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Wounded and near death, a young Union Army corporal is found in the woods of Virginia during the height of the Civil War and brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. Almost immediately he sets about beguiling the three women and five teenage girls stranded in this outpost of Southern gentility, eliciting their love and fear, pity and infatuat Wounded and near death, a young Union Army corporal is found in the woods of Virginia during the height of the Civil War and brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. Almost immediately he sets about beguiling the three women and five teenage girls stranded in this outpost of Southern gentility, eliciting their love and fear, pity and infatuation, and pitting them against one another in a bid for his freedom. But as the women are revealed for what they really are, a sense of ominous foreboding closes in on the soldier, and the question becomes: Just who is the beguiled?


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Wounded and near death, a young Union Army corporal is found in the woods of Virginia during the height of the Civil War and brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. Almost immediately he sets about beguiling the three women and five teenage girls stranded in this outpost of Southern gentility, eliciting their love and fear, pity and infatuat Wounded and near death, a young Union Army corporal is found in the woods of Virginia during the height of the Civil War and brought to the nearby Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. Almost immediately he sets about beguiling the three women and five teenage girls stranded in this outpost of Southern gentility, eliciting their love and fear, pity and infatuation, and pitting them against one another in a bid for his freedom. But as the women are revealed for what they really are, a sense of ominous foreboding closes in on the soldier, and the question becomes: Just who is the beguiled?

