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Review: The Queen of Palmyra

July 1, 2010

After a year of wandering with her family, Florence Forrest is growing up in segregated Millwood, Mississippi in the early 1960’s.  Her father sells burial insurance and her alcoholic mother is the town’s “cake lady”.   Florence’s mother comes from an educated, enlightened background and her father is a member of the Klan, so their relationship is troubled.

Because of her parents’ problems and the tense atmosphere at home, Florence spends most of her time with her grandmother’s maid, Zenie.  Spending so much time at Zenie’s home exposes Florence to the treatment of African American people and she sees racism first hand.  She doesn’t understand much of what she sees, so she really doesn’t question it,  until years later when she reflects back on her childhood.

The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin is exactly the kind of book I love – it’s set in the South and tackles an issue – so I was really excited to read it.  I’m sad to say it didn’t live up to my expectations.  I’m not sure if that’s a reflection of the book or a reflection of my expectations being set too high.

I think the biggest problem I had with this book is that I found the story to be so slow – the pace wasn’t quite fast enough for me.  I also wanted a little more background – why did Florence’s parents get married in the first place and why had her family been “on the lam” for a year?  I know that some of my questions weren’t answered because the story was told from a child’s perspective, but not having that background took away from the story for me.  I also felt a sense of disconnect from Florence – I wanted to get to know her better.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy The Queen of Palmyra, but that’s not the case at all, I just didn’t love it like I thought I would.   The book is well written and tells a great story, but overall, I found it to be good, but not great.  A lot of other readers have loved it, though.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

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46 Comments leave one →
  1. July 1, 2010 5:27 am

    This reminds me that I need to read more southern fiction! I’m going to read BLOODROOT by Amy Greene soon, I think. Have you heard of it?

  2. July 1, 2010 5:44 am

    I felt the same after reading this one. I felt that it lacked something.

  3. drbethnolan permalink
    July 1, 2010 6:31 am

    Would you recommend this for a YA read? I’m always looking for good books for our school (K-8) library (it needs to not have sexually explicit material). Thanks! -Beth 🙂

  4. July 1, 2010 6:57 am

    sorry this one wasn’t that great. I don’t plan on reading this one.

  5. July 1, 2010 7:37 am

    Enjoyed your review and find it very helpful. I hadn’t heard of this book before. I know now not to set my expectations too high if I read it. Thanks.

    Thoughts in Progress

  6. July 1, 2010 8:07 am

    I totally agree with you. I liked, but didn’t love, this book. There were so many unanswered questions, I think the book would have been better served with a different narrator.

  7. July 1, 2010 9:07 am

    I, too, like books which tackle an issue. The part of this book that will always stick with me is the characterization. The author did a masterful job of creating her characters; for me, Foster will live in infamy, and Zenie in glory. I loved her. And, I felt such compassion for Florence.

  8. July 1, 2010 9:33 am

    Sounds like some key background info was left out. It’s always disappointing when a book doesn’t meet your expectations.

  9. July 1, 2010 9:40 am

    I have this book around here somewhere and plan to read it perhaps later this year. I wanted to put some distance between my reading of some other Southern books that could possibly make me set the bar too high – THE HELP and SAVING CEECEE HUNNICUTT. I loved both of those. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kathy.

  10. July 1, 2010 9:54 am

    It’s hard when you have high expectations. When I add a book to my wish list I try to keep it there a bit so I forget all the glowing things that made me put it there in the first place.

  11. July 1, 2010 10:06 am

    You sure have read a lot of books set in the south! Sorry this one wasn’t as good as you hoped!

  12. July 1, 2010 10:44 am

    Thanks for sharing such an honest review Kathy. I kind of felt the same way after reading Sarah’s Key…although many loved it something was just missing for me. I might have to try this one though, because I find that if I enjoy the writing I will probably like the book.

  13. July 1, 2010 10:49 am

    I understand your disappointment. Sometimes a book seems to offer the perfect story for us to spend hours with. And then it leaves us dangling.

  14. July 1, 2010 11:12 am

    I have heard others express opinions similar to yours about this book and think that it does sound a bit as if it’s potential wasn’t realized. I almost picked up a copy the last time I was at the bookstore, but I put it down at the last minute. I still might like to read it, it’s just not as high a priority. Great and honest review, Kathy!

  15. July 1, 2010 11:50 am

    I have been looking forward to the Queen of Palmyra. It is upsetting when some answers to our questions go unanswered in a book. Great review.

  16. July 1, 2010 11:51 am

    I’ve read where it didn’t live up to others expectations as well. I was kinda wanting to read it, because like you, it sounds like the kind of book I would normally love, but now I’m not so sure. I may have to give this one a miss.

