Saturday, August 30, 2014

Review: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets 

When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets. 

For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places. 

For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Help, Dollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time. 

By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts.



Received for review.

While I'm not normally into fiction set in the South this had an interesting premise that  promised to be quite entertaining.

As I got deeper into the book I found myself disliking the characters more and more.  Izzy and Dollbaby were whiny and annoying while Queenie was a bully.  The only interesting character was Fannie who, of course, was mentally ill.

This was also incredibly difficult to read since Queenie and Izzy and every other black character simply refused to speak real English.  It was seriously as bad as listening to Scarlett's maid in Gone With the Wind and her constant exclamations of "Lawdy, Miss Scarlett!".  The complete lack of any sort of grammar was distracting enough to detract from any tiny bit of enjoyment I had while reading.

The story itself was interesting and, I suppose, thought provoking for those who are still fighting the Civil War.  Granted, it was set in the 1960s so the characters were quite stereotyped, but I just wasn't impressed, especially since the author constantly harped on the whole "white people are rich and unstable while black people are poor but actually better morally" theme.

Overall the story was interesting but the characters just ruined it for me.  However, if you're a fan of Southern fiction with a similar theme, such as The Help, then you will probably enjoy this as well.

★★☆☆☆ = Just Okay


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