Cover Image: In Polite Company

In Polite Company

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Member Reviews

Lovely book with wonderful descriptions of Charleston SC. Much of her descriptions of the Charleston 'good ole boys' club happened all over the state and probably many places not only in the South but all over the USA.   Some would say that the 'good old boys' club is alive and well now-- it's just not as easy to spot these days.  Her illuminations of 'old school' husband's attitude toward their wives and duties rang through until the 1960's and 70's.   Overall, a very good book, some things were more detailed and fleshed out more than they needed to be, and it seemed almost a rush to end the book quickly.  I suppose that leaves an opening to additional books about this family or to your imagination.   
I was provided this book as an Advanced Reader Copy and was under no obligation to provide a review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  
Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read this book.
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This book was a  slice of southern life, butt had a story to tell.  Loudie, although not a very vocal character (and SPOILER ALERT actually dies during the book), who appears to be a true southern gentlewoman and very much under her husband's thumb was actually a women's libber, at least for awhile.  She wanted "more" and if she couldn't get it wants more for her granddaughter Simons.  That is the story line, but it is the descriptions of Charleston life--although this book is current, the parties, the food, the houses, the manners could have happened 50 years ago.  However, there are, here and there, some gaps in the southern charm life--instead of going to a hospital Weezy (Simon's sister) elects to have her second child in a birthing  center and Simon's ditches her perfectly acceptable fiancee and in the end seems to be headed for Washington DC.  Maybe the south will rise again, just differently...
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A Southern novel that explores the intricacies of love and loss, and life and death.

Synopsis:
Simons Smythe is Charleston, SC born and raised; her family is deeply embedded in the decades-old socialite groups as a prominent "Lowcountry" family. Simons has played the game for her whole life. She has been debuted at debutante balls, she found a man who would provide for her as a lawyer, and she was going to settle. Until she realizes she is not happy. As Simons' grandmother is dying, she realizes that she has not been "being brave" as her grandmother taught her. She doesn't want the "perfect man" anymore, she doesn't want to be a part of the aristocratic, patriarchal, white group that rules the social elite of Charleston. She wants out.

Thoughts:
I loved how the author portrayed the history and present of Charleston. Since I have never been there, the detail helped immensely to set the stage. I enjoyed the premise of this story. Simons is trying to break free from the mold that has melded her throughout her entire life. She is trying to take down the patriarchy. However, I didn't love how it all played out. She's near 30 and just figured out that white men rule everywhere, but especially the South? She is disgusted by the sight of her fiance but just now decided she probably shouldn't marry him? It just felt like too many revelations happening at once, therefore, a little unrealistic. I loved the style of writing at times, but in some chapters I hated it. I have mixed feelings about this book, therefore I'm rating it a solid 3 stars.

“Here’s the thing about Charleston families: we regard civility above all else. No matter what is said or done, we remain in polite company. It’s what we’ve been bred to do: Hide our disagreements beneath the smiles. Not say what we mean."
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In Polite Company gives us a glimpse into the Charleston that most of us will never see.  I enjoyed learning about it through a protagonist who is multi-dimensional, intelligent, fun, kind and brave.
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Because I love Charleston and all stories about everything there, I loved this book. The descriptions are spot on and so are the people. Here's hoping Gervais Hagerty writes more and soon
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Thank you to William Morrow and Net Galley for an advance read of this title in exchange for my honest review.  I love a book about the south, and this one was quite good.  One thing I loved was that we got a taste of the tradition, but we also saw how the next generation is taking charge and changing some of tradition that needed to change, the "old boy's network," if you will.  Simons is in the midst of an engagement to the perfect match, but something is missing.  He's great, but is he the one?  She loves her family, especially her grandma, and is trying to find her place in the world.  I adored the book.
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Having been to Charleston many times, I was anxious to read this book.  The descriptions of the city are right on!  I can picture them immediately.  The traditions, the society, and the families all add up to an enjoyable read.  A young woman and her grandmother's past life all contribute to a satisfying conclusion.
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Simons Smyth is a producer for a Charleston, South Carolina news station, is engaged to the perfect guy, Trip, and comes from an old stock Charleston family. She was raised in a privileged white world where the men are part of an exclusive club, the women go to lunch and plan charities, and the girls grow up to become debutants. But Simons isn’t so sure that she wants to be part of this world anymore.  As she examines this, Simons starts to learn more about her grandma Laudie's past life, before she became a wife and mother.  Maybe learning about Laudie will give Simons the courage to figure out what she wants.
Simon's struggle with how she fits into the mold of Charleston is one that will resonate with women.  She is part of a world that has definite gender and class lines.  The story examines the outdated idea of men's clubs, but doesn't tear down the concept of girls coming out as debutants enough.  I would have liked to see Simons evolution happen more in the book, versus the reality where she is just starting her transformation at the end.  I loved the character of Laudie and wanted to learn so much more about her and her sacrifices.  The book was good overall.
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I am fascinated with Charleston and it's history.  I requested this book for a chance to read what happens behind the walls, as the book blurb advertised, and it didn't disappoint.. It's a really great story!  Simons Smythe is born into the low country gentry and privilege - but does question the "good ole boys" society rules..  She is engaged to an up and coming lawyer, has a great job producing the local news, and everything seems to be going smoothly.  Until it isn't.  She calls off the wedding, hooks up with an old high-school crush, is deserted by her best friend, her confidant - her grandmother Laudie - passes away, and life gets a little crazy.  That's when she heads to Edisto and the beach - where she learns to "be brave" as Laudie taught her.

