Heartbreak Hotel

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Overview

Alabama, 1956: While Elvis Presley was singing about love, one young woman was learning about life.

Everyone loves Maggie Deloach, one of the most popular girls on campus with everything going for her. An impeccable lineage. Picture-perfect looks. The best sorority, and the best fraternity boy's pin. The ultimate Southern belle, Maggie knows what the rules are and is willing to play by them. No surprises are waiting in her future -- but neither...

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1993 Mass-market paperback NewClean and tight-unused copy-Excellent! ! Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 416 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

Alabama, 1956: While Elvis Presley was singing about love, one young woman was learning about life.

Everyone loves Maggie Deloach, one of the most popular girls on campus with everything going for her. An impeccable lineage. Picture-perfect looks. The best sorority, and the best fraternity boy's pin. The ultimate Southern belle, Maggie knows what the rules are and is willing to play by them. No surprises are waiting in her future -- but neither are any disappointments.

Then, amid the stifling heat of an Alabama summer, everything changes. There is talk of a racial revolution brewing, one that surely should not touch her protected world... but somehow does. There is growing sexual awareness that she knows should shock her... yet does not. There is a single act of defiance and courage that will forever alter the way others think of her... and how Maggie thinks herself.

"An absolute gem... a rare and wonderful book."
--Richmond News Leader

Bestselling author Siddons brings to life the long, hot summer of 1956, when everyone was singing Elvis Presley's hit single. Maggie is a sorority girl, the quintessential Southern young lady--until she meets two people who shatter her idyllic existence. Simultaneous release with Colony.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The year is 1956. Eisenhower is president, the United States is prosperous, and Elvis is King. Underneath this happy era of relative peace are the powder kegs of the Civil and Women's Rights movements. Maggie Deloach is a senior at a small Southern college. She is a golden girl, active in sorority and campus functions, and attached to Boots Claiborne, a rich fellow whom she is expected to marry. She is on the path to being the perfect Southern matron. However, a series of events shatter Maggie's perfect world and make her aware of the storm lurking beneath the calm of the times. Though painfully slow in starting, listeners will enjoy this tale of a young woman who realizes that she is not happy with the life she is expected to lead. For most collections.-- Danna C. Bell-Russel, Marymount Univ. Lib. , Arlington, Va.
From the Publisher
"Anne Rivers Siddons...delivers the goods — the whole fabulous package — with every book she writes."

— Pat Conroy, bestselling author of The Prince of Tides

"Marvelously detailed."

The New York Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061042782
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/15/1993
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 309
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons

Anne Rivers Siddons was born in a small railroad town just south of Atlanta, where her family has lived for six generations. She attended Auburn University and later joined the staff of Atlanta magazine. Her first novel, Heartbreak Hotel, a story of her college days at Auburn, was later made into a movie called Heart of Dixie, starring Ally Sheedy. Since then she has written fifteen more novels, many of which have been bestsellers. Recently, a movie version of her later novel The House Next Door was aired on LifeTime Network. Ms. Siddons now divides her time between Atlanta and Brooklin, Maine.

Biography

Born in 1936 in a small town near Atlanta, Anne Rivers Siddons was raised to be a dutiful daughter of the South -- popular, well-mannered, studious, and observant of all the cultural mores of time and place. She attended Alabama's Auburn University in the mid-1950s, just as the Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. Siddons worked on the staff of Auburn's student newspaper and wrote an editorial in favor of integration. When the administration asked her to pull the piece, she refused. The column ran with an official disclaimer from the university, attracting national attention and giving young Siddons her first taste of the power of the written word.

After a brief stint in the advertising department of a bank, Siddons took a position with the up and coming regional magazine Atlanta, where she worked her way up to senior editor. Impressed by her writing ability, an editor at Doubleday offered her a two-book contract. She debuted in 1975 with a collection of nonfiction essays; the following year, she published Heartbreak Hotel, a semi-autobiographical novel about a privileged Southern coed who comes of age during the summer of 1956.

