Review and Giveaway: The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin

Title: The Queen of Palmyra

Author: Minrose Gwin

Genre/Pages: Fiction/416

Publication: Harper Perennial; April 27, 2010

Rating: 4 Bookmarks

Source: Review copy courtesy of Harper Perennial

Nat’s 1-Sentence Synopsis: Set in 1963 deep in the heart of the South, The Queen of Palmyra is the story of a young girl who bears witness to segregation, racial and class divisions, and the human suffering associated with all three.

Written in almost ethereal prose, Minrose Gwin has a masterful command of language and I savored every word of The Queen of Palmyra.  The story isn’t an easy one to tell–Gwin shines an unforgiving light on the harsh reality of Southern life in the early 60s–but does so through the eyes young, innocent Florence Forrest.

Florence’s youth and naivete serve to delineate her from the intolerant people around her; she is baffled by the brutality and doesn’t try to justify it.  Whereas an adult narrator might try to qualify some of his actions (or inaction), I forgave Florence for her minor transgressions because she didn’t know any better.

This novel isn’t always a pleasant read and deals with difficult subject matter but is so riveting that I found myself re-reading several passages.   The characterization is so vivid that I often forgot that this was a work of fiction.

Though I didn’t live through the 1960s–I wasn’t born until 1974–my parents had a Time Life book of collected photographs from the magazine’s history.  My sister and I would often flip through the pages while our dad tried to explain photographs like these…

1963, Birmingham, AL photo cred. Charles Moore
1963, Birmingham, AL photo cred. Charles Moore
1963, Birmingham, AL photo cred. Charles Moore

How do you explain to a child that yes, those are officers of the law turning hoses or dogs on people because of the color of their skin?

I would highly recommend The Queen of Palmyra.  Reviews of this novel have drawn parallels between it and other best-selling novels that deal with similar themes or that feature young, female narrators. I found it grittier than The Help and The Secret Life of Bees and a shade bleaker than To Kill a Mockingbird.

To win a copy of The Queen of Palmyra, simply leave a comment by 9pm EST Friday, April 30th.  Two winners will be selected at random and international friends are more than welcome to participate. Good luck!

27 Comments

  • At 2010.04.27 21:48, Lisa said:

    No need to enter me–I’ve got the book. But, oh my, I can’t wait to get to it now! I remember seeing these things on t.v. when I was growing up and not understanding at all.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog .."The Singer’s Gun" by Emily St. John Mandel =-.

    • At 2010.04.27 21:51, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      Wow, you’ve made me anxious to read the book and old all in one post! I graduated from high school in 1975, so I do remember some of the 60’s. No need to enter me.

      • At 2010.04.27 22:01, Ti said:

        Glad you enjoyed it. I agree with the grittier comment. It is much grittier than The Help. The images that Gwin painted stayed with me long after finishing the book.

        No need to enter me (obviously). Hehe.
        .-= Ti´s last blog ..Everybody Loves a Festival: L.A. Times Festival of Books 2010 Recap =-.

        • At 2010.04.28 07:51, Care said:

          Enter me!!! Thank you. 🙂
          .-= Care´s last blog ..Weekly Geeks 14 – Reading Globally =-.

          • At 2010.04.28 09:34, Unapologetically Mundane said:

            Your tags cause me way too much delight. I hope you get 100 hits from people searching “giveaway copy of the queen of palmyra”.

            I want to win this and to be handed it at a Yankees game!
            .-= Unapologetically Mundane´s last blog ..Karaoke Chatroulette =-.

            • At 2010.04.28 10:02, Courtney said:

              Enter Me Please…sounds fantastic!

              Thanks,
              Courtney
              stilettostorytime(at)gmail(dot)com
              .-= Courtney´s last blog ..The Importance of Characters of Truth =-.

              • At 2010.04.28 10:06, Michelle said:

                I so want to read this!! Please consider me entered!

                • At 2010.04.28 10:10, nomadreader (Carrie) said:

                  I’ve heard great things about this one, and I’d love to win. Thanks
                  .-= nomadreader (Carrie)´s last blog ..book review: Love in Infant Monkeys by Lydia Millet =-.

                  • At 2010.04.28 10:11, Sarah said:

                    This books sounds really riveting and I would love to read it. Please enter me in the contest!

