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The people of Mount Salus, Mississippi always felt good about Judge McKelva. He was a quiet, solid reassuring figure, just as a judge should be. Then, ten years after his first wife's death, he marries the frivolous young Wanda Fay. No-one can understand his action, not least his beloved daughter, Laurel, who finds it hard to accept the new bride. It is only some years later, when circumstance brings her back to her childhood home, that Laurel stirs old memories and comes to understand the peculiarities of her upbringing, and the true relationship between her parents and herself. The Optimist's Daughter is a reflective, poignant novel of independence and love, for which Eudora Welty, one of America's gretest contemporary Southern writers, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780860683759
ISBN-10: 0860683753
Format: Paperback
(171mm x 200mm x 12mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 18-Oct-1984
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » Those who didn't enjoy the topsyturvy eccentricity of Losing Battles will be happy to find Miss Welty back in the changeless countryside of her earlier short novels where memory is the eternal revenant keeping alive places and people often in the mortmain of the past. Thus Laurel returns home, after the death of her mother, after her father has remarried the common Wanda Fay, as he lies in a hospital bed following some eye surgery. But somehow he just "sneaks out on them" or was he hurried along by Fay, just as she shifts his mortal remains from the camellia gravesite in the old cemetery to newer ground with plastic poinsettias? Alone for a few days in the large house of her childhood in Mount Salus, Mississippi, Laurel is submerged in memories of her own shortlived marriage as well as that of her parents, always serene until her mother's long illness with its prophetic fear of betrayal; such a betrayal as Wanda Fay whose encroachment was, after all, only physical - leaving behind a crumpled unmade bed or the drops of red nail polish on the mahogany desk. But then Laurel will learn "What burdens we lay on the dying. . . seeking to prove some little thing that we can keep to comfort us when they can no longer feel - something as incapable of being kept as of being proved: the lastingness of memory, vigilance against harm, self-reliance, good hope, trust in one another." Still at the end these abide. So too will Miss Welty's novel, perfectly poised between art and the experience she replicates and reconciles at the same time. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty was born in 1908 in Jackson, Mississippi which is where she still makes her home. One of America's most distinguished writers, she has published five novels and as many volumes of short stories. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1973.

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