Review – Auntie Mame
  • Posted:
  • April 24, 2013
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Auntie Mame is a New York Times bestseller from 1955. This classic, written by Patrick Dennis, is a satiric take on a biographic novel in which Patrick is the narrator. This was the April read for my book group and I enjoyed reading it very much. It’s vastly different from what I would ordinarily pick up.

Patrick is an orphan on his way to live with his much-talked-about Auntie Mame. Upon meeting the infamous, childless Aunt he and his temporary guardian, Norah, encounter a woman of considerable personality. Mame is a free spirit; a woman in touch with different cultures and different beliefs. Mame encourages iconoclastic freedoms, particularly in our young hero. She smokes like a chimney and chain-drinks even worse. She also is one of the most tolerant, accepting people that Patrick has ever met. And she shapes him in ways that he cannot calibrate.

In this madcap romp of a novel Mame saunters through life with equal parts vim and vigor. She throws herself into every pursuit with gusto. Each chapter in the book is a new story and these vignettes make up the passing of Patrick’s life from childhood to parenthood. Mame is there with every step, cosseting and cursing and causing a commotion. Mame gets Patrick in (and out) of various troubles in the book but through it all she is a tender, albeit muddled, type of guardian. Patrick couldn’t ask for a better upbringing, despite the occasional bump in the road.

Mame is a literary legend for a reason. She is crass and wanton. She is also stylish and sleek. Mame is a trend setter, a veritable force in society. She defines the twentieth century woman with panache. It’s no wonder that she is an unforgettable heroine in literature.

Patrick was an interesting character to wander through this adventure with. It is understandable that he would be overwhelmed by Mame at the beginning. She’s more destructive than a whirlwind. As Patrick ages he begins to assert his will against Mame, standing up for things he believes in that he knows she won’t agree with. Through the fall of the stock market, the war, and the subsequent boom of the fifties Mame remains a steady companion and best friend to Patrick. And he couldn’t ask for anyone better.

This hilarious, and oft poignant, novel was a blast. I particularly loved the bits where Mame encountered bigotry and let them have it. She shines when she’s cornered. Or when she stands up for anyone, and anything, that she believes in.

5 out of 5 stars.

– BP

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