                    • At 2010.04.28 10:28, Anne Cater said:

                      I’d really love to read this, please could I enter if the UK is included.
                      Thanks!

                      • At 2010.04.28 11:19, Meg said:

                        Having finished (and loved) The Help recently, this definitely sounds like something I could sink my teeth into. Not an uplifting read all the time, I’m sure, but sounds very moving.

                        I’d love to be entered to win a copy; thanks Nat! 🙂
                        .-= Meg´s last blog ..Book review: ‘Get Lucky’ by Katherine Center =-.

                        • At 2010.04.28 11:48, Kristen said:

                          I have been on the fence about this one for a while but your review has reassured me. Seems like race and the conflicts swirling around it both in the recent past and in the present might be the newest publishing trend.
                          .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Review: A Rather Lovely Inheritance by C.A. Belmond =-.

                          • At 2010.04.28 12:16, Nancy said:

                            I have not read The Help, but The Secret Life of Bees and To Kill a Mockingbird are two of my favorites. So I would love to win this book!

                            I always enjoy reading your blog!

                            • At 2010.04.28 14:41, Hannah Stoneham said:

                              Sounds like a striking read, thanks for sharing

                              I would love to enter the contest – thank you

                              Hannah

                              • At 2010.04.28 17:48, Rachel said:

                                I would love to win this book. I’m just starting The Help, and am totally sucked in by the story. This sounds like a great read. Please enter me!!
                                .-= Rachel´s last blog ..The Swiss Army 10…or 20 =-.

                                • At 2010.04.28 17:51, Kathleen said:

                                  I’d love the opportunity to win this one!
                                  .-= Kathleen´s last blog ..Read the Book AND See the Movie =-.

                                  • At 2010.04.29 01:17, Jessica said:

                                    This sounds so good! The reviews have all been fantastic. Thank you!!

                                    • At 2010.04.29 08:13, Mystica said:

                                      I’d dearly love to win this book which sounds absolutely riveting.

                                      • At 2010.04.29 08:47, Dishy said:

                                        This reminds me of a book I’m currently reading, America’s Kitchens. I’ve just gotten to the post-war section. Along w/ describing the new 50s “dream” kitchens, they make mention of the first black family moving to Levittown, PA. I cannot imagine what that must have been like – having reporters, neighbors, protesters all camped out on my lawn, while I just wanted to get on w/ my better life. Those first “pioneers” must have been mighty strong.
                                        .-= Dishy´s last blog ..Oh, Bag Balm! =-.

                                        • At 2010.04.29 09:02, Kerry said:

                                          Great review! I would love a chance to win.
                                          .-= Kerry´s last blog ..Bacon beat iPad in Unofficial Polls =-.

                                          • At 2010.04.29 13:14, Connie said:

                                            you don’t call, you don’t write…the very least you can do is send me this book! LOL! I have read the others you mentioned and would very much like to read this one.
                                            .-= Connie´s last blog ..Are You Late for Work? =-.

                                            • At 2010.04.29 18:05, Lisa said:

                                              Enter me! Between you review and Ti’s I really want to read this one!
                                              .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Pretty in Ink by Karen E Olson =-.

                                              • At 2010.04.29 20:40, Sharon Walling said:

                                                WOW!! This book sounds very interesting. I definitely would love a chance to win this book.

                                                Thanks for the chance.

                                                PS:

                                                Where in NJ? I’m originally from NJ

                                                • At 2010.04.30 10:00, sammy25 said:

                                                  Hey gurl hey! I’m dying to read The Help….it has been out of our library for weeks!!! Since you mentioned The Help I’m definately going to have to read The Queen of Palmyra too! I hope you’ll enter me into your contest please and thank you! Big plans for the weekend?
                                                  .-= sammy25´s last blog ..Love It! =-.

                                                  • At 2010.04.30 19:06, Southern Cousin said:

                                                    You have piqued my interest! I loved The Help, one of my faves of all time. Have tried both my local and county library for The Queen, and neither has a copy. Not entering contest, though, seems like nepotism!! — Will try Amazon! Smooches ~ K.

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                                                      • At 2010.06.26 15:49, Esme said:

                                                        Please enter me for this one.

                                                        thank you
                                                        .-= Esme´s last blog ..Summertime =-.

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