Study Guide for Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns|
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FREE BOOK NOTES - COLD SASSY TREE
Burns began writing Cold Sassy Tree in 1975, when she was diagnosed with cancer herself. She used the project to keep her mind off her illness, working on the book for over 8 years. The novel was published in 1984 and was an instant success, receiving critical praise. Burns began writing a sequel, Leaving Cold Sassy, but her cancer reappeared. She battled cancer for over 10 years in declining health and died from congestive heart failure at the age of 66 on July 4, 1990. Her unfinished Leaving Cold Sassy, was published posthumously.
Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides, said Burns' book was
'one of the best portraits of small town southern life ever written.
Burns novel is significant for its literary quality more than its historical value. She took advantage of her own experience as a daughter of a financially ruined farmer as well as what she knew of attitudes and social values of small town southerners. Although the story is basically a "coming of age" story, it also gives an accurate portrait of relationships in a place where people know everything about each other and are struggling to maintain their positions in a stratified community on the verge of change.
She said herself that she interviewed a lot of people and tried to capture their voices, using their words to create characters who have unique rhythms to their speech. She has created a unique work of art that displays the racist attitudes of the people, yet is not itself a racist novel. The characters have more than enough prejudice against each other and especially against the mill town people, but the narrative voice itself seems removed from that prejudice. Her involved narrator tells his story with an educated sense of grammar and diction, but is perfectly at ease when repeating the words of the less educated people of his community. The tone, a blend of objectivity and humor, creates a feeling of "reporting," making the people seem as though they belong in a newspaper rather than a novel. In short, the novel is completely believable and completely accessible. Although the setting is early 1900s, the experiences, observations and feelings are ones with which young adults of any time period could relate.
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Ruff, Dr. K.. "TheBestNotes on Cold Sassy Tree".
. 09 May 2017