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The Fiery Pantheon : A Novel Hardcover – March 1, 1998
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The pantheon in question in Nancy Lemann's third novel, The Fiery Pantheon, is a private hall of fame constructed in the heart of protagonist Grace Stewart, a young woman living in New Orleans. As a gentleman's daughter growing up in the South, Grace's world-view has been shaped by southern ideals of honor--ideals embodied in the men whom Grace has placed in her pantheon: her father, her grandfather, and her fiancé, Monroe Collier. What qualifies all of these men is their devotion to tradition, to family, and to the South, and in cleaving to them, Grace seems set on a path that will keep her comfortably within the physical and emotional geography she has always known.
Enter Walter, whom Grace regards as "a crazed individual." He, too, is from New Orleans, but he is very different from the men Grace idolizes: for one thing, he's left the South to go to Manhattan, where he works as a highly sought-after stock analyst; for another, he's just slightly unbalanced, and--worst of all--rather than looking to the Glorious Past for his inspiration, he prefers Ian Fleming's fictional hero, James Bond. He's hardly a suitable candidate for Grace's pantheon, but this doesn't stop Walter from attempting to get in anyway. Traveling from New Orleans to Virginia to New York to Istanbul and back, The Fiery Pantheon follows the twists and turns of Walter's loopy pursuit and Grace's evolving definition of honor in a tale that is poignant, humorous, and compassionate.
From Library Journal
The richly passionate South of the past lives on in this sometimes turbulent, always elegant novel. Lemann (Lives of the Saints, LJ 6/15/85) portrays the Stewarts, a family deeply entrenched in Southern tradition, New Orleans society, and world-weary travel. Grace, the youngest daughter, is self-effacing and virtuous, torn between honor and passion. Her ideals and heroes reside in a self-styled "fiery pantheon" to which the crazed young Wall Street analyst Walter desperately wishes to be initiated. In the meantime, Grace and Walter tour the world with her parents and other assorted elderly relatives. Lemann's poetic description of aristocratic society and the allure of New Orleans offers a pleasant trip for any reader. Recommended for general fiction collections, especially those specializing in Southern fiction.?Shannon Haddock, Bellsouth Corporate Lib. & Business Research Ctr., Birmingham, Ala.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Grace Stewart has always idealized Southern honor and gentility, and the "lost South" as personified by her fiancee Monroe Collier. But while vacationing at a Virginia resort, she encounters Walter -- a jaded, eccentric New Orleanian who is on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He's very different from the men she idealizes (her "fiery pantheon"), but Grace finds herself interested anyway.
And even when Walter returns to New York, he finds himself longing after the elusive Grace and her eccentric ideas. Soon he joins her in her travels across Europe and the Middle East, hoping to win her heart. But will Grace fall back on the familiar -- boring Monroe and the lifestyle she's in love with -- or will she follow her own eccentric heart?
"The Fiery Pantheon" is the third novel Nancy Lemann has written about "crazed youth" from the South, and she hasn't lost her touch. The main downside is that the romance between Grace and Walter has more quirk than chemistry, and it's never quite clear why she likes him as much as she does.
But the book itself is a charming parade of weird characters, who are usually drunk, depressed or just peculiar. Lemann has a knack with poetic prose ("The world was warm with liquor") that evokes lazy days, tropical climes and ornate houses. And the odd rambling dialogue fits the slightly odd characters, whether they're psychoanalyzing or groaning about atom bombs.
Lemann also plays a small trick on readers with her leads: As the book starts, Grace seems like the more normal character, but we soon see that she's playing a part. And Walter, who seemed kind of unstable, is actually the more normal of the two. But they are both "crazed youth," which basically means that they are both ragingly eccentric.
New Orleans gets carried around the world in "The Fiery Pantheon," the oddest little romance you will read for a long time. Charming and honorable.