- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: New Directions; New edition edition (8 May 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0811216551
- ISBN-13: 978-0811216555
- Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.3 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,822,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Member of the Wedding: The Play (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – 8 May 2006
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About the Author
One of America's most unforgettable literary figures, Carson McCullers (1917-1967) wrote with strength and compassion about life's outcasts, their need to belong and their often isolated and anguished lives in such novels as The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe; and her plays, The Member of the Wedding and The Square Root of Wonderful.
Top customer reviews
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Frankie has a wild imagination, deep feelings and a strong but dreamy intelligence. Her older brother is about to get married and she fixes upon the idea that he and his wife will take her with them on their honeymoon.
With faultless depth of understanding and insight, Carson McCullers allows her readers to see what it is like to be twelve years old, on the brink of being someone different, but unable to understand how such a thing can come about. Frankie doesn't understand how the world works, but Bernice who has been married three times, does, and she tries to impart what wisdom she can to the girl placed in her charge. Frankie is wilful, obstinate and heart-breakingly naïve and some of the situations she places herself in would give a modern parent palpitations.
This is quite a short novel, but entrancingly beautiful, with prose that haunts like poetry. It is a masterpiece, bringing a time, a place and a culture blazingly, brilliantly to life.
Although, initially, this slim novel may appear to be a typical coming-of-age story, it is actually so much more than that. With themes of unity and division, acceptance and rejection, inclusion, exclusion and racial prejudice, Carson McCullers' story may be a brief one - and, due to its brevity, these themes are not discussed in any great depth - but it's a story with a remarkable resonance. The characters are well-depicted: Frankie, on the verge of emotional and sexual awakening, with her naivety and her yearning for acceptance; Berenice (who first married at the age of thirteen and has since had three husbands, the last of whom went crazy and gouged out one of her eyes) is a marvellous creation and whose hard-won wisdom and straight-talking personality works as a perfect foil for Frankie; and not forgetting Frankie's small cousin, the unusual and very appealing John Henry, whose presence is very essential to the story. Wise, funny and particularly poignant, this novel (which, I feel, is best read in one sitting) will be returned to one of my bookcases to experience again in the future - and although I have only heard an excerpt, the audio download version, ably narrated by Susan Sarandon is one that I might just have to add to my collection.
In Part 1, news that Frankie's older brother Jarvis is to marry provides Frankie with a new focus. After seeing Jarvis with his fiancée Janice, she decides to become a member of the wedding, and thinks: `They are the we of me.' She can think of little else other than her plan to be with them after the wedding: leaving the past behind.
It's the day before the wedding, and Part 2, begins with Frankie walking around town on her way to buy a new dress. She has adopted a new name: F. Jasmine Addams and meets a number of different people on her journey, including an organ grinder and his monkey, and a soldier who treats her as though she is older, and asks her to meet him later to go dancing. Frankie (or F. Jasmine) learns about Berenice's life, and later experiences fear when she meets up with the soldier.
On the day of the wedding, at the beginning of Part 3, Frankie is now Frances. The wedding takes place, events do not develop as Frankie (or Frances) wished, and she is humiliated. Frances decides to leave home. She writes a note for her father takes his pistol and wallet, and her suitcase and leaves the house. Not knowing where else to go, she goes to the Blue Moon Café where, soon after, the sheriff finds her and takes her home.
`Frances was never once to speak about the wedding.'
This statement marks the beginning of novel's conclusion. It is now three months after the wedding and Frances has turned thirteen. She has a new friend: Mary Littlejohn, and her life has changed in other ways as well. Not all of the changes are positive, but Frances is overjoyed to have a new girlfriend. Life continues, and for Frances, at least, there is something to look forward to.
I enjoyed this novel and admired the way in which Ms McCullers brought Frankie and her fears to life. In fewer than 170 pages, Ms McCullers has encapsulated the nature of adolescence for so many: that painful and uncomfortable sense of not belonging and of having no place. As Frankie evolves, becomes F. Jasmine and then Frances, searching for her own sense of self, older readers will recognise the pain of past transition while younger readers, perhaps, are still experiencing it. Frankie is the central character in this novel, but hers is not the only life being lived and Berenice and John Henry are also finely drawn.
I've not previously read any of Ms McCullers work, and read this novel as part of a reading group. I'll be looking to read other books as the opportunity arises.
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Most recent customer reviews
A short novel, set in the American South in the last Century, portraying a young girls self discovery.