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5.0 out of 5 stars Very real
The writing was so excellent in this book, and the descriptions so real, that I felt as if I KNEW what it was like to have lived during the Civil War.
So many comparisons have been made between books. Some have compared McCrae's "Bark of the Dogwood" to "Confederacy of Dunces" and some have compared "Secret Life of Bees" to "To...
Published on March 4 2004

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3.0 out of 5 stars Dark Story but a Good Message
On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon is a novel that explores the deep roots of our country and our families. Part of this novel reminds us of the dark past our nation has come from, times of slavery and the horrors of the civil war. The other piece to this novel reflects on how our childhoods shape who we become, both good and bad. The narrator, recalling her life as she...
Published on Nov. 28 2001 by Sandra Mitchell


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5.0 out of 5 stars Very real, March 4 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
The writing was so excellent in this book, and the descriptions so real, that I felt as if I KNEW what it was like to have lived during the Civil War.
So many comparisons have been made between books. Some have compared McCrae's "Bark of the Dogwood" to "Confederacy of Dunces" and some have compared "Secret Life of Bees" to "To Kill a Mockingbird." Now people are comparing "On the Occasion" to "Gone With the Wind." I'm not sure about any of these comparisions, but I do know that "On the Occasion" can stand by itself and actually gives us a little MORE than GWTW, but without the length == Thank goodness.
The characters in Gibbon's book are so well-developed and they intertwine with each other in such a way as to make the read satisfying and easy.
Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Good writing by an intelligent author.
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1.0 out of 5 stars The most miserable afternoon., Jan. 12 2004
By 
Katherine Mason "klediments" (St. Louis, Missouri, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
I read four chapters of this book. Then I threw it out the window. In all God-honesty, this book is now sitting in the weedy abandoned lot beside my house. I never ever want to see or hear from it again. It's a lot of politically-correct, sanctimonious moralizing only reinforcing what our equally-holier than thou culture teaches: that Southerners of the period the book focuses on (and before then and today, for that matter) are evil, bloodthirsty folk. Coming from a background similar to the one of the main character's, I am sick and tired of these stereotypes about as much as any black person would grow weary of the image of a shuffling, "yassah, massah"-mumbling Uncle Tom. Give me "Gone with the Wind," give me anything that does not shove a guilt trip and a lot of rewritten history down my throat.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A plea for racial tolerance, Aug. 17 2003
By 
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon is Kaye Gibbon's first literary historical fiction entry. Set in the South, like all her books, this one takes place during the era of the Civil War. Near death, Emma Garnet Tate recounts her life, beginning with her childhood as a bright 12yo in 1842, on a Virginia plantation. Her foulmouthed and racially prejudiced father dominates his long-suffering wife and 6 children but has a literary and artistic side as well. This abusive and tyrannical man collects Old Masters' paintings. Clarise, the formidable black woman who truly runs the family (as the overseer of Samuel Tate's dark secret, she runs him, too), cares for everyone and leaves with Emma when she marries and moves away from 'home.' The graphic portrayal of Emma and her surgeon husband's duties tending for the maimed and dying soldiers during the war is a heart-rending expression of the futility of war.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a different Civil War, Aug. 3 2003
By 
Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel (bowling green ohio) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
This historical novel of the Civil War begins with the protagonist's father having murdered a slave for talking back. We meet Emma Garnet Tate and Clarice immediately following, the former being the aforementioned daughter of a plantation owner; the latter being the support of the book, a strong, wise black woman who is actually the one who holds the family and the plantation together.
Emma is narrating in flashback as she rests in bed, pushing off death until she can finish her story. She grew up a girl who identified more with her father's slaves than with her father; more with intellectuals than socialites. Her father's religious, racist rage is a terrifying force, and at times it seems no one around him is going to survive unscathed. But Emma does escape, thanks to Quincy Powell, a Boston doctor whose perfection would be irritating had Emma not needed him so badly (and deserved him so much). After they marry and honeymoon (in Paris, with Clarice along with them), the war begins and Quincy opens a hospital to take care of wounded Confederate soldiers. Emma has to become a caregiver, nurse, and finally an unofficial doctor when the wounded and dying start pouring in. Besides the gory and realistic descriptions of the horror of war, there are also detailed passages regarding the sick carnival of a public hanging and the misguided attempts to heal with leeches and blood-letting. These realistic and uncompromising details cause the book to be fascinating instead of merely a diversion.
