Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

Originally published in May 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.

This book had been sitting in my TBR pile for nearly a year, so it was about time I read it.

I love these old pulp covers!
In short, the book tells of the escapades of the narrator’s aunt Mame, his legal guardian. Mame is offbeat, outrageously fashionable, adventurous, and a sucker for a sad story. She is the kind of woman who throws herself wholeheartedly into all she does, including her relationships with men. She becomes a southern belle for the millionaire from Georgia whom she marries, Irish for the Irishman whom she falls for, and so on. She seems unable to recognise when she is being played for a sucker until the facts stare her right in the face, but when realisation dawns, she is quick to act and can extricate herself from all sorts of situations. She also has a knack for getting her nephew involved in her adventures.

The book is told like a biography in the form of snapshots, seen from the point of view of the nephew, who draws a portrait of a woman who is totally unprepared for the responsibility of rearing a young boy, but who rallies magnificently and manages to retain her free and easy lifestyle while still being a loving, if a trifle eccentric, parent to her orphaned nephew.

This is a funny book. It’s charming and was probably a bit risqué when it was first published, with its allusions to sex, single motherhood, its unconventional heroine and her hedonistic lifestyle. It’s easy to see why it was made into a movie, because it has a very charming heroine, who, in spite of her unconventionality, has a heart of gold, an opportunity for dozens of costume changes, and is allowed to be sexy without being bad - a perfect role for the right actress (I haven’t seen the movie, but I plan to). The comedy is by turns satire and slapstick, and through it all, Mame never loses her dignity (except for a brief dunking in a river, but even that turns into a victory).

The book is well written, and the author has a good eye for comedy, although he does go a bit over the top in the chapter with the British war orphans, but then he did need a good climax to top everything that happened earlier in the book.

Funny and irreverent, satiric and slapsticky, this books gets 4 stars from me, and a permanent home in my library.

Note: I still haven't seen the movie. I can get a copy of the musical with Lucille Ball, which is by all accounts dreadful, but not one of the Rosalind Russell movie, which is supposed to be quite good.

Comments

Kristen said…
I thoroughly enjoyed this one too. I'm pretty sure I have the sequel sitting here to read at some point as well.

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