Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flag

 

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I remember watching this film sniffling into a hankie many years ago.  Although now having read the book realise I had remembered very little of the detail of the story.  I enjoy American writing and picked up this book when I was feeling the need for a door stopper saga of a book.  I hoped this would fit the bill and it did although maybe not in the way I had imagined.

This is the story of the residents of Whistlestop, a backwater town in the state of Alabama and in particular the relationship between the owners of the Whistle Stop Café, Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison.  The story is set between the 1920’s – 1940’s and is told in the present as the events, take place and through the regular news sheet ‘The Weems Weekly’, Whistlestop’s weekly bulletin.  It’s also told in the past by one of the eldest residents of Whistlestop, Ninny Threadgoode.   Now living in a nursing home Ninny re-lives the past by telling stories to her friend Evelyn Crouch.

Everyone passes through the whistle stop cafe and Ruth and Idgie make it their business to feed them all.   This was the time of the Klu Klux Klan and extreme inequality between black and white.  Ruth and Idgie ignored these divisions and regularly befriend the poorest members of the community feeding anyone down on their luck, usually for free.

This is a story of love and friendship without prejudice or judgement.  It’s about friends defending each other against all the odds and with no thought to the consequences.

The relationship between Ninnie and Evelyn is one of my favourites in the book.  When Evelyn begins visiting Ninny she is unhappy in her marriage, depressed and lacking in confidence.

 “But all the women there were just as confused as she was.  Holding onto their husbands and their drinks to keep themselves from disappearing”

Ninny shows Evelyn that she is so much more than this and gives her the confidence to carry on living. Ninny is also funny, and I think has some of the best lines in the book

“Stump, do you reckon you could come over to my house and shoot your gun at those old blackbirds that are sitting on my telephone wires?  I don’t want you to hurt them, I just want you to scare them off…I think they’re up there listening to my telephone calls, through their feet.”

The Weems Weekly also makes for much amusement as Dot Weems faithfully reports newsworthy events of Whistle Stop to its residents.

“By the way Idgie says one of her hens laid an egg with a ten dollar bill in it”
 “We are sorry to report that our beloved 98 year old Bessie Vick, Bertha’s mother in law died yesterday of what was thought to be old age”

It’s also a regular commentary on the latest goings on in Dot’s domestic life.

“By the way does any one know how to get rid of dogs in cement? If so, call me up or come by the post office and tell me.”
“By the way my other half hooked his own finger the other day when he was fishng, so I’ve had him at home again moaning and groaning.”

Friendships run deep and true and I was regularly moved by this and maybe no more so than when Ruth dies.

“Miss Ruth is a lady and always knew when to leave a party, and this wasn’t going to be any exception as long as she was around.  She kept her word.  Big George and Stump and Idgie were way out in the woods looking for pinecones for her room when Ruth died, and by the time they got back she had been taken away”

Should you have a taste for fried green tomatoes, fried catfish, or coconut cream pie, you can find the recipes for these and the rest of the menu from the Whistle Stop Café at the end of the book

This is a poignant but whimsical story full of joy and sadness and plenty to keep you guessing until the end.  Having read it I suspect I may now have to watch the film version (again). Perhaps more significantly I would love to read other books by Fannie Flagg.

Tomato stall

2 Comments

  1. February 19, 2015 / 11:16 am

    Hi Angie,

    This is a very interesting post as I didn’t know that the film Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café was actually based on a book of the same name. I like the film too

    I am right in thinking aren’t I that in the film, it is turns out that the lady telling the story in the nursing home is actually Idgie herself?

    Jo

    • February 20, 2015 / 10:54 am

      HI Jo, I don’t think I realised it was a book either until I came across it. I can’t quite remember the ending of the film but I think it may be a bit different to the ending of the book. I’ll have to re-watch the film. Angie

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