an increasingly popular genre, historical fiction, and does so with a bang. The time period that Lee knowledgably sets this involving novel within encompasses the years between the end of the Civil War and the dawn of the twentieth century; her setting is North Carolina. The novel's conceit is not particularly original--it is purportedly composed of real documents, such as diary entries, letters, and court documents--but Lee nevertheless fashions, in gradual steps through time and from the telling perspectives of different individuals, the riveting character Molly Petree. She is an orphan at war's end, dependent on being taken in by family, but she isn't the type to stay at the mercy of anyone. Her pluck, fortitude, resilience, and wisdom prompt her not only to take things as they come during this disorderly time in the South but also to dictate her own fortune and make a life in which she can find some peace. This novel of treachery and resolution provides an intimate picture of the Reconstruction era, observed through the lens not of politicians and generals but of the common folk upon whose shoulders the actual reconstruction of a ravaged land rested. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Smith’s 10th novel, On Agate Hill, is thoroughly engaging. Molly is taken in by her uncle who, on the verge of death, marries his scheming, gold digging housekeeper. Selena all but kicks Molly out. Fortunately, a friend of Molly’s father becomes her benefactor and sends her away to Gatewood Academy. From there we follow Molly on a roller coaster ride of love, betrayal, treachery, and a spectacular murder trial.
I read this book on a whim and could not put it down. Not one for historical fiction, especially based in this time period, I was pleasantly surprised how easily I was drawn into the story of Molly Petree. 5 out of 5 stars.
I also was struck by the fact that three of the characters that I made decisions about I was forced to completely reevaluate by the end of the novel. It reminded me of real life, when you are occasionally (for better or worse) completely mistaken in your assessment of someone.
I found myself wishing that Molly would occasionally use some sense, as my grandmother would have said, but her behavior was always in keeping with who she was. And the perceptions that others had of her were not all that different in some respects from her self image. One of the things I liked about the book was the structure of the narrative. I especially enjoyed how the diary entries from Molly only took place at Agate Hill, although we did benefit from her point of view in the letters that she wrote to her friend.
Really an amazing book that held my attention and also taught me a little bit about how things were in south back in the day. I picked this up as a kindle bargain, but I imagine they will make more money off me soon, as I pick up the Lee Smith backlist on Kindle!
Great book, enjoyed the read!