Home / Recent Airplane Reading: All the Finest Girls by Alexandra Styron

Recent Airplane Reading: All the Finest Girls by Alexandra Styron

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This short novel follows the first-person protagonist’s days on the Caribbean island of St. Clair, where she’s gone to attend the funeral of her long-ago nanny. The protagonist is a single New Yorker in her early 30s named Addy (Adelaide), daughter of a bitterly disillusioned leftist writer and an heiress-actress. Harrowing parental fights are shown in flashback to Addy’s childhood, and the child’s developing obsessive fears are spookily illustrated by the menace of a nightmarish cat. Louise, the nanny, provides love, warmth, and acceptance, helping Addy get along in life – but only until she’s eleven years old, unfortunately.

In the course of the novel, the reader sees how defensive and self-involved Addy has grown up to become. Louise’s family doesn’t want her around for the funeral but were too polite not to invite her. It’s excruciating to watch her struggle for their acceptance and learn to understand the many losses they suffered thanks to Louise’s years raising Addy in the U.S.

By the time I finished the novel, which I was able to do during a long flight, I felt proud of Addy and of the St. Clair characters for learning to accept the events of their lives, themselves, and the flaws of other people. I would have liked to know more about Addy’s teen years and how she grew, in spite of her childhood rage, into an adult who could have relationships and hold a job.

The book ends with a personal essay by the author, who reflects on life with a famous novelist father and what it was really like to grow up with a nanny. I appreciated this and felt that it gave me a more well-rounded perspective on the novel.

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