30 review for The Beguiled

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gkavea

    "How deep do the layers of deception go, I wondered one day." I wasn't aware of this novel,until I saw an advert for Sofia Coppola's recent film version,starring Colin Farrell. I didn't know there was a 1971 version either (and I wouldn't watch a Clint Eastwood film if my life depended on it). So, being a Colin fangirl, I thought "well, I'll read the book and then I'll watch the film and find all kinds of fault with it,because I am an unashamed purist.And the only thing I'll admire is Colin's "How deep do the layers of deception go, I wondered one day." I wasn't aware of this novel,until I saw an advert for Sofia Coppola's recent film version,starring Colin Farrell. I didn't know there was a 1971 version either (and I wouldn't watch a Clint Eastwood film if my life depended on it). So, being a Colin fangirl, I thought "well, I'll read the book and then I'll watch the film and find all kinds of fault with it,because I am an unashamed purist.And the only thing I'll admire is Colin's brown eyes." The problem is that after reading the book, I have no special desire to watch the story being unfold as it proved to be a rather problematic, irritating read, in my opinion.It's unfortunate since the start was very promising. Southern Gothic and Americana have a distinctive aura that I've always found fascinating. The claustrophobic feeling born of the Southern sun,the strict morality (in appearance only), the lush and mysterious residences, the haunting plantations, the bloody history of the region, the turmoil and conflict are characteristics of the genre and present in Τhe Beguiled. A young man, a wounded soldier of the Union army, is found near the premises of the school run by Martha.A school for young girls who have remained in the region despite the ongoing war.It goes without saying that the presence of the young man there brings all sorts of conflicts and repressed feelings to surface and a game of secrets,sexuality and authority begins. The setting of the story helps in creating an atmosphere that can be experienced by the reader.The hot air and the stiffness of the characters made me feel the claustrophobia of the place.It was so exciting,let me tell you.The action takes place in a few of the closed rooms of the estate and is told through the eyes of Martha, her sister, her servant and the adolescent students.It is interesting that McBurney isn't given a POV.It adds to the mystery of his character and provides a better perspective to the influence he exerts on the women of the house.Much of the action takes place during the night and I could "see" the candle lit corridors and the women with their white nightgowns tiptoeing,moving like ghosts,trying to make sense of the changes inside and around them. Cullinan's descriptions are excellent.They managed to keep my interest, even when the action of the book didn't.The language is raw and sensual where needed.The problems came from the dialogue and,majorly, from the characters.Each POV read the same,as if we had the same person speaking throughout the course of the action.In my opinion,Martha,Mettie,Edwina and the others wouldn't sound exactly the same.They wouldn't describe their feelings and thoughts in the same way.And this is what happens,with the slight exception of Mattie who uses a few colloquialisms here and there,just because.As it was, I felt the characters lacked originality, there was no personality in the vast majority of them. This brings me to the issue of characterization.I've never had a problem with unlikable characters,I've said it before.I love them, I think they make every novel more interesting and challenging.BUT with the supposition that they are well-written.In this case, they aren't only unlikable, they're just plain stupid,devoid of any focal point.I'm aware of the hypocrisy of the past,naturally, and the young age of the girls, but this isn't an alibi for badly crafted heroines.I work with adolescents and I can verify to you that there is an incredible amount of "character" in them (in a positive or negative way,it doesn't matter),many times more than in any adult.This issue ended up making the narration too repetitive,especially during the 2nd half of the novel.There are endless lines of exhaustive, cringe-worthy dialogue on whether Johnny should leave or stay,chapter after chapter.In my opinion,the book would have been better if 70-80 pages had been cut and the dialogue dealt with. Martha and Emily were the only interesting characters.Edwina had a few moments but she was too wishy-washy wishy for my liking.Harriett was useless,with the interest of a worn-out doormat,Amelia had some potential that was lost in the process,Alice was a Nickelodeon teenager in the worst sense of the word and McBurney was such an awful person,badly and unconvincingly written.Nevertheless,he deserved every bit of misery that came his way.The author presented every female character,apart from Martha and Emily,as sex-crazed harpies, as sexually starving fools who swoon over a handsome stranger who knows how to sweet-talk them into everything.This was irritating,at first.Then, it became troubling and bothersome.Naturally,the book is quite dated in this matter and probably influenced by misogynistic notions of the past decades.I don't know what Cullinan was trying to show.Perhaps that we lose our minds and good senses when we're sexually attracted to someone?Well,this may happen in real life but it doesn't help in creating interesting literature.I'm glad that this view is buried in literary history.I find it difficult to imagine that a contemporary writer would do that and call the attempt "serious" unless we're talking about a cheap romance.Reading McBurney's ridiculous attempts to beguile the women,feeding them his stories and watching them fall like flies to his call was beyond frustrating. So, 3 stars for the haunting atmosphere and Martha's strength,although my heart wanted to hand 2.It was an interesting experience,I must admit.A Southern Gothic novel whose setting was excellent but the characters and the way the story became more than predictable broke the deal for me.Try it and see for yourselves.If nothing else, you'll come across some of the most stupid people in recent Literature.To quote Sherlock "It makes for too much stupid in the room...." Many thanks to Penguin and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    At the end of this novel I was left sort of speechless, and left in awe after finishing it. As the blurb tells us, as the story begins we find ourselves in Virginia, "during the height of the Civil War." The residents of the Miss Martha Farnworth Seminary for Young Ladies find their routine interrupted when thirteen year-old Amelia Dabney is out picking mushrooms one day and comes upon a wounded Union soldier. Surrounded by cannon fire, she helps him to his feet and takes him to the school. Corp At the end of this novel I was left sort of speechless, and left in awe after finishing it. As the blurb tells us, as the story begins we find ourselves in Virginia, "during the height of the Civil War." The residents of the Miss Martha Farnworth Seminary for Young Ladies find their routine interrupted when thirteen year-old Amelia Dabney is out picking mushrooms one day and comes upon a wounded Union soldier. Surrounded by cannon fire, she helps him to his feet and takes him to the school. Corporal John McBurney tells her he'll be there long enough to get his injuries tended to, and then he'll leave immediately and "be no further trouble." That's what he says, but as the story progresses, we learn that we can't always take McBurney at face value. Far from it. As each of the women and the girls at the house interact with him, his presence interrupts the regular, familiar routine of the house and worse, setting off a bizarre chain of events that no one could have predicted. Wait. I take that back -- the one person who realized from the beginning that "You chil'ren have brought destruction in this house" is the slave Mattie, who sees McBurney for what he really is, but who cannot convince the rest of the women otherwise before it's too late. The story is related through the alternating points of view of the small group of females at the school, which gives it a much more complete feel than it may have had from a third-person narrator alone. As perspectives shift, we start to realize just what it is about each person's psyche or past that draws them to McBurney; we also get different interpretations of the same events, which are often misinterpreted, bringing in a fuller picture of exactly what's going on in the house. And just as the school is isolated because of a war that has divided the country, the divisions within also serve to isolate its residents until they are forced to come to a consensus over what needs to be done to bring things back to the way they were before. The question is, though, how can any of these lives ever be the same again? It's a hell of a page turner , and Cullinan is a master of ratcheting the psychological tension to the point where I couldn't put it down. Unlike a LOT of readers, I thought the alternating points-of-view approach was a great one. And also unlike a lot of readers, I didn't judge the novel on the old Clint Eastwood film made from this book, which was nerve wracking, for sure, but very different from the original story. There's so much psychological tragedy going on in the novel, and while the film version didn't spare the horror, it's of a different variety altogether than what's in the book. Very highly recommended.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sawsan

