For some reason, I never got around to this one until know. Prompted by a report that there were, once again, efforts to get the book removed from a reading list (http://ou.uloop.com/news/view.php/73136/banned-books-for-future-generations), I moved it up my list. If it’s a bit too long at times, it is also a wonderfully evocative and memorable coming-of-age autobiographical novel. Anna Quindlen’s intro is gushing and on target. There’s not a lot of plot here. But that’s okay. Smith does am amazing job of making small details meaningful and all of the characters well-rounded. But Quindlen undersells Smith’s writing. Though descriptions and especially dialogue are occasionally mawkish, the power of larger scene (and ‘scene’ is the right word here – there is definitely a cinematic quality to Smith’s writing) more than balances things out. She is especially nimble when it comes to point of view and taking time to have characters express thoughts that are often very different from their spoken words.
As for the scene that is almost certainly at the center of the controversy, I can’t believe that it would prevent anyone from reading or teaching the novel. Any concerns about that moment are overwrought. Smith handles it well, in a manner that makes the situation both realistic and appropriate for Francie’s perspective on the situation. I’d be just fine with this book for ages 12 and up. If someone younger wanted to read it, I’d have a hard time saying no. I’d be impressed with their perseverance.
And there’s a movie version. Has anyone seen it?