Thursday, 18 February 2010
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
By Beth Hoffman
I’m fated to go mad.
Why so, my dear? You seem sane enough to me. Well… relatively.
You don’t know my family
Ah yes. The genetic taint. You fear that you’ll be struck down by mental illness because it’s in the family? What you need (apart from learning about genetics) is Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.
A cosy novel of the American Deep South. CeeCee - 12-year-old Cecelia Rose - is minding her increasingly disturbed mother at the start - her dad has taken it on the lam, and is present only in maintenance cheques.
And this will help me how?
Be calm. CeeCee’s mother is killed, and her great-aunt Tootie swoops in and brings CeeCee to Savannah, Georgia, to a world run entirely by ladies.
Georgia? KKK fanatics?
Of course the racism question raises its head soon - Tootie’s housekeeper, Oletta, is black and proud. But in this simple story, simple decency wins out.
How unlike life
Not always, honeychile. Oletta, Tootie, their appealingly nutty neighbour Miz Goodyear, Oletta’s friends in the old folks’ home, all help to heal the troubled child.
Certainly not safe reading for diabetics. But kindly and reassuring for anyone too taken with the current craze for seeing DNA as an unstoppable force.
A horrid neighbour, Miz Hobbs, is a saccharine racist. But CeeCee gets her revenge by kidnapping her bra and photographing it in many appealing locations, and sending nasty Miz Hobbs the photos with nice notes.
Beginning to like the sound of it
It’s a big hit in America, where its simple story chimes with the nostalgia for a supposedly kinder past. All the problems - like those of CeeCee’s beloved old neighbour from the icy north - are solved with a smile and a generous offer.
The sense of place - interior designer Hoffman’s writing brings Savannah and its people lovingly into your mind. A gorgeous book.