    The Beguiled is a novel of rivalry, manipulation and revenge with psychological suspense and sexual tension a Union soldier in the American civil war is found injured in woods at south, near a seminary for young women his presence caused a state of disruption, the women at school are different in backgrounds and beliefs, but some of them had something in common which is their fascination with the enemy soldier the narration display the effect of lies and isolation on characters, and to how extent, The Beguiled is a novel of rivalry, manipulation and revenge with psychological suspense and sexual tension a Union soldier in the American civil war is found injured in woods at south, near a seminary for young women his presence caused a state of disruption, the women at school are different in backgrounds and beliefs, but some of them had something in common which is their fascination with the enemy soldier the narration display the effect of lies and isolation on characters, and to how extent, the sexual attraction could affect the good sense and behavior the novel was published in 1966, told from multiple perspectives, well written but with a lot of details and repetition

  4. 4 out of 5

    Karla

    ETA (6/15/17): I guess I better specify I'm referring to the 1971 film version with Clint Eastwood & Geraldine Page, now that Hollywood's lazy, unimaginative ass has decided to do another remake of something that was pretty perfect to begin with. Somewhere between a 3 and 3.5.... IN A NUTSHELL A seemingly charming Irish soldier full of blarney and charisma is brought into a Virginia girls' school to be healed of his wounds in battle. But he ends up inflicting pain on nearly everyone before being sa ETA (6/15/17): I guess I better specify I'm referring to the 1971 film version with Clint Eastwood & Geraldine Page, now that Hollywood's lazy, unimaginative ass has decided to do another remake of something that was pretty perfect to begin with. Somewhere between a 3 and 3.5.... IN A NUTSHELL A seemingly charming Irish soldier full of blarney and charisma is brought into a Virginia girls' school to be healed of his wounds in battle. But he ends up inflicting pain on nearly everyone before being sacrificed to the greater good of the female animal kingdom. When reading or reviewing this book, it's impossible to not bring the film version into it. I saw it for the first time recently, and it was such an atmospheric, layered and disturbing flick that I immediately got hold of the book. Now, having read it, I think I should have done it in the reverse order. Reading the book was a letdown after seeing the movie. Sure, the book's not nearly as disturbing, but the action within it also isn't nearly as interesting. The book seems to be about lies and the believing of lies, the preying of one upon another, and the effect of isolation on a small group. They are so desperate for normality, that when a man enters their small world they leap on it as a way to pretend the war doesn't exist. He's the flower around which all their bees buzz. But the bees soon realize, individually, that the flower isn't as attractive as they thought, and they eventually follow what, as young Amelia states, is one of the rules of the animal kindom: "An intruder is never accepted peaceably by the existing species." The inhabitants of the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies comes to that conclusion as well. But, man, does it take a while to get there. The film condensed the book a lot and added more spices to the mix, especially with the character of Martha. The script is turned into more of a character study of her and her trio of forbidden lusts (view spoiler)[a Yankee, her brother, and her female pupil (hide spoiler)] . The alternating narratives in the book provided a whole mess of details and backstories that enhanced some of the film's characters, but some of them went nowhere (view spoiler)[The question of if Edwina is related to Martha and Harriet and whether she's the daughter of the slave woman Mattie and either the plantation master or his son. (hide spoiler)] The way Martha and Edwina interact in the novel and feel about each other didn't indicate anything of that sort. So it felt like a cheap reveal at the end. Cullinan's other novel I've read, The Besieged, had many details provided by unreliable narrators, with questions lingering right to the very end and beyond. However, it felt tighter and more focused than this book, which had a sprawling, formless feel to it with many repetitions. I'm not really sure what to think about the character of Johnny. He's a gutless liar, a sneaking thief, a conscienceless horndog, and yet totally sincere. He lies so much he doesn't know when he's lying. The last chapter doesn't even set things straight because I wouldn't put it past him to lie to his mother. So I'm not certain we're meant to know what was actually in Johnny's head throughout the whole story, whether he was really GOOD or BAD. Both parties - he and the women - do what they can to survive, using whatever skills and cunning they have to come out on top. Well, it's a stab in the dark, anyway. So my advice is, if you haven't seen the movie yet, don't. Read the book first. That is, unless you're not interested in the book whatsoever. I mean, the book does have a sizable cartload of food for thought, but the pacing is slow enough so that reading it AFTER seeing that well-acted, crazy mindf*ck of a film is anticlimactic. The last half to 2/3rds of the novel kept going and going and going, with wheels spinning more often than not. The end of the movie had me flinching and biting my nails. The book was more of a "meh" as it wound down to the finale. I'm very glad I read it, however, and might go back to it in the future after the memory of the film has dimmed a bit and try not to compare the two so heavily. Right now I feel that the movie took a somewhat sloppy and dull book and made it a compulsively watchable dark dark movie. Sometimes the movie IS better. This scene? (view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] Much better in the movie. :P

