Alma Mater Hardcover – Oct 30 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
opular and prolific Brown (Rubyfruit Jungle, etc.) lavishes her attention and breathless prose on another lesbian coming-of-age tale set in Southern belle territory. Victoria "Vic" Savedge is a gorgeous 22-year-old senior at the College of William and Mary in present-day Virginia. Her parents, Frank and R.J., little sister Mignon and best friend Jinx Baptista all expect Vic to marry her rich football star boyfriend Charly Harrison after graduation. However, in the opening scene, Vic meets Chris Carter, a female transfer student to whom she is increasingly attracted. Their flirtatious behavior deflates any suspense Brown may have hoped to create; it's clear Vic's commitment to Charly is shaky. As she unconvincingly struggles to choose between lovers, Vic ponders with Jinx the roles fate, honor and individual responsibility play in life. During weekend visits to her ancestral home, Surry Crossing, Va., Vic is entertained by the smalltown antics of her womanizing Uncle Don and sex-deprived Aunt Bunny, and the Wallaces, neighboring middle-aged sisters who pathetically vie for their elderly father's favor. Brown's tendency to tell rather than show ("Raised in a judgmental family, Chris had survived by nourishing her sense of rebellion. She didn't know what she was looking for until she met Vic") and filler dialogue ("Sit down. It's my turn to give you a Coke" and "Mother, do you want a refill?" "No, thank you. But you may clean the ashtray") wear on the reader, and the one-dimensional characters and soap opera story line provide little relief. Brown's good-natured humor and exuberant treatment of her themes may satisfy her fans, but she's unlikely to pick up new readers this time around. 8-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Brown, the author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries, returns to her lesbian roots in Alma Mater. Vic and Chris are two coeds who meet at William and Mary College and, much to their surprise, are mutually attracted and launch an intense affair. Though Vic is involved with the star football player, and though neither woman has ever considered the possibility that she might not be heterosexual, this life-changing turn of events does not seem to faze either of them. Brown usually excels at offbeat characters, and while she does offer readers an amusing and outlandish supporting cast (thanks to the Southern locale), her latest novel lacks the freshness and believability of her now classic Rubyfruit Jungle. Still, fans will welcome her return to the theme of her earlier work. Recommended for most public libraries.
- Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
If this is your first Rita Mae Brown book, don't judge them all by this - the Mrs. Murphy series is a million times better.
The only problem is Vic already has a commitment to her BMOC boyfriend, Charly. As a modern Southern belle, her hand is practically promised to the well-to-do, handsome football player. Although Vic's heart quivers for Charly, it burns passionately for Chris. So what's a girl to do, especially when you are raised with a genteel upbringing? She spends the majority of the novel trying to understand her new feelings and how to break it to Charly.
And in the midst of her discovery is a cast of Southern eccentrics, who add a life to what could have been a dull take on lesbian love. There's her levelheaded parents, Frank and R. J., her bold Aunt Bunny, and her outrageous younger sister, Mignon. Intensifying the madcap is the Wallace family, who take the term "hillbilly" to another level.
The only thing that made the book tedious was Vic's wavering attitude toward ending her relationship with Charly. I kept wondering when she would finally bite the bullet and just be honest with everyone. Although it had a slow start, the book held my interest as I kept reading on. Thanks, Rita, for making me laugh and making me think.
A student with a clean record would not be expelled for dressing up a statue with no permanent damage, even if the statue were a religious one off campus, as it is in this book. On W&M's campus, Thomas Jefferson gets a party hat and balloons every year on his birthday, and a pumpkin on his head for Halloween.
I don't think her depiction of life and attitudes in that part of Virginia is at all accurate, even for 1980, which is when the story takes place. And I seriously doubt there are several new car dealerships in Surry County (if any). The little details can make all the difference, and when they're inaccurate, the entire work suffers.
The characters are not fully developed and I didn't care about a single one of them. The writing was poor and the story fairly predictable. I found myself skipping over large parts of text and skimming a lot. The epilogue crams the resolutions of the characters' lives into a hastily written five pages.
Reading this was a waste of time.
Not only is "Alma Mater" poorly designed and populated with weak characters, but the lack of research is readily apparent to me, who attended William and Mary at the same time as the characters in the book. Although this fine institution is located in southern Virginia, it is not some backward, Dixie university, for the vast majority of the students come from suburbs of Washington, D.C., or New York City, and most of the faculty members hold degrees from Ivy League schools. Rita would have you believe that feminism was some foreign concept at W&M in 1980, but that is ludicrous. All of the women I knew there were smart, ambitious, and intent on having careers. Also, W&M has a history of having its statues decorated humorously, especially that of Lord Botetourt, so the harmless prank Vic gets involved in at the local Catholic church would not have led to her expulsion... If anything, the school certainly has more conservative students now than it had in my day. So, Rita, you really got it wrong! Next time, honey, do your homework as well as the W&M students do theirs!
Most recent customer reviews
This is truly the best book I have ever read! I could read it over and over again. It is like reading my life story in a book. Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2003 by Sarah Bagby
I got this book thinking mystery, wrong. It is however a truely funny book. I even read some of it aloud to my husband, he loved it, too.Published on Oct. 22 2003
Story of my life. I loved this book. I could read it again and again, and I have. It definitely has some hot sex scenes.Published on May 19 2003
This would probably be a 2 star book if anyone else had written it, but since we know Rita Mae Brown can do so much better, I have to give it one. Read morePublished on March 14 2003
RMB's best since "Six of One," though, as with every Rita Mae novel, there will be times when you want to throw it across the room in exasperation. Read morePublished on Dec 18 2002 by bacchae
I agree with the reviewer who referred to this novel as a 260-page coming-out novel. I also agree that it reads more like late 1990's lesbian relationship than 1980. Read morePublished on Dec 3 2002 by F. Mercer
Author Rita Mae Brown can always write a good story with a very colorful cast of chatracters. I must admit that I am a fan. Read morePublished on Sept. 24 2002 by Michael S. Waren
Victoria "Vic" Savedge, a tall striking beauty beginning her senior year in 1980 at William and Mary, is dating handsome, football athlete Charly, who comes from a wealthy family. Read morePublished on May 26 2002 by Jill Clardy