Fannie Flagg, Tearmaker Extrordinaire

Feeling severally hormonal, having previously wept at the picture of the mummy oranutang kissing the baby oranutang better, yesterday was not good day to finish reading Fannie Flagg’s latest book, Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven on the train home.

I was inspired to read the book after watching the adaptation of Flagg’s 1987 novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe with N last week. This is a beautiful film, of an even more beautiful book. Flagg’s style is good ol’ fashioned Americana (think Steel Magnolias meets, well Steel Magnolias I guess!), conversational, slightly saga-esque. If she were British, she’s be writing about apple orchards and village greens (very much like the excellent and very readable Apple Tree Lean Down by Mary E Pearce), if she were Irish, she’d be a slightly more flippant Meave Binchey.

I have read four of her books, my favourite being Standing in the Rainbow, a sprawling tale of 50s Missouri, which carries on with the same characters from her earlier book, Welcome to the World Baby Girl (excellent story about the treatment of people of colour in America over the past 50 years, masquerading as a hard-working-girl-discovers-the-best-things-in-life-are-free-er). Set in Elmwood Spring, Missouri, a town which is just about as nostalgically twee as you can get, the book revolves around the family and friends of possibly one of my favourite characters, Neighbour Dorothy, who runs her own radio show from her sitting room. Flagg celebrates the richness of life (horrid cliche) and celebrates how hard-work, and an appreciation for the good times, makes for strong communities and friendships. Although the plot meanders along at no particular rate, a characteristic found in Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, you’d be surprised how affecting the style is, how much you fall in love with the characters (even the annoying ones) and how much you blub yourself silly at the end. Just like Steel Magnolias, in fact! (God that a good film I’ve not seen in a long time, N? Whatdaya say?)

Fried Green Tomatoes is probably her ‘best’ of the books I’ve read. I especially love her character Evelyn dealing with the menopause ‘I’m too old to by young and I’m to young to be old’. Trouble is, I feel that way most of the time and I’m 25. And defiantly not menopausal. I may cry at samsung ads (when the dad is filming his daughter on the beach and gets that look in his eye which you just know means he doesn’t see her as much as he wants…oh God I’m actually welling up as we speak), but its not for want of lady-mones. The film is just plain brilliant, and stars my namesake Jessica Tandy, so next time your having a girly sleepover, rent it. But make sure you have plenty of tissues.


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