fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe review

Another attempt at some classic American literature! (Previous read was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith). Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the 1987 classic by Fannie Flagg. Set in small-town America, it tackles every topic under the sun.

I was hugely surprised by how much I loved this book. Told through a series of anecdotes (and old editions of the Whistle Stop ‘newspaper’), this is a meandering tale of a community in the 20s and 30s. Again, it’s one that I wish that I had read a couple of years ago, because it has so much to say about every facet of life, and in such a conversational, non-preachy way. Feminism, racism, disability, poverty, and homosexuality are all addressed in this little gem of a novel. The feminist aspects of the novel were also particularly well done (and amusing!). One character’s thoughts about why balls are so important in society had me howling with laughter.

Let’s talk about one of my favourite relationships in the novel – that between Ruth and Idgie. These two lovely ladies declare love for one another, run the Whistle Stop Cafe together, raise a son together…and some people still can’t see the romantic undertones to that. (Helped, I think, by the movie, which apparently skipped over a lot of their relationship. Which is such a shame, because their relationship is really what binds the whole town together.) Idgie in particular is the real heart of the community – and she’s definitely a new fictional crush for me!

Some of the other themes are less well-done, I’ll admit. Obviously, this is from a white person’s pov, but I found the racist aspects of quite strange. I suppose it depicts the different aspects of racism at the time? The KKK is a very real threat, as are other more insidious aspects, such as thinking of African Americans as children. I really can’t put my finger on it, but in comparison to the other aspects of the novel, it goes relatively unchallenged. However, I may only think this because the other themes are handled so beautifully.

I might see the movie, I might not – all I know is that this is a bit of a forgotten classic, I think – and one that I’m going to love for a long time.

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