ISBN-13: 9780061840326
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Published: April 2010
416 pgs
Source: HarperCollins

Some stories run for their lives. They zig and zag, moving so fast you can't find the secret path of their steps through the fields, only soft prints here and there to let you know something with a quivering heart and a soft belly passed that way or this. (Pg 297)

I have heard that The Queen of Palmyra has been compared to Kathryn Stockett's The Help, which got me pretty excited because I have heard lots of ravings about that book. Back to The Queen of Palmyra, I have to say Minrose Gwin's writing style is absolutely beautiful (see above quote) and I was most surprised that this is in fact her debut novel.

Set in the 1960s, The Queen of Palmyra focus on the delicate issue between the black and the white community in Millwood, Mississippi, through the eye of a twelve-year-old girl Florence Forrest. The Forrest family lives in the town where everyone seems to know everybody, though at bottom there is a strain between the black and the white community. Florence's relationship with her parents has been a distant one. Unlike other girls her age she has never feel close with her mother, perhaps that has got to do with her drinking and the fact that she bakes and delivers cakes around town in order to support the household, aside the income from her husband who works as a burial insurance salesman.

Florence spends most of her time with her grandparents and Zenie's (named for Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra) family, and she find comfort and security in them because Florence knew she could always turn to them whenever she needs some assistance or advice. Florence felt her life further enriched when Zenie's niece, Eva Greene enter into her little simple world. It is no secret that there is a division between the black and white community in Millwood, and Eva's arrival obviously created an uproar not only due to her skin colour but also the fact that she is holding the same job as Florence's father, Win. The strain between the blacks and the whites got worsen, and Florence's life will never ever be the same again after a tragedy strikes concerning Eva.

I knew I would have been on an emotional roller-coaster the moment I started reading The Queen of Palmyra, after all it deals with a delicate issue - racism. And I want to reiterate that Minrose Gwin really has a way of making her characters and story come alive through her outstanding writing style. I cannot say I loved all her characters, but I did feel for Florence and Eva, after all they are nothing but innocent people. Florence does not fully understand the situation given her naivety due to her young age and this is one reason why I find her narrative so real and convincing. She managed to evoke emotions in you through her experience.

Though the novel mainly focus on Florence, The Queen of Palmyra is also about great characterisation and storytelling. I think the author has absolutely done a great job in writing some sensitive scenes without much descriptions but in a more subtle way (honestly I don't want to read how some characters are suffering in details, it makes me too sad to think about it). I know books on racism and violence are always not an easy read, but in a way they help to create awareness and I find that is a good thing.

Other reviews:
(Let me know if I missed yours.)
14 Responses
  1. Julia Says:

    This sure does sound like an emotional story, that get to all of us. Sound like you like the book, Melody -- great review!

  2. Sandy Nawrot Says:

    I think The Help was one of the best books I read last year, so if it was compared to that, it is a huge complement! I remember Ti's review on this - it sounds amazing!

  3. Ladytink_534 Says:

    Do you think you would classify this as Southern Lit?

  4. Ana S. Says:

    Between you, April, Michelle, etc. I am absolutely sold on this one!

  5. You've definitely convinced me that I need to read this, Melody. It sounds like something I would really like.

  6. Iliana Says:

    This sounds wonderful. I hadn't really heard much about this book so thank you for the great review, Melody! It's another one for my list.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    This looks great. I love debut novels and really like the cover :)

  8. Melody Says:

    Julia - Indeed it is, Julia. I like books that are thought-provoking and able to evoke my emotions. :)

    Sandy - I haven't read The Help, but I look forward to it.

    Jen - Yes, I think this fits.

    Ana - Yay, I'm glad to hear that! :D

    Wendy - I think you'll really like this book, Wendy! :)

    Iliana - I'm happy you're adding this onto your wishlist! :D

    Stacy - I love debut novels too. It makes me happy to find more books by a new author to read. I agree that's a great cover! :)

  9. Andreea Says:

    Sounds like a great and emotional story. Thanks for sharing, Melody!

  10. S. Krishna Says:

    Amazing review. I'll have to check this one out.

  11. This sounds like one I'd love. I need to see if the library will have it.

  12. Beth F Says:

    Wow! I think you just sold me. It really sounds like a must-read book.

  13. Lisa Says:

    I've got this one coming up soon. Thanks for the great review to get me psyched for it!

  14. Melody Says:

    Andreea, Swapna, Diane, Beth & Lisa - I hope you all will enjoy it when you get to it! :)

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