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bren

    “The knowledge of unhappiness makes it impossible to ever more experience unalloyed bliss. That's only possible in a state of innocence.” ― Thomas Cullinan, The Beguiled “Well, if I cannot be sensible and popular at the same time, then I will always choose the virtue rather than the friends.” ― Thomas Cullinan, The Beguiled Simmering. Southern. Gothic. Madness. This is a Historical Fiction novel that I would also not hesitate to call Gothic or even Horror, set in the time of the American Civil War “The knowledge of unhappiness makes it impossible to ever more experience unalloyed bliss. That's only possible in a state of innocence.” ― Thomas Cullinan, The Beguiled “Well, if I cannot be sensible and popular at the same time, then I will always choose the virtue rather than the friends.” ― Thomas Cullinan, The Beguiled Simmering. Southern. Gothic. Madness. This is a Historical Fiction novel that I would also not hesitate to call Gothic or even Horror, set in the time of the American Civil War where a wounded soldier in Virginia shows up at a boarding school of sheltered young girls who take him in to nurse him back to health. As this charming soldier recovers he befriends all the females at the school bringing forth their innermost feelings as they begin to turn on the soldier and each other. This book beguiled me. I cannot say I started off loving it but it kind of simmers, slowly wrapping itself around you. It's a very well written book that is extremely difficult to get into at least at first. There are a huge cast of characters and the story is told from multiple viewpoints. It can be confusing to remember everybodys' name and keep track of all that is happening. The other thing about The Beguiled is there are few..very few..likeable characters. The atmosphere of the book I'd have to describe as claustrophobic. Everything that happens, occurs within the confines of this school..not a very pleasant place to be. I like the quiet and very dark humor the writer uses when describing the characters, particularly Alice. The first time I read this it left a bad taste in my mouth. I had to read it a second time to really appreciate it although I will say outright it is not for everyone. I was expecting to rate this a 4. I took off a star because toward the end there is an animal killed and although the scene is short and vital for the story I do not like those types of scenes so I took off a star. I'd still recommend this. It's well written and is now a film though I have yet to see the film version. And it will linger in your mind long after you've turned the last page.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    BORING! I am giving 2 stars because I liked the atmosphere the author created but it was just so boring. This book was not on my radar but a friend suggested we read this and see the movie. It took me forever to read cuz it was so boring. Hope the movie is better. Did I mention I think it's boring? Moving on. BORING! I am giving 2 stars because I liked the atmosphere the author created but it was just so boring. This book was not on my radar but a friend suggested we read this and see the movie. It took me forever to read cuz it was so boring. Hope the movie is better. Did I mention I think it's boring? Moving on.

