I Still Dream About You, by Fannie Flagg
Life appears to have worked out well for Maggie Fortenbery, a former Miss Alabama. She enjoys her work as a realtor, or estate agent, which allows her to lead a comfortable and independent existence and she has some good friends. She is unfailingly charming, polite and well-meaning and has retained her good looks despite being the ‘wrong’ side of fifty. Yet those qualities have not managed to get her what she really always wanted: a husband, children and a nice big house like the ones she sells to others. The only course of action, she decides, is suicide.
This is a novel of extremes, rather like the Deep South of its setting. The author breaks many of the so-called rules of writing: the narrative often abruptly switches point-of-view and ‘Show Don’t Tell’ is ignored. Facts are repeatedly hammered home. This is not a subtly told tale! Similarly, credulity is stretched to breaking-point, sometimes with respect to detail, at other times with the bigger picture. When planning to drown herself, would Maggie really take an egg-timer in order to allow the glue on the hand weights time enough to dry because she doesn’t want to ruin her expensive watch? A theatre trip and subsequently getting a listing for Crestview, a beautiful old house she’s always envied, is enough to make her postpone her meticulously well-ordered death plans. How depressed is she really? The back story of Angus, Crestview’s original owner, must rank as the book’s most ridiculous element but to reveal this would spoil what is actually a great twist of an ending!
Having said all that, I Still Dream About You is undoubtedly a cracking good read and thus succeeds in fulfilling what must be the fundamental demand for any book: to be a page-turner. Flagg gives her readers pace, humour (there’s brilliant farce in the transportation of a skeleton) and some wonderfully eccentric characters: Hazel, the midget entrepreneur, donut loving Brenda, Maggie’s best friend, 93-year-old Ethel, cited in The Guinness Book of Records as the oldest estate agent in the world and the amoral Babs, more a pantomime villain than a real person. Quite possibly, Flagg has got her tongue firmly in her cheek throughout – certainly the Epilogue suggests that - so in all probability this novel should be judged with that in mind!