Holly

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With remarkable insight and sensitivity, French constructs his drama around a richly drawn portrayal of a nineteen-year-old poor white girl, Holly R. Hill, who lives with her family in Supply, North Carolina, in 1944. When we meet her, Holly spends her days fussing about her clothes; worrying about her brother and her sometime fiance, who are off fighting in the war; contemplating kissing the local dreamboat, Garet Foster; and sharing secrets with her best friend, Elsie Fagen. Like a character from a Thomas Hardy...
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Overview

With remarkable insight and sensitivity, French constructs his drama around a richly drawn portrayal of a nineteen-year-old poor white girl, Holly R. Hill, who lives with her family in Supply, North Carolina, in 1944. When we meet her, Holly spends her days fussing about her clothes; worrying about her brother and her sometime fiance, who are off fighting in the war; contemplating kissing the local dreamboat, Garet Foster; and sharing secrets with her best friend, Elsie Fagen. Like a character from a Thomas Hardy novel, Holly seems, literally, perfectly ordinary. But Holly's safe world begins to crack open as her town and family struggle to cope with the war's toll on their loved ones. In her mourning, Holly begins to spend a lot of time alone near the Back Land, "where Supply's coloreds lived," and where she meets Elias Owens, a young, handsome veteran who is an aspiring painter and composer, and who is black. Their relationship touches off a maelstrom that leaves no doubt as to the consequences of crossing society's proscribed boundaries. A love story and an indictment, Holly is also a story of friendship, of community and of the aftereffects of a war on a family as well as on a small town. Told with a piercing tenderness and intensity, Holly confirms Albert French as a dark and passionate chronicler of American mores and culture.

From the acclaimed author of Billy comes another powerful tale of race and tragedy. 1944: In a small North Carolina town, a lonely white girl's listless life is transformed by a young, handsome, educated black soldier back from the war. Billy tells the story of the town's savage response to their romance.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Written in prose that struggles to capture the authentic coastal Carolina patois, this disappointing second novel from the author of the acclaimed Billy (1993) is ruefully nave and uneven. Again, French tells a tale of racial injustice and redemption. During the final months of WWII, Holly Hill, an artless 19-year-old poor white girl engaged to her high-school sweetheart, a sailor on duty in the Pacific, avoids total boredom in the backwater of Supply, N.C., by dallying with the few men in town not at war. After writing her fiance a letter breaking off their engagement, the one-dimensional heroine learns of his death and burial at sea and undergoes a rather unlikely epiphany, retreating into the solitude of grief-induced asceticism. Throughout the first two-thirds of the book, cricket calls and night-bug cries abound as the highly repetitive narrative crawls phlegmatically along without inspiring much interest in-or empathy for-any of its central characters. It all picks up in the final third, however, when Holly encounters Elias, a copper-skinned young black artist from Washington, D.C., who lost an arm in the battle for Europe. Elias is seeking refuge with his grandmother, hoping to heal the wounds to his soul, when he and Holly begin their friendship. With the ominous unfolding of that friendship into forbidden romance, the book comes to life and reaches for a sense of transcendant meaning. The soaring note of redemption French hits at the end of the novel is beautiful and so poignant it may induce tears. But it's not of an aesthetic piece with what preceded it. (May)
Library Journal
Set in the final year of World War II, in a small southern town called Supply, this beautifully written second novel by the author of the acclaimed Billy (LJ 10/1/93) tells of a 20-year-old white woman, Holly. Holly is struggling to come to a decision about her engagement to Billy, a local boy serving in the Pacific. She and her friend Elsie continue to play the local field, and eventually Holly decides to break off with Billy. Meanwhile, her brother Bobby returns from battle with a head wound and is much changed. When Billy is killed, Holly goes through intense psychological change as well: the effect of the distant war is very much felt at home. Supply's black population is relegated to a tract of land called the Back Land, where Holly gets to know a recently discharged amputee. The book really takes off when their relationship begins to deepen, gathering irresistible momentum. Recommended for all fiction collections.-David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs
From the Publisher
"Illuminates a great deal not only about black and white Americans and the history of our depressed, desperate intermingling but also about the sturdiness of humbler notions like decency and love. . . . The beauty of Mr. French’s language is exceptional."
—New York Times Book Review

"Evocative and ruthless . . . French beautifully sketches Holly’s tale, painting characters rich enough to demand sympathy even as they react with unthinking racism."
—Washington Post Bookworld

"Dramatically vivid. . . . Readers will enjoy Holly for the distinctive poetry of much of its prose, and for its evocation of an isolated world that unhappily reflects too accurately the larger truths of our nation’s racial divide."
—Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140240252
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/11/1996
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 0.58 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2001

    Holly: the loving story between and black man and a white women

    I thought this book was outstanding, the author brought out the loving ways between and black man and a white women. Their relationship was so caring and committed it made you feel like you knew them both. Holly's character was outgoing,caring and adventurous and Elias' character was caring, talented( painting) and trustworthy to Holly. This book makes you want to keep reading until you finish it and then reread it again and again....

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