  7. 4 out of 5

    mathilde maire

    3.5/5 Like many people I think, I had never heard of The Beguiled before I had heard of Sofia Coppola’s adaptation (I wasn’t even aware of the adaptation of 1971 starring Clint Eastwood) (but then again I don’t care much for Clint Eastwood.) I watched the trailer and was entranced by what I saw: a gothic tale set in the Civil War with a wounded Union soldier rescued by *Southern belles* from an all-girls boarding school. This screamed of my favorite trope (dangerous girls and women) and when I sa 3.5/5 Like many people I think, I had never heard of The Beguiled before I had heard of Sofia Coppola’s adaptation (I wasn’t even aware of the adaptation of 1971 starring Clint Eastwood) (but then again I don’t care much for Clint Eastwood.) I watched the trailer and was entranced by what I saw: a gothic tale set in the Civil War with a wounded Union soldier rescued by *Southern belles* from an all-girls boarding school. This screamed of my favorite trope (dangerous girls and women) and when I saw it was based on a book, I couldn’t resist and bought a copy. I’m not going to make you wait any longer—I loved it. I loved it and yet it is flawed. But first, let’s start with the positive things. So what did I love? Well, to begin with, I loved the atmosphere. You know how much I enjoy atmospheric reads and this one had it going on. The story is what we call in French a "huis clos"—which can be translated as "no exit" or "behind closed doors." The action only takes place in Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies and none of the characters can really get out. Thus develops throughout the novel a feeling of isolation and entrapment. It was also quite aesthetically pleasing (I can imagine easily why Coppola chose to adapt it into a film,) what with the description of the girls’ dresses, etc. And then there are the characters. The story is told from the points of view of all the ladies of the house: Miss Martha, the headmaster, her sister Miss Harriet, the five teenage girls and Matilda (or Mattie,) the house slave. I was particularly attached to two characters, Amelia, who discovers McBurney (the infamous Union soldier) and who is more woodland creature than actual girl, and 10 year old Marie Devereaux, who is precocious and mischievous and who knows everything about everyone. It was fascinating to see the effect of the soldier on the women and girls, inciting in them curiosity, love, lust or even hatred. The first issue I have lies in the pacing. It is slow—too slow. I don’t mind slow-paced stories but I really had some trouble getting into it at first. But after 30 pages or so, I became really engrossed in it. Still, it felt repetitive at times since we often see the same action through the eyes of different girls. Another criticism regarding the multiple points of view is that I couldn’t really differentiate between them all. In the beginning, I even had trouble saying who was who because the writing is exactly the same (except maybe for Mattie’s POV) which is weird since the voice of middle aged Miss Martha should be rather different from that of 10 year old Marie, no matter how precocious the latter is. Despite these flaws, I still think this is a book worth reading, especially if you enjoy tales where women show their darker sides. The setting definitely added to my enjoyment of the book, so there’s also that. p.s. If you don’t want to read the book and only want to see Coppola’s adaptation, please keep in mind that she erased the two POC characters of the book: Edwina, who is supposed to be from a mixed-race background (and becomes in Coppola’s version a white blond woman) and Mattie, the house slave who in the end turns out to be cleverer than most of the girls. For a story set during the Civil War, I find that disappointing and ignorant at best.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I picked it up ahead of Coppola's movie coming out this week and I honestly think this is going to be one of those cases where the movie is better than the book. I've been waiting months for the book to come out of out-of-print status. 1) It's told from alternating points of view. It becomes a really fascinating example of unreliable narration because the various views correct each other and you come to read through the lies each of them believes about themselves. But there are 8 goddamn women an I picked it up ahead of Coppola's movie coming out this week and I honestly think this is going to be one of those cases where the movie is better than the book. I've been waiting months for the book to come out of out-of-print status. 1) It's told from alternating points of view. It becomes a really fascinating example of unreliable narration because the various views correct each other and you come to read through the lies each of them believes about themselves. But there are 8 goddamn women and I could only tell 4 of them apart. 2) None of the women like each other. They're mean, catty, and hateful towards each other, which I credit to a male author. Sorry, there's bound to be some sort of sisterhood between at least two of the women in a case like this but there isn't any. It reads like a man's interpretation of inter-personal relationships. They're also incredibly narcissistic and selfish. 3) The book is clearly written by a playwrite. It's 400 pages of dialogue and there are maybe 3 rooms/sets total in all 400 pages that the novel takes place. Very little description & action, so that it becomes really hard to tell what the fuck is going on. It reads very much like a play. 4) IT GOES NOWHERE. There are climaxes throughout the book that you think would lead somewhere and they don't. Build up of bad person --> person does bad thing --> person is caught --> everyone decides to ignore said action and gaslight themselves --> repeat. It goes nowhere because of the hateful treatment of the female characters to each other, they dislike each other so much that they dig each other deeper into this mess when it could have been easily resolved. They all lack the motivation to do anything about the situation without a clear reason why. 5) Any description of this book containing horror or suspense is false. The only suspense is reading all 400 in hopes of coming across the advertised suspense to find there is none. This book could easily be a "female" horror novel in the style of Crimson Peak or Rebecca but it was written by the wrong person. I'm disappointed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, set in the time of the American Civil War. I had not heard of this until the film came out, but never got to see it. The story has a feel of Gone with the Wind with a touch of the War of the Roses (film with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner) and was told from several different points of view. It took a while to get the characters straight but after that, I couldn't put it down! Slightly wordy in places, but a really good read for historical fiction lovers. An ARC Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, set in the time of the American Civil War. I had not heard of this until the film came out, but never got to see it. The story has a feel of Gone with the Wind with a touch of the War of the Roses (film with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner) and was told from several different points of view. It took a while to get the characters straight but after that, I couldn't put it down! Slightly wordy in places, but a really good read for historical fiction lovers. An ARC of this book was provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liesl

