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Southern Discomfort by Rita Mae Brown
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Southern Discomfort (1982)

by Rita Mae Brown

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The socioeconomic extremes of Montgomery, Alabama, between 1918 and 1929 are represented in Southern Discomfort by such women as Banana Mae, Blue Rhonda, and Hortensia Banastre. Blue Rhonda and Banana Mae rent their bodies, in exchange for financial security, as independent entrepreneurs; Hortensia barters her sexual favors as Mrs. Carwyn Banastre. The difference is perhaps only one of degree, but on such subtle distinctions entire social systems are created.

Banana Mae and Blue Rhonda are prostitutes, and thus beneath contempt. They nevertheless lead lives based on honesty and loyalty, but Hortensia must regularly depend on duplicity and hypocrisy. Banana Mae and Blue Rhonda may be purchased for a time by all and sundry. Hortensia is another piece of property to be publicly exhibited alongside Carwyn Banastre’s sons and his matched chestnut horses.

The Banastre marriage is a polite fiction that owes its continuation to habit and the need to preserve appearances. Their union stands in contrast to that of Placide and Ada Jinks. Hortensia and Carwyn Banastre symbolize the process of marital decay; Placide and Ada exemplify the more sublime aspects of the matrimonial continuum. Placide and Ada are respectful of themselves and each other. Hortensia and Carwyn pursue parallel disinterested lives. The Banastres are admired because they are rich and white, but the Jinks are simply prosperous and African American.

Under normal circumstances, the lives of the Banastres and the Jinkses would not intersect in anything other than a cursory way. Hortensia, however, having lived into her middle years largely bereft of affection, even toward her sons, unexpectedly discovers Hercules Jinks. Hercules dies shortly thereafter in a freak accident, but the union across the color barrier produces a child. The child’s parental composition threatens the social order.

Edward and Paris Banastre are the biological consequences of a loveless marriage, and both are a disappointment to their parents. Paris is particularly disappointing. Catherine Jinks-Banastre, on the other hand, is the Southern discomfort of the title. She stands between two worlds and represents the hope of a better South.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
could be 'discomfor'-able for some to read, but I enjoyed it ( )
  cskerr13 | Jun 27, 2009 |
Another of Rita Mae's best. A wonderfully surprising ending. ( )
  willowcove | Feb 19, 2009 |
I really enjoyed this book. I like how the characters learn to get along and have real relationships while pretending to preserve the social order. I liked that the characters were not perfect, but they tried to live lives that meant something to themselves.
  sussabmax | Jul 12, 2007 |
Rita Mae Brown wonderful style got me hooked on her books. It's been twenty years since I read this and I won't venture to write a full review. I do know, however, that I have immensely enjoyed all her book and recommend them to all. ( )
  latinobookgeek | Mar 22, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553274465, Paperback)

Only Rita Mae Brown, author of Rubyfruit Jungle, could have written a novel as passionately delightful as Southern Discomfort.  Here is a witty, warm and pentrating tale of two decades in Montgomery Alabama--a world where all is not what it seems.  Meet Hortensia Reedmuller Banastre, a beautiful woman entrenched on old money, white magnolia and a loveless marriage--until she meets an utterly gorgeous young prizefighter.  Amid such memorable characters as Banana Mae Parker and Blue Rhonda Latrec (two first-class whores) and Reverend Linton Ray (who wears his clerical collar too tightly for anyone's good), Hortensia struggles to survive the hurricane of emotions caused by her scandalous love.  How she ultimately triumphs is a touching and beautiful human drama--an intense and exuberant affair of the heart.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:02 -0400)

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