Rhoda: A Life in Stories Tag: Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction

Ellen Gilchrist, Author Back Bay Books $15.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-31464-0
Gilchrist's fictional Southern belle turned writer, Rhoda Manning, has appeared in all five of her previous short-story collections and in the novel Net of Jewels. Rhoda loves to shop, swear and get her own way; she has always been a vivid and indelible character. This welcome if inconsistent collection assembles all 21 of the Rhoda stories, an excerpt from Net of Jewels plus two new tales. The pieces are arranged in chronological order of Rhoda's age--from eight to 60. There's also an introduction by the author admitting that some of the stories are ``made up'' while others are ``blatantly autobiographical.'' True or not, the exploits of Rhoda in her youth (which make up most of the book) are generally better than the portraits of Rhoda in midlife or later, and nearly a decade of Rhoda's life--from 27 to 39--is missing. Thus there is no transition between the spoiled, impetuous rich girl who gulps diet pills, drinks a lot and, while reading Hemingway, comments about his ``terrible looking'' wife and the middle-aged Rhoda who, a few pages later, places her work with the Paris Review as easily as she might buy a new outfit. And as a biography of sorts, there are other inconsistencies--for example, the age that Rhoda runs away to get married differs in three stories. Despite the distractions, Rhoda remains the same sassy and outspoken gal she has always been and always will be. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/30/1995
Release date: 11/01/1995
Genre: Fiction
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