Thank you to NetGalley for a digital ARC of this book in return for my review.
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A beautifully descriptive and fascinating look inside Old Charleston’s families and their deep seated Southern traditions.  The traditions and values held dear to the older generations, but beginning to be questioned by the younger ones. 

“Here’s the thing about Charleston families: we regard civility above all else. No matter what is said or done, we remain in polite company. It’s what we’ve been bred to do: Hide our disagreements beneath the smiles. Not say what we mean. It’s why Laudie never speaks up to Tito. It’s why I said yes to Trip.”

This story is told through Simons, a 30 something Charleston native, working as a news producer.  She grew up as part of the Charleston elite, mostly letting her future be planned out for her.  As she hits a turning point in her life, she grapples with her expectations for her future.  Should she choose the easy way -the way of life she grew up around, or should she possibly disappoint her family and choose to chart her own course.  If she continues in her current path, she will be married to a lawyer, live in a nice house, and enjoy all the things that money and prestige can offer.  Yet if she veers off course, it could lead to romantic love, a job effecting change for things that matter and a break from traditions she no longer believes in.  Yet it could also lead to an uncertain future, one in which she lives with regret and remorse.

Simons’ Grandmother, Laudie has always known that Simons is like her in more ways that she knows.  As a part of Charleston society, she has adhered to tradition, minded her manners and has lived a comfortable, enjoyable life.  She frequently tells Simons to “be brave.”  As Laudie learns about Simons’ struggles with her future, she shares a piece of her younger years that she never previously shared.  How she too, was faced with a difficult choice before she married.  Once Simons learns the final piece of her Grandmother’s story through a found old letter, Simons knows her choice.

The author’s words wrap Charleston around the reader.  The prose throughout the book is mesmerizing.  It was a treat to inhale the gorgeous words as illustrated by a few samples below:

“My family, like the others who grew up within the historic district, will never leave. So, we do what we can to keep from dissolving into the thick humidity that weighs down this Southern coastal town as much as its complicated history does: We wear linen and guzzle iced tea.”

“I have a growing sense of unease that the wall of portraits represents far more than the leadership of the club. They are the figureheads of a powerful network; they look out for each other. These are the men who run the city, quietly, carefully, out of the limelight.”

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced reader copy.  My opinions are my honest review.
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Lovely portrait of a young woman coming of age in a stifling society. I love the main character and found love with the setting as well.  I highly recommend this book which is a well told story.
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I've read so many of Mary Alice Monroe's books, as well as books by other authors, that feature the people and setting of the Lowcountry, particularly the beaches and the city of Charleston. So, it was really fun to read In Polite Company, because it tells the story of Simons Smythe, a young woman whose prominent Charleston family goes back for many generations. She struggles with the expectations and traditions, but ultimately comes to value them and appreciate them -- but on her own terms. Simons gives us a n insider's view of the debutante balls and teas, the private clubs, and the courting rituals. She doesn't shy away from observing and acknowledging white privilege and prejudice, or the complicated roles of men and women. I look forward to recommending this title.
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A very interesting look at the inner workings of Charleston upper class, especially for this Yankee girl. ;-)  Simons comes from a prominent family but begins to question a lot of their traditions and even teachings. Spurred on by stories told to her by her ailing grandmother, Simons makes some tough choices about her future and what she really wants. Touched on topics such as white privilege and misogyny as well. A fun new voice in southern fiction! I hope we get to read more about Simons in the future.
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