Emma Garnet has survived much, but at times she seems wishy-washy and irritatingly upper-class. Gibbons might have intended this, because the character who shines through the most is Clarice. She had known Mr. Tate from the time he was a little boy and had rescued him from an unimaginable situation, and is therefore the only person, including those in his own family, who is not afraid of him. She rises to each terrible event with determination and bravery, all the while cooking, cleaning, guiding the many other slaves of the household, and mothering Emma and her sister (they do have a much-beloved mother, but she is often ill). Emma loves Clarice as much as she would love the secret and best part of her own self, which it seems she sometimes mistakes Clarice to be.
Kaye Gibbons is a fabulous writer and weaves a story of the Civil War which is unflinching and also non-racist. The voice of the narrator sometimes sounds slightly pompous, but I feel that Emma is entitled due to the sometimes brutal life she led. I believe most readers will feel the same way, and also will probably see, as I do, that Clarice is the real heroine of this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars On the Occasion of my last afternoon, Nov. 24 2002
By 
sam (Flushing, Mi) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
Happiness can always be found eventually. Kaye Gibbons shows this from Emma
Garnet's point of view in her book, "On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon." Emma
Garnet's childhood, living on a plantation having many slaves, is very hard having to
always fear the temper of her father, Samuel L. Tate. Emma Garnet grows up feeling
sorry for her mother who isn't happy with her husband, to realize not all men are like
Mr. Tate. She meets a wonderful doctor, Quincy Lowell, and they become married having
3 children and living happily ever after. Although Emma Garnet finds extreme happiness, she
finds sorrow as well. "On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon" goes through a timeline of
Emma Garnet's life and with that it tells the many people that she loses along the way.
Kaye Gibbons does a wonderful job at telling the story with going back in time so that it
doesn't come across as confusing. Overall I thought that this book was great to read and
very interesting the whole way through.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written page turner, Sept. 23 2002
By 
Tasha Blakney (Knoxville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
I recommend this book without hesitation. It was an absolute treat. The characters are rich and full of life and the dialogue is remarkable. One critic wrote that there's simply not a bad sentence in the book and I wholeheartedly agree. I will be ordering more of Ms. Gibbons' books right away.
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2.0 out of 5 stars On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon, Sept. 10 2002
By 
M. ONeil "MasONeil" (Acton, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
This book was highly recommended to me and it was a big disappointment. I found it difficult to follow the timeline. The writer drifted in the story much like someone distracted in thought; following remotely related tangents and abruptly return to a different part of the story. I felt I barely got to know the characters save the narrator and even then did not feel much connection or empathy for her.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is great on tape., April 9 2002
By 
K. Champagne "kachampagne" (Holyoke, MA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
I read this book on tape and it is one of the only readings I've ever heard that I felt really brought the book to life. I was obsessed with the story and found the reading to be totally believable and in line with the text. I could not wait to get back into my car to hear the next installment, and found myself making lots of extra trips to the grocery store, to get gas, etc. to allow me to keep reading. What a wonderful story!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Dark Story but a Good Message, Nov. 28 2001
By 
Sandra Mitchell "Sandra Mitchell" (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
On the Occasion of My Last Afternoon is a novel that explores the deep roots of our country and our families. Part of this novel reminds us of the dark past our nation has come from, times of slavery and the horrors of the civil war. The other piece to this novel reflects on how our childhoods shape who we become, both good and bad. The narrator, recalling her life as she approaches the end of it, recalls for us her terrible childhood, raised by an overbearing and horrendous father who left permanent scars on her psyche. My only complaint with the story is that it seems there is one devastating blow after another and yet for some unfortunate souls, this is life. The lessons to take away from the novel make it worth the read. When you're on your death bed and reflecting upon your life, will you be glad you drove the nicest car and had the finest of treasures? Or will your treasures be the upright and moral life you lived and the way you touched others?
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4.0 out of 5 stars audio book, Aug. 28 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon (Paperback)
I strongly suggest getting the audio version of this book, if traveling is in your future. It is wonderfully narrated by Polly Holliday (Flo on the TV sitcom Alice). Her talents as a storyteller exceeded my expectations from her infamous line "kiss my grits" on Alice. The book is very entertaining, and her ability to develop distinct voices for the many characters in the book is unmatched.
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On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon
On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon by Kaye Gibbons (Paperback - May 1 1999)
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