    Upon seeing a trailer for the upcoming Sofia Coppola remake, I was quick to pick up the creepy and disturbing 1971 film adaptation of this book, which piqued my interest in the source material. Tracking down a copy was a challenge, but my local library's interlibrary loan came to the rescue and got an old, battered edition into my hot little hands. Unfortunately, after all of that buildup and trouble, I was left unsatisfied after finishing. There is an intriguing tale centered on lies and isolat Upon seeing a trailer for the upcoming Sofia Coppola remake, I was quick to pick up the creepy and disturbing 1971 film adaptation of this book, which piqued my interest in the source material. Tracking down a copy was a challenge, but my local library's interlibrary loan came to the rescue and got an old, battered edition into my hot little hands. Unfortunately, after all of that buildup and trouble, I was left unsatisfied after finishing. There is an intriguing tale centered on lies and isolation within these pages, but one has to wade through the meandering, dull plot riddled with repetition and unnecessary detail to get to it. It was interesting to receive the story from so many perspectives, which served to enhance the characters from the movie, but I didn't need to know quite so much about each individual's backstory, especially when the information added very little or went nowhere. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more if I had been able to read it first, but overall I found the film content to be tighter and more focused, making it more worth my time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tatevik

    Quite a book! I have mixed feelings about it. First of all, it was a really good book, but at the same time, difficult to read - 50 pages maximum in one sitting. Actually, rather long one, too. This could have been a good 100-150 page novella instead of about 400-page, single-space, 8 font book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it. And still trying to figure out the moral. I need some thinking. *** Hate when the cover is from movie, especially when I don't like 2 actors from 3, but couldn't resist Quite a book! I have mixed feelings about it. First of all, it was a really good book, but at the same time, difficult to read - 50 pages maximum in one sitting. Actually, rather long one, too. This could have been a good 100-150 page novella instead of about 400-page, single-space, 8 font book. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it. And still trying to figure out the moral. I need some thinking. *** Hate when the cover is from movie, especially when I don't like 2 actors from 3, but couldn't resist to buy this. Noting normal to read... *Sighs a person who owns 2 full shelves of unread books*

