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The Fennel Family Papers

The Fennel Family Papers

by William P. Baldwin
Paul Danvers, a young PhD, finds himself being sucked into the maw of eccentricity, malevolence, incest, miscegenation, and possession by spirits from the past of the notoriously decadent Fennel family.


Paul Danvers, a young PhD, finds himself being sucked into the maw of eccentricity, malevolence, incest, miscegenation, and possession by spirits from the past of the notoriously decadent Fennel family.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Like Baldwin's acclaimed first novel, The Hard to Catch Mercy, which won the Lillian Smith Award for Fiction, his second is set in a South Carolina coastal town and sends up Southern Gothic. What's new here is a wickedly funny academic satire, grafted onto a manic plot featuring murder, madness, incest, a ghost and spirit possession. Ambitious, reclusive history professor Paul Danvers, desperate to achieve tenure, starts an affair with his student, Ginny Fennel, in order to gain access to the private papers of her notorious family, lighthouse keepers since the American Revolution, whose ancestors include slave dealers, black marketers and adventurers. As Paul sifts the Fennel archives-and as he fends off Ginny's uncle, homicidal maniac Leroy Ramona, who has incestuous designs on his niece-the self-centered professor stumbles upon family skeletons. Did Ginny's wheelchair-bound father become paralyzed by falling off a porch or by jumping from a lighthouse-or was he trying to fly, caught in a voodoo spell cast by the Fennels' Gullah-speaking black servant? Was lighthouse keeper Captain Jack Fennel, Ginny's great-grandfather, a Civil War hero or a murderously indifferent cook? As this gripping, macabre, witty romp progresses, and as deranged Ginny slips into the personality of her great-grand-aunt and thinks it's 1861, Paul seems ever more likely to perish than to publish. (Feb.)
Library Journal
This is truly an odd novel. Mild-mannered to a fault, misfit professor Paul Danvors thinks he's hit academic pay dirt when his first sweetheart and student Ginny takes him home to meet her family, the Fennels. Keepers of a South Carolina lighthouse since before the Civil War, the Fennels reportedly have squirreled away historic papers that Paul hopes to bring to publication, ensuring his tenure. What he hasn't bargained for is the violence and madness of the household members, particularly Ginny's Uncle Leroy. By the time he realizes the situation he's in, Paul must struggle to survive the visit. Raucous, funny, and decidedly off-beat, this is surprisingly enjoyable reading from the author of the well-received The Hard To Catch Mercy (Algonquin, 1993).-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Joanne Wilkinson
Pathetically eager to make the tenure track, nerdy history professor Paul Danvers thinks he has hit the mother lode when he gains access to the famous Fennel family papers. Obsessed by his quest to unearth the ancient southern family's secrets, Danvers desperately tries to overlook the peculiar and often menacing behavior of various relatives, including a psychotic nephew whose overly enthusiastic greetings invariably cause Danvers untold pain. As he meticulously pores over the musty, moldering papers, he finds little more than recipes and weather notations. It's the family servant, Da Bena, a skillful witch doctor, who proves to be the true repository of the Fennels' history, which encompasses miscegenation, treason, and slave running. In the novel's oddly brilliant climax, Danvers finds himself engaged in hand-to-hand combat with modern-day pirates while defending a lady's honor. His triumph causes him to lose both his taste for history and his fear of living. Baldwin, also the author of "The Hard to Catch Mercy" (1993), fuels his rollicking satire with large doses of anarchic humor and totally unpredictable storytelling. And Baldwin is that rare thing--a satirist with a lot of heart. A comic gem.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.85(w) x 8.79(h) x 1.19(d)

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