Friday, 19 March 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Well I am still in Alabama today, and as you can see my stomach got the better of me and I stopped by The Whistle Stop Cafe for some Big George's BBQ and Sipsey's Cornbread and Fried Green Tomatoes. Whilst there, I got to meet some mighty fine folk, who told me lots of stories about this quaint little town and it's inhabitants. Why don't you rest your legs awhile and I will tell you all about them.

Pages - 396

Challenges - Flashback Challenge, GLBT Challenge, Support Your Local Library and American Journey Challenge.

Published in 1992 by Vintage.

The Whistle Stop Cafe opened up last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamieson said business has been good ever since. Idgie says that for people who know her not to worry about getting poisoned, she is not cooking. All the cooking is beind done by two colored women, Sipsey and Onzell, and the barbecue is being cooked by Big George, who is Onzell's husband.


This is one of those books that I had forgotten just how good it is.

The book tells the story through the eyes of Mrs Cleo Threadgoode, an eighty year old woman, living in Rose Terrace Nursing Home. She likes to talk about the past and finds a willing listener in Evelyn Couch, a woman in the early stages of a mid life crisis. Each week, when Evelyn's husband visits his mother at the nursing home, Evelyn's takes lots of edible goodies and goes to listen to Mrs Threadgoode's stories about the Whistlestop Cafe which used to sit right next to the railroad. The book flits back and forth between the present day and the past at the Cafe, where life was never dull and if you looked closely you might just find the occasional murder.

You grow to love the many characters within this book very quickly. They are all warm hearted and caring and will stop at nothing to help someone in need. Even though they are living through the Depression, they all stick together and do what they can to help out. Idgie is full of trouble, yet she only means to help and will fight tooth and nail to protect those she cares about. She has a very strong bond with the people of colour who work for her and will not let them suffer any abuse. She feeds the homeless and makes sure everyone is fed. She is no Angel though, when she goes off the rail, alcohol gets the better of her, but she normally calms back down and helps out again.

The book is full of a mixture of happiness and tragedy, where there is a silver lining, there is also a slither of sadness, when the good comes, the bad will be skulking not far behind and you feel like your emotions are on a constant roller coaster, never knowing how long you will stay happy or sad throughout the book.

I felt that the storyline dealt with racism well, as it showed that not everyone in Alabama during that time felt the same about slavery. Idgie and her family would often risk their own safety in order to help the people of colour working for them and they were treated like family. No one outside of the family would dare to take them on to dispute the way they treated them.

The relationship between Idgie and Ruth is dealt with very subtly within the book and now after reading it both times, I was still struck with whether they were lesbians or not. The main reason why I couldn't make up my mind was because the whole family were so open and encouraging about the relationship between Idgie and Ruth that I wondered whether they were just friends, as during that time period it would not have been easily accepted within the community. I mean the relationship is quite blatant in the book, yet subtle in it's execution. I can now confirm after researching the book a bit, that they were in fact in a lesbian relationship. I wonder if I am the only person, who wasn't quite sure about this relationship.

The friendship between Evelyn and Mrs Threadgoode is really beautiful. Unexpected circumstances brought them together, yet within weeks they are firm friends for life. Mrs Threadgoode helps Evelyn realise that she is menopausal and helps her to claim back her life and become human again, instead of just existing in an empty shell of a body.

This book is full of strong women, who are taking back their lives and making things happen. They all have strong identities and do not suffer fools gladly.

It was an ideal book to complement To Kill a Mockingbird, because the similarities between the two showed the reality of Southern hospitality. It showed the warmth and the human kindness that I wish existed world wide. Unfortunately, both books also showed the strong tendency for racism and slavery in Alabama and they reared their ugly heads throughout the book.

I found the ending of the book quite sad. The last hundred pages made me realise that nothing lasts for ever and everything changes and moves on.

At the back of the book is a selection of recipes from the cafe and I found myself drooling over the cornbread recipe. I might just have to try it and let you know.

I truly loved this book and it is definitely one I would read again and again. I felt like I had stepped into the pages of the book and wherever I turned life in Whistlestop just went on it's merry way around me.

11 comments:

  1. I am glad that you enjoyed it so much, Vivienne. Great review!

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  2. Oh, I do love Fannie Flagg's homespun story-telling! I recently read another of her books (Can't Wait to Get to Heaven), and I was reminded of several things I especially enjoy about her characters.

    There are both old and young characters interacting comfortably with one another, with the older ones especially revered for their wisdom and history.

    I'm going to read this one again! I recently watched the movie one more time (I have the DVD).

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  3. You know I've never read the book although I've seen the movie so many times now that I'm not sure I'd enjoy the book so much. It's a great movie! I'm glad to hear the book is so good too.

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  4. How did I not know that this was a book? Fried Green Tomatoes is one of my all time favorite movies to curl up with. Must. Read.Book.Soon. !

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  5. I loved the Whistlestop and I love your post here. How fun is that? I enjoyed grabbing my coffee and reading your review. :)

    I may have to pull my copy off the shelf...

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  6. This is one of my favorite movies! Glad you enjoyed the book this much :)
    Great review. Now you've got me wondering about that cornbread recipe!
    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

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  7. Who knew Fannie Flagg was multi-talented? Great review, Vivienne. I hope you're enjoying your "American Journey".

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  8. What a wonderful review, Vivienne. You've so made me want to go pick up this book! I saw the movie years and years and years ago, but I don't remember much of anything except for the fact that I loved it.

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  9. This was such a wonderful book. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Just reading your review brought the beginning of the movie right back to me. Where are you off to next? Are you journeying through the states in alphabetical order or just whatever strikes your fancy?

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  10. I have been so behind in reading everyone's blog that I didn't realize you were hosting this amazingly cool challenge. Or maybe I did and forgot. Moving definitely frazzles the brain. I am going to join up when I get back from roaming and get everything set up.

    I was actually talking about how I wanted to see the movie Fried Green Tomatoes the other day. I said something like how I think I'm finally old enough I'd get the movie. I didn't know it was a book! I am so excited! Since I am now living more "South-ish" here in Kentucky I'm going to start reading a few more Southern books. Thanks for hosting this!

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  11. I loved this book and the movie. Your review makes me want to watch it again :)

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