I first read this book over 30 years ago [I can't believe its been that long]. I recently rebought a lot of Rita Mae Brown's books here on Amazon and I'm working my way through them, and enjoying them all again immensely.
Southern Discomfort can be dismissed as 'light' and 'comedy fiction', both of which it undoubtedly is. However, like most of her early works, there is a deeper and more bruised layer in this work. The characters range from upper class prostitutes with fantastical names [Banana Mae Parker, Blue Rhonda Lautrec] to upper class townsfolk with fantastical names [Hortensia Reedmuller Banastre anybody!] in between these 2 layers of female society in small town Alabama, in a time where being black means being less than human still, a variety of characters take us on a journey through 20 years or so of life in Montgomery, and what a whirlygig of a ride it is. From one of the town's leading society [white] ladies having an affair with an underage black man, which causes no end of ructions in the town, to the good Reverend Linton trying to reform the 'girls' and dry out the men... it is quite simply a tour de force of character writing. The laughs are here a plenty [the witticisms of Blue Rhonda and Banana Mae alone will keep you laughing] but underneath it all is the sore sadness of the human search for love and affection. The setting, both in terms of time and of place, makes this search all the more poignant. Racism is rife, sexism is rife [ageism too] and it is a struggle that carries the reader on and in.
This is probably not her most accessible of the earlier books, but it is a joy, and a modern masterpiece, so well and so finely balanced, the reader won't know which way the story will fall in the end. I loved this book all those years ago, and I have re-found my love for this book now. This copy, I'll be keeping hold of.