  17. July 1, 2010 12:17 pm

    I’ve read a few reviews on this book and many of those reviews were negative. I think most people had the same reaction as you where it didn’t live up to their expectations. I was really looking forward to reading this book, but after seeing all those reviews I think I may have to skip this one.

  18. July 1, 2010 12:47 pm

    I have been hearing about this one all over. I think you have convinced me that I needssss it.

  19. July 1, 2010 1:24 pm

    I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up. That being said, when you first started talking about her parents, I was wondering why they got married in the first place. It sounds like too much background is missing.

  20. July 1, 2010 1:35 pm

    I think some of the questions you had would be the same ones I would ask. I think I’ll pass on this novel for now…though I do love a good southern fiction.

  21. July 1, 2010 2:31 pm

    I felt the same way about this one. So close but just not quite there.

  22. Beth Hoffman permalink
    July 1, 2010 3:07 pm

    Your reviews are always so balanced and thoughtful, even when a book isn’t your cup of tea. I admire that, Kathy!

  23. July 1, 2010 3:13 pm

    Excellent review. I “get” what you’re saying…..

  24. July 1, 2010 4:47 pm

    Sorry to hear this one didn’t live up to your expectations.

  25. July 1, 2010 5:48 pm

    Sounded like it had a great premise – too bad it didn’t live up to your expectations.

  26. July 1, 2010 7:41 pm

    I’m sorry it wasn’t as good as you had hoped but I’m still keeping this one on my mental TBR list – but you know how little that means since it is thousands of books long! If I do read it, I’ll let you know what I think!

  27. Kathleen permalink
    July 1, 2010 7:46 pm

    I’m pretty sure I have this one on my TBR on Goodreads. I’ll have to check on that. It sounds good but I will have to adjust for the slowness of the story. I do like books set in the South.

  28. July 1, 2010 9:57 pm

    Aw, sorry you didn’t enjoy this one as much as you hoped you would… but at least, you didn’t completely disliked it. It sounds interesting but I’m not sure it’s for me though.

  29. July 1, 2010 11:07 pm

    I’ve thought once or twice to request this one from my library. I think I’ll hold off for now…thanks again for another great honest review!

  30. July 2, 2010 3:35 am

    Sounds good. I like it when you retrospect the reason for your “not quite there feeling” 🙂
    I like this review and I will like to read it too.

  31. July 2, 2010 8:51 am

    I always feel sad when a book doesn’t live up to the expectations I set for it. Sometimes it just happens that way. I like the idea behind this book but I don’t think it’s for me.

  32. July 2, 2010 10:07 am

    The concept for this book sounds wonderful but I too wonder if maybe the author chose the wrong person’s point of view to tell the story. Sounds like you really need to know her parents’ story for instance.

  33. July 2, 2010 11:59 am

    Shoot — I am planning on giving this book a try, but I’ll try to keep my expectations low. That way, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  34. July 2, 2010 12:25 pm

    I think you’re right on the money with this, I do think the unanswered questions didn’t help what was already a slightly slow plot.

  35. July 2, 2010 1:15 pm

    I’ve read a lot of reviews about this book that’s similar to yours. I think don’t think I’m going to be reading this book anytime soon. Great review.

  36. July 2, 2010 1:45 pm

    It is always so disappointing when a book you had hoped to love falls short.

  37. July 2, 2010 3:47 pm

    Sorry you didn’t like this as much as you thought you would. I’ve got it sitting in my pile to read some day.

  38. July 2, 2010 5:26 pm

    I’m trying not to read too much about this one because I hope to read it at some point this year, but I did see that you didn’t like it quite as much as you would have liked. It sounds like a good one but it is getting decidedly mixed reviews. I can’t wait to see what I hink of this one.

  39. July 2, 2010 7:13 pm

    It’s kind of hard when books don’t meet the bar you set them. I’ve had that trouble quite a few times, and there’s never an easy way out.

  40. July 2, 2010 7:22 pm

    I love southern fiction too! Good to know how you felt about it!

  41. July 3, 2010 1:11 pm

    I think I am going to try this one. Sounds good.

  42. July 7, 2010 5:49 pm

    Shame it didn’t live up to all of your expectations but at least it was set in the South, a setting you like. Better luck next time.

  43. July 8, 2010 8:06 am

    I love Southern fiction, though I’m not sure I want to read this one. I’m worried about the slow pace, especially when I need to stay awake on the train!

  44. July 14, 2010 7:49 pm

    I enjoy books set in the south also. I haven’t read this one but hope to do so in the future. I read quite a few other reviews of it. They’re all good. 🙂

  45. August 1, 2010 4:06 pm

    I wanted to read this for the same reasons as you. Too bad it wasn’t up to par.

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