With the notable exception of 1978's The House Next Door, a chilling contemporary gothic compared by Stephen King to Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, Siddons has produced a string of well-written, imaginative, and emotionally resonant stories of love and loss -- all firmly rooted in the culture of the modern South. Her books are consistent bestsellers, with 1988's Peachtree Road (1988) arguably her biggest commercial success. Described by her friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our generation," the book sheds illuminating light on the changing landscape of mid-20th-century Atlanta society.

Although her status as a "regional" writer accounts partially for Siddons' appeal, ultimately fans love her books because they portray with compassion and truth the real lives of women who transcend the difficulties of love and marriage, family, friendship, and growing up.

Good To Know

Although she is often compared with another Atlanta author, Margaret Mitchel, Siddons insists that the South she writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind. Instead, her relationship with the region is loving, but realistic. "It's like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the romance has long since worn off...I want to write about it as it really is: I don't want to romanticize it."

Siddons' debut novel Heartberak Hotel was turned into the 1989 movie Heart of Dixie, starry Ally Sheedy, Virginia Madsen, and Phoebe Cates.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Sybil Anne Rivers Siddons (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 9, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The making of Maggie Deloach was a process as as indigenous to her part of the South as the making of cotton textiles in the fortress-bricked mills that crouched over the muddy, fast-moving rivers of the Georgia and Alabama plateau country. But it was a process far more narrowly applied. In the cities of the South -- in Atlanta and Birmingham and Charlotte and Mobile and Charleston -- there were perhaps a hundred Maggies, flowering in any given year, girls planted, tended, and grown like prize roses, to be cut and massed and shown at debutant balls and cotillions in their eighteenth year. Unlike roses, they did not die after the showing; instead, they moved gently into colleges and universities and Junior League chapters, and were then pressed between the leaves of substantial marriages to be dried and preserved.

In the smaller towns, there were always perhaps three or four current Maggies. And in the smallest, like Lytton, there was only a Maggie. Nevertheless, the technique of creation varied only in small details and circumstances. It was a process of rules, subtle, shaded, iron bylaws that were tacitly drafted in burned and torn households sometime during the Reconstruction by frail, reeling gentlewomen throughout the exploded South, laws for the shaping of new women who would be, forever after, impervious to casual, impersonal chaos. The formula lasted, with only those modifications that were a nod to the times, through a world war and a depression and another world war, and its end product, the young women of a certain caste of the South, were, on the main, as uniformly bright, hard, shining,and true as bullets from identical molds. There was no reason to think that The Rules would fail to hold, certainly no omens of mechanical malfunction, when the life of Maggie Deloach began.

And so it was that Maggie's making began far earlier than the April night of her conception in the mahogany bed with pineapple finials that stood in a high-ceilinged bedroom of the house that had belonged to four generations of Deloaches. Comer Deloach, just out of the University of Georgia law school, had brought Frances Hamilton there as a bride of twenty, a tall, unworldly, drooping farm girl fresh from a north Georgia female academy. For the first four years of their marriage, Frances and Comer had shared the house with Comer's mother, a still-pretty woman of such relentless Christian charity that she had driven Comer's father, a stout, flushed dentist, to increasingly frequent all-night fox and possum hunts with what she called his Cronies, in Lytton's surrounding pine woods. On one of those nights of drinking sour mash and following the baying speckled hounds, Big Comer had stumbled into an abandoned well on the deserted old MacIntosh homeplace, covered only by tangled kudzu vines, and had broken his neck. By the time the fuddled Cronies had summoned old Dr. Clayton and the Lytton constabulary, with flashlights and ropes, Comer was dead.

