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Review: The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove

October 29, 2010

Disclosure: I’ve known Susan Gregg Gilmore for a little over a year and she recently visited a book club meeting held in my home.  This review was written before the book club meeting.


Bezellia Grove has a lot to live up to.   Not only is she a member of the respected Grove family of Nashville, but she was named for a member of the family who helped defend Fort Nashborough over two hundred and fifty years ago.  On the surface, it appears that Bezellia is from the perfect family – her father’s a doctor, her mother helps charitable organizations, her family lives in a fine, old Nashville home, and they can afford help.  There’s a lot under the surface that’s not so perfect, though.  The world’s changing too – it’s the 1950’s and 60’s, so women and African Americans are working for changes in society and the Vietnam War is raging.  Bezellia has to figure out her role in her family as well as the world.

I really enjoyed The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore, mostly because Bezellia is such a great character.  She’s a few years older than I am, but I can still remember, and relate to, a lot of the challenges she was facing.  Bezellia wants to be a good daughter and sister, but it’s hard to do because her family is falling apart and the world is changing.  She has one foot in the Old South and one foot in the changing world.  She can’t understand why her mother treats the help like second class citizens – they’ve practically raised Bezellia and her sister, so she loves them with all her heart.   Bezellia struggles to understand why society is so important to her mother, and why she worries so much about what everyone thinks.  I rooted for Bezellia throughout the book and wanted everything to go her way, but, of course, they didn’t.

There are a lot of other great characters in this book – both Maizelle (the cook) and Nathaniel (the chauffeur/handyman) are wonderful – they have huge hearts and they’re loyal to a fault.  Bezellia’s Uncle Thad and cousin Cornelia were more progressive than Bezellia’s family, so they provided a breath of fresh air to the story.  They helped give some balance to her life.

I also enjoyed the setting of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove – I’m a big fan of books set in the South, especially during that time period.  I haven’t spent much time in Nashville, but I imagine Gilmore got it just right, since she’s a native.  I enjoyed the time I spent in Nashville with Bezellia and I loved that the book made me think.

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32 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2010 7:12 am

    I thought this book was very good and I quickly became caught up in Bezellia’s life!

  2. October 29, 2010 7:23 am

    Sounds like a lovely story.

  3. October 29, 2010 8:18 am

    Yes, it does sound like a great story…was it at all like The Help…there seem to be some similarities?

  4. October 29, 2010 9:07 am

    This time period and area also really intrigue me, and I picked up a copy of this book as well. It sounds like it’s going to be a great read that makes me think, and I am really looking forward to it. I thought Susan was a really cool lady too! In some ways, this book reminds me of The Help, but I actually think it will be very different for some reason. Fantastic review, Kathy! I am so glad you loved the book!

  5. October 29, 2010 9:17 am

    For the title alone I’d want to read this. Add it’s Southern setting and I’m really in. Now, your review makes me want to pick up a copy. Thanks.

  6. October 29, 2010 9:49 am

    oohh this sounds like a book i would really enjoy. i have a few friends who are always raving about nashville (i’ve never been), so i’m definitely interested in reading a book located there.

  7. October 29, 2010 11:38 am

    Sounds like a good one!

  8. October 29, 2010 11:49 am

    I like books set in the south too and this time period especially. Sounds like a great book.

  9. October 29, 2010 12:04 pm

    This sounds like a great read. I really like the title. “Improper Life” is so evocative!

  10. bethfishreads permalink
    October 29, 2010 12:39 pm

    Oh this one sounds wonderful. And like you I’m old enough to remember some of those changes.

  11. October 29, 2010 12:45 pm

    This sounds fabulous! Is there enough about the Vietnam War to maybe count for the challenge? Just curious.

  12. October 29, 2010 2:22 pm

    Bezellia and others do sound like a great, Southern characters. Kathy, I have to stop reading your blog because I keep learning about books I want to read–and the TBR is already about to topple over! 🙂

    Wishing you and your readers a safe and happy Halloween!

  13. October 29, 2010 2:50 pm

    Nice review. The book, well it sounds like it has something in it for me that I could enjoy

  14. October 29, 2010 3:06 pm

    I was a teen in the 50s and can remember arguing with my mother because she cared so much about what people would think. I have a feeling I’m really going to relate to this one.

  15. October 29, 2010 3:22 pm

    This sounds like a good read. Great review!

  16. October 29, 2010 3:38 pm

    I love books that make me think. This one sounds wonderful.

  17. October 29, 2010 5:39 pm

    This does sound like a great book. I have had it on my wish list for awhile now. After your review I may have to get a copy of it soon. It seems like a book I would love. Great review!

  18. October 29, 2010 5:56 pm

    This one sounds good. Plus, a book set in TN has to be good.

  19. October 29, 2010 6:13 pm

    I like stories set in the south as well as this time period. I read The Help not too long ago and this reminds me of that book.

  20. October 29, 2010 7:20 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this book, but it sounds good.

  21. October 29, 2010 8:15 pm

    I love books set in the south and this one sounds great!

  22. October 29, 2010 8:43 pm

    This sounds like a wonderful coming of age novel … both for Bezellia and the South.

  23. October 29, 2010 9:32 pm

    This book sounds so cute – and I agree with you, I love a book set in the South!

  24. October 30, 2010 1:51 am

    I love books that take place in the 1960’s south. I added it to my TBR. I hadn’t heard of it before reading your review, thanks.

  25. October 30, 2010 8:30 am

    You’re so good about analyzing southern books! This sounds like one I would enjoy. Southern authors sure do give different names to their characters!

  26. October 30, 2010 10:14 am

    I have this one…. must find it in the TBR. How fun that you know the author and she visited your book club!

  27. October 30, 2010 10:45 am

    I really should get started on Southern literature. This will be in my wish list and I’ll get it when I’m done with my reading challenges for this year. I manged to finish one for my RIP V challenge! Hurray!

  28. October 31, 2010 9:30 am

    I’ll bet this one is good.

  29. October 31, 2010 2:21 pm

    Another positive read. Great to hear that it came through with flying colours and it’s always a plus when you can relate to the main character with a great cast complete with plot.

    Adding it to TBR list.

  30. stacybuckeye permalink
    October 31, 2010 4:56 pm

    This looks fun. And it’s always better if you know the author!

  31. November 1, 2010 12:37 am

    This looks like a fantastic story — great review! I love books set in the South — to me, there’s something charming, haunting, peaceful, and with secrets galore about it!

  32. November 3, 2010 10:58 pm

    Bezellia sounds like a character that would draw me in and make me root for her.

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