  12. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    I found him in the woods Ok, this is a crazy-mad piece of fiction which takes the Southern Gothic genre and ramps it up so far that it teeters on the brink of bonkers black comedy - yet I enjoyed it hugely. Set against the American Civil War, a group of girls and women are holed up in a schoolhouse while the fighting goes on around them. The introduction of a wounded soldier into this hothouse atmosphere releases high emotions of sexuality, jealousy, passion and lies... and not a little violence I found him in the woods Ok, this is a crazy-mad piece of fiction which takes the Southern Gothic genre and ramps it up so far that it teeters on the brink of bonkers black comedy - yet I enjoyed it hugely. Set against the American Civil War, a group of girls and women are holed up in a schoolhouse while the fighting goes on around them. The introduction of a wounded soldier into this hothouse atmosphere releases high emotions of sexuality, jealousy, passion and lies... and not a little violence. Only this 'cat amongst the pigeons' tale soon starts to veer away and we're rapidly beginning to wonder whether it's actually a case of a pigeon amongst cats... The story is told via the voices of the women who pass the narrative baton to and fro, and they're not so much characters as functions of the story. It's hard, sometimes, to keep them separate in the mind precisely because they're just names and actions, and there are places where I had to just go with the flow. Cullinan writes a restrained, elegant prose which is gloriously, wildly at odds with the things that happen and it's this refusal to allow the overblown events to be duplicated in an overheated writing style which makes this work. A surprising and surprisingly enjoyable read - but definitely mad! Thanks to Penguin for an ARC via NetGalley.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Creolecat

    It took me over twenty years to track down and read this book after seeing the 1971 Clint Eastwood/Geraldine Page film on cable, and I was not disappointed in the least.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica T.

    You know how you read A Rose for Emily and your mind was blown? Well, The Beguiled tries so hard to capture that magic but fails... It's slow.. it's boring.. and when you're finally at the point where something does happen YOU DON'T FUCKING CARE anymore. You know how you read A Rose for Emily and your mind was blown? Well, The Beguiled tries so hard to capture that magic but fails... It's slow.. it's boring.. and when you're finally at the point where something does happen YOU DON'T FUCKING CARE anymore.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I was expecting a little more from this movie directed by Sofia Coppola, with Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning. The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    this is one I might return to eventually and write a proper review about... (can't wait to see coppola's version tomorrow ah!) this is one I might return to eventually and write a proper review about... (can't wait to see coppola's version tomorrow ah!)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Marie

    3.25 stars. This book was really slow. At times it was great, but for the most part it was... just good. Review to come.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Smith

    I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this novel, but goodness! As far as classic reads go, this is a pearler. It’s a modern classic, given it was published in 1966, but a classic nonetheless. It absolutely ripples with atmosphere, set in Virginia (the South) during the American Civil War. The sense of time and place is vividly recreated; the old Southern customs standing strong against the incoming Yankee tide while also fraying them at the edges. The Beguiled has a gothic feel to it: the I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this novel, but goodness! As far as classic reads go, this is a pearler. It’s a modern classic, given it was published in 1966, but a classic nonetheless. It absolutely ripples with atmosphere, set in Virginia (the South) during the American Civil War. The sense of time and place is vividly recreated; the old Southern customs standing strong against the incoming Yankee tide while also fraying them at the edges. The Beguiled has a gothic feel to it: the isolation of the school, the thick vein of foreboding running right through the narrative, the powerlessness of the women and girls, stuck in the middle of nowhere with war raging around them, isolated from trustworthy assistance, and the sense of impropriety simmering below the surface. ‘I didn’t have any notion then how much evil we got in us, all of us. Seems like none of us ever stop to think how evil can collect in us…how one little mean thought can pile on another ‘til finally we got a mighty load of badness stacked up inside us…and then all it takes is maybe one nasty word to set off the trigger in us…and maybe that’s some little triflin thing that wouldn’t even have raised our tempers in a calmer time…and then we rush ahead and do things we coulda sworn to the Lord Almighty in the beginning we never had in us to do.’ The Beguiled is told in the first person, alternating between each of the women and girls that live at the school. We only ever experience John McBurney through their impressions. The style of story telling was very intimate, and consequently, extremely absorbing. It is a rather long novel but it reels you in, the suspense securing your attention, along with the beautiful writing and strong character development. Thomas Cullinan has a brilliant sense of humour and his characters, with their introspective musings and entitled cutting remarks were incredibly entertaining, particularly little Marie and Emily. I enjoyed discovering the backstories of each, teasing out the relationship dynamics, and getting a sense of the pecking order within the house. There were moments of such ridiculousness when it came to John McBurney’s outrageous conduct coupled with the most extraordinarily obvious lies he repeatedly told; yet it all worked so well within the context in which it was presented. The way he charmed his way into the household, systematically taking each woman’s measure and then setting about pressing the right buttons on each to serve whatever purpose he deigned necessary at the time. He was indeed a first class charlatan, a priceless creation on the part of Thomas Cullinan. I really enjoyed this novel. I feel that The Beguiled is an excellent example of fiction written by an author who knew exactly what they were doing at every step of their story. I have been told that the film doesn’t do this novel justice. I’m yet to see the film so I can’t confirm or deny this claim, but if you have doubts about this novel based on the film, I do urge you to set them aside and give it a go. This is one classic that is well worth picking up and getting lost in. Thanks is extended to Penguin Books UK via NetGalley for providing me with a copy of The Beguiled for review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    JacquiWine