For two years after his death, Elvira Deloach had lived comfortably alone on insurance and the considerable rentals from Deloach properties, largely in the black section of Lytton called Lightning, and had dispensed her charity to the less fortunate of Lytton and its environs via the funnel of the First Methodist Church of Lytton. And when Comer and Frances moved into the old Deloach place on Coleman Street, she leveled it at the young couple, chiefly at Frances, since Comer's proud new association with an Atlanta law firm meant an hour's train ride to the city, nine hours in the firm's library, and another chuffing hour's ride home. Frances Hamilton Deloach, conventional and biddable from her curly crown to her long, narrow feet, soon learned to fear, loathe, and obey her mother-in-law, and to ferment with tightly capped resentment even while she sat smiling with Evira's missionary circle in the cool afternoon cave of her living room, studying Elvira's endless tracts and sewing awkwardly for the newly-come-to-Jesus in darkest Africa. Always, when as the junior member of the circle she was dispatched to the cavernous kitchen to bring in the tray of coconut cake and iced tea, prepared by muttering Theopal, she would hear the beedrone of conversation drop to the level ofa sweetly malignant litany, and she knew Elvira was sighing to a breath-held circle of Christian ladies about her daughter-in-law's ineptitude at the kitchen range and the lacy iron Singer sewing machine, her lack of initiative in the Work of the Church, and her inferior Hamilton antecedents. ("She tries, I suppose, but everybody knows they sharecropped until the twenties, at least, and the Good Lord only knows where they got money enough to send that child to Brenau. Jess MacLaren told me for a fact that there's no Hamilton money in his bank. Blood tells.")

By the time Maggie was conceived, Frances Deloach was unalterably a cowed and silently angry woman, but a confirmed standard-bearer of The Rules. They had, after all, gotten her off a sharecropper's red acres and into a lawyer's house.

Maggie's conception was accomplished in dead silence under cover of a spring thunderstorm and with the barest possible minimum of bedspring squeaking. Sanctified joy under her own roof was something Elvira Deloach effectively discouraged by calling softly to her son, through their connecting bedroom doors, that she thought she'd heard an intruding animal in the chicken coop, or that she'd heard an odd noise, almost like a moan; was Comer or Frances feeling ill? Or that she was "feeling her bad old stomach again" and would he please bring her a glass of Sal Hepatica, as she'd left her glasses on the sun porch again, silly woman that she was. She varied the timing of her nocturnal requests; a mutely furious Frances and a resigned Comer could...

Heartbreak Hotel. Copyright © by Anne Rivers Siddons. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Plot Summary
Maggie Deloach has everything going for her. She's one of the most popular girls on Randolph University's campus, beloved of the faculty and the student body. She belongs to the best sorority and is pinned to the most eligible fraternity boy, Boots Claibornes. From an impeccable lineage, Maggie was brought up to behave like a perfect Southern belle. Maggie knows the rules and is willing to play by them, which all but guarantees her a future of smooth sailing, with no surprises, and no disappointments. But this is Alabama, in the summer of 1956, and the world is about to be rocked by the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. Maggie runs into a young newspaper reporter, Hoyt Cunningham, who begins to open her eyes to the momentous societal changes that are happening all around her. Responding to her obvious intelligence, Hoyt challenges her to become a part of the veritable revolution that is sweeping the nation. A visit to the Claiborne family estate in the delta brings Maggie face to face with the cruel injustices of segregation and racism. Her newly-awakened moral indignation drives her to write an incendiary article in Randolph's college newspaper that forever changes the way people think of Maggie, and how she thinks of herself. As the nation rocks to Elvis Presley tunes and the winds of change blow across the South, Maggie is launched onto a wrenching journey of self-discovery that threatens to shatter her whole world.Topics for Discussion
1. Maggie says of the imprisoned black man, "he was something in a trap and he couldn't get out, and he hated the people who'd trapped him, but at the same time he'd do anything on earth they wanted him to,just so they didn't punish him. And I recognized that, I knew what he was feeling, I understood that." What does she mean? What does her initial empathy for the black man lead her to conclude about her own life? How does she succeed in getting out of the "trap" for herself?

2. What role does Aiken play in Maggie's life? How does Maggie's impression of Aiken change through the course of the novel? What are the different types of friendships Maggie has with other women? Which proves to be the most instrumental in her life, and why?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 19, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    An Okay Look at Racial Tensions in the 1950's South

    I was hopeful that this book would be a touching novel that really spoke to me because Ms. Siddons books have been compared to some other authors I really like. It was okay. I had a hard time liking many of the characters and I grew particularly frustrated with the heroine. There was some pretty rough language and a lot of references to the college party life. I found some things to like about the book, but not enough to put this author ahead of some others on my to-be-read-next pile.

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