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September 17, 2006

The Optimist's Daughter



The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
Classic Literature
Finished 9/13/06
Rating: C (3/10 Ho-hum)



Publisher Description:

The Optimist’s Daughter is the story of Laurel McKelva Hand, a young woman who has left the South and returns, years later, to New Orleans, where her father is dying. After his death, she and her silly young stepmother go back still farther, to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past, herself, and her parents.

“The best book Eudora Welty has ever written.” - The New York Times Book Review

It seems a bit sacrilegious for me to give such a low rating to an esteemed author. (And to a Pulitzer Prize winning book, to boot!) But unfortunately, The Optimist’s Daughter didn’t do a thing for me. I didn’t find Welty’s prose lyrical or evocative. The plot, such that it was, was dull and unremarkable. I found it difficult to care about any of the main characters and the supporting cast failed to come to life, forcing me to flip back and forth in an attempt to refresh my memory as to who was who.

On a positive note, I didn’t hate the novel and would like to give Ms. Welty another chance. (Pretty big of me, eh?) I have a lovely copy of The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty and should think that out of 41 stories, I might come across one or two that will leave me with a better appreciation of this author’s works.

11 comments:

  1. I hear wonderful things about Eudora Welty, but I've yet to pick up one of her novels. I would think with being a Pulitzer Prize it would be more enjoyable. Normally, I find Pulitzer Prize winners to be incredible. Thanks for this review; I value your opinion.

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  2. Anonymous6:46 PM

    And I just quit Delta Wedding. At first there was warmth and humor, and then I felt like it starting getting darker, in that Southern Gothic kind of way, and I just didn't want to read it.
    Nan

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  3. I so love your reviews, Les, you always tell it as you see it! Wishing you better luck with Eudora Welty's short stories. Will be looking for a review.

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  4. Bellezza - I, too, find Pulitzer Prize winners to be quite enjoyable (whereas a lot of other award winners aren't usually my cuppa tea), so I was surprised this one didn't entertain me as I'd expected.

    Nan - I think I'll skip Delta Wedding, as I trust your judgment. Funny that you say it started with warmth and humor, but started getting darker. I thought the same of The Optimist's Daughter, at least the part about it beginning with warmth and humor. But then it just got dull and annoying.

    Lotus - You are so sweet! It may be quite some time before I get to the short stories, but this blog isn't going anywhere, so you can be sure you'll read my view on them once I decide to tackle them. I'm not a big fan of short stories, but I hear Welty is one of the best.

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  5. Yikes! You're not enjoying those classics very much, are you? I was also not carried away by Welty's style but plan to give her another chance, eventually. I have a copy of The Optimist's Daughter. Figures. :) It'll be interesting to compare thoughts when I get around to reading it (probably not right away).

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  6. I read Welty's The Ponder Heart earlier this year and loved it. In my opinion, it was very funny with loads of quirky characters. Her sense of humor appealed to me. Haven't read anything else by her, though.

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  7. Les, I'm back! I've tagged you for a book meme, I hope you will play!

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  8. Nancy - Yes, please read this book and share your thoughts with me! I'd love to get another view on this award winner. But as far as the classics go, it's pretty much evenly divided. I've started Brave New World and am anxious to get back to it tonight. It's certainly grabbed my attention.

    Ex Libris - Humor is good! I'll have to look for The Ponder Heart. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  9. Yeah, I started this book on my recent trip to Atlanta but it just didn't grab me and I ended up putting it away after a few pages. Judging from your reaction, I'll probably be moving this far down my 'to read' list.

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  10. I've never been able to warm up to Eudora Welty's work, --I've only read the short stories, never a novel by her -- and I've always felt slightly ashamed for that. Thanks, Les, for being brave and showing me I'm not the only one. I have never read "The Optimist's Daughter" and would try it before I gave up on her completely.

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  11. Lesley - If you ever get back to this book, I'll be curious to hear your final opinion.

    Bybee - Are you saying you haven't been able to warm up to even her short stories? I'm hoping to find a gem or two so I'm not left completely disappointed with her as an author. Since I'm not a big fan of short stories, I may devote on afternoon a week reading just one. In the past I've tried to read a collection from cover to cover and they tend to blend together. Maybe they will be more memorable if I spread them out over time.

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