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During the Reign of the Queen of Persia (1983)

by Joan Chase

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256675,611 (3.64)31
Joan Chase's subtle story of three generations of women negotiating lifetimes of ojoy and ruino deserves its place alongside such achievements as Marilynne Robinson's Housekeepingand Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. The Queen of Persia is in fact Gram, who presides over an Ohio farmhouse teeming with daughters, granddaughters, and the occasional son-in-law. For the youngest generation, the four girls who together narrate the novel, the farm is a kind of Eden, at once life-giving and the locus of terrible discoveries about desire and loss. The girls bicker and scrap, whisper secrets at bedtime, and above all watch as their mothers draft templates of womanhood that they will come to either reject or embrace. Ingeniously orchestrated in overlapping, thematic narratives, the story of Gram, her five daughters, and her grandchildren reveals itself through the accumulation of emotional truths, reaching its heights in the decline of Grace, whose eventual death from cancer is a loss felt throughout the book. Set in the 1950s and '60s, During the Reign of the Queen of Persiais deeply rooted in its particular time and place, as the local, rural, and hardscrabble world the girls are born into remakes itself into a materially rich suburb, indistinguishable from so many others.… (more)

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» See also 31 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Set in a small town in Ohio in the 1950's, this is the story of a family of women: a mother, her five daughters, and the four granddaughters who collectively act as narrators of the book. Lil, the grandmother married a cold-hearted, often cruel man and life was hard; however, she was able to inherit or somehow gain money from a brother. She was shrewd and hard-working, but there was not a sentimental bone in her body - life was "what it was". The novel is really a look at family relationships rather than being plot driven. Each chapter highlights some aspect of either Lil or one of the daughters. The chapter that portrays Lil's husband is the most effective.

The narrator is confusing as it is supposed told from the viewpoint of all four granddaughters who are cousins; two being the daughters of Grace, who dies of cancer surrounded by her sisters, Rachel, May, Eleanor, and Libby. At times the sisters are unbelievably cruel and nasty to each other; yet love and loyalty always win. They all seem to have terrible taste in men as all the men in the book are weak.

I gave this only a three due to the confusing narrator. At times, I wasn't really sure who was speaking. And, some of the situations just did not seem to fit the 1950's small town; while others were right on. Not sure why this is considered a "classic" other than the fact that it might be a good study in female family relationships. ( )
  maryreinert | Sep 5, 2020 |
A pretty slow-moving character study. I enjoyed it at first for the descriptive writing, but then it just got slow. ( )
  beautifulshell | Aug 27, 2020 |
The "Queen of Persia" is Lil/Gran, the matriarch of an Ohio farm family in the mid 1900s. Gran had 5 daughters and 4 of her granddaughters spend their summers and some years at the farm. The five daughters also keep coming back to the family home, when fallen on hard times financially, after divorces, when ill, or just to visit. They are all drawn back repeatedly. One of the first generation of sisters, Grace, gets breast cancer and her illness and death is central to the book. She is mother to two of the four girls growing up in the home. But outside the spectre of death, we also see the four girls growing up. Their experiences are related in a disjointed manner, but a complete picture of girlhood emerges nonetheless.

One of the interesting things for me was the narration of the book. It's a first person narration, but from the point of view of all four girls as a collective, so the dominant pronoun is "we". All of the older generation of daughters are referred to as "Aunt so and so", even though some of these Aunts are mother to some of the narrators. I was confused at first, but came to really like it. It's an interesting way of describing identity, and I can't really recall another book that has used this same technique. I guess sort of like a greek chorus, but they weren't commentating on events, they were living them.

This won't be for everyone - it's a bit quirky and a bit depressing - but I quite liked it. ( )
  japaul22 | Apr 2, 2019 |
This was, yes, fabulous, as I was told it would be—thanks to all my good reading friends for that recommendation. I love a book where the writing is so strong it bleeds over into the day-to-day personal narrative in your head and makes it that much more vibrant and beautiful, and this book did just that. Really, really lovely. Beautiful images of the natural world and great, spiky, complex characterizations of the people. ( )
1 vote lisapeet | Feb 21, 2019 |
I found both the story and the writing disjointed. Even the good plot ciouldn't save it. ( )
  cacky | May 9, 2014 |
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In northern Ohio there is a county of some hundred thousand arable acres which breaks with the lake region flatland and begins to roll and climb, and to change into rural settings: roadside clusters of houses, small settlements that repose on the edge of nowhere, single lane bridges, backwater country stores with a single rusting gas pump, barns advertising Mail Pouch in frayed and faded postings.
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Joan Chase's subtle story of three generations of women negotiating lifetimes of ojoy and ruino deserves its place alongside such achievements as Marilynne Robinson's Housekeepingand Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine. The Queen of Persia is in fact Gram, who presides over an Ohio farmhouse teeming with daughters, granddaughters, and the occasional son-in-law. For the youngest generation, the four girls who together narrate the novel, the farm is a kind of Eden, at once life-giving and the locus of terrible discoveries about desire and loss. The girls bicker and scrap, whisper secrets at bedtime, and above all watch as their mothers draft templates of womanhood that they will come to either reject or embrace. Ingeniously orchestrated in overlapping, thematic narratives, the story of Gram, her five daughters, and her grandchildren reveals itself through the accumulation of emotional truths, reaching its heights in the decline of Grace, whose eventual death from cancer is a loss felt throughout the book. Set in the 1950s and '60s, During the Reign of the Queen of Persiais deeply rooted in its particular time and place, as the local, rural, and hardscrabble world the girls are born into remakes itself into a materially rich suburb, indistinguishable from so many others.

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