    3.5 Stars Along with many other readers, I came to this book – first published in 1966 – via the recent film adaptation by Sofia Coppola. The novel itself is a brooding, tempestuous slice of Southern Gothic, a mood that is mirrored in Coppola’s adaptation, complete with its evocative Virginia setting. Even though the film had already shaped much of the visual imagery in my mind, it was still interesting to read Cullinan’s source novel to gain a greater insight into the characters. If the narrativ 3.5 Stars Along with many other readers, I came to this book – first published in 1966 – via the recent film adaptation by Sofia Coppola. The novel itself is a brooding, tempestuous slice of Southern Gothic, a mood that is mirrored in Coppola’s adaptation, complete with its evocative Virginia setting. Even though the film had already shaped much of the visual imagery in my mind, it was still interesting to read Cullinan’s source novel to gain a greater insight into the characters. If the narrative is of interest, I would recommend both – although you might want to read the book first before watching the film. The story is set in a girls’ boarding school in Virginia in the midst of the American Civil War. As a consequence of the unrest, only five pupils remain at the school, along with the forthright headmistress, Miss Martha Farnsworth, her somewhat submissive sister, Harriet, and their perceptive cook/‘help’, Mattie. Miss Martha runs a tight, morally upstanding ship, aiming to educate her young ladies in both mind and spirit before they are released into the wider world. As the novel opens, the school’s sheltered routine is interrupted when one of its pupils, Amelia Dabney, discovers a wounded Union soldier – Corporal John McBurney – while out picking mushrooms in the woods. In an effort to assist Corporal McBurney, Amelia helps him back to the school where he is taken in and treated by Miss Martha and the girls. At first, there is much discussion amongst the residents as to whether McBurney should be handed over to the Confederates; however, it is soon agreed that he should stay there covertly, at least until his severely injured leg has had time to heal. In essence, this seems to be the most charitable thing to do. To read the rest of my review, please visit: https://jacquiwine.wordpress.com/2019...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anja

    I loved every minute with these dark characters in this secluded school. Nothing scarier than watching what humans turn into when fear, lies and pride get involved.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shelby P

    I'm finally finished and boy was this a long book!!! It was very detailed and I felt like I didn't want to miss any small detail but after a while if I expected to finish in this century, I had to start skimming. So I was enthralled when I saw the preview for the 2017 movie with Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst. I was not impressed with the movie. Then I found out the original movie from 1971 with Clint Eastwood was on HBO so I watched it and it was better than the remake. Then I found out the bo I'm finally finished and boy was this a long book!!! It was very detailed and I felt like I didn't want to miss any small detail but after a while if I expected to finish in this century, I had to start skimming. So I was enthralled when I saw the preview for the 2017 movie with Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst. I was not impressed with the movie. Then I found out the original movie from 1971 with Clint Eastwood was on HBO so I watched it and it was better than the remake. Then I found out the book was available and decided to read it too. Each chapter is written from a different character's POV and we have 8 character POVs which was a lot. It was hard keeping track of who was narrating the chapter for some characters. I felt like I got to know Emily Stevenson the least. They really did change a lot of things up from the book. (view spoiler)[ Never once did John McBurney show any interest to Martha Farnsworth. He manipulated everyone in the book. He slept with Alice and Harriet and I think he only made out with Edwina. It was implied that Edwina is half black and I believe she was. I can definitely see why they thought the 1971 movie was pure porn. They had Martha and Edwina in a threesome for Pete's sake. (hide spoiler)] There is a court scene towards the end that was not in either movies and that was the best part of the book in my opinion. McBurney was really funny and there were some killer lines! Overall I enjoyed this book but would've enjoyed it more if it wasn't so long (7300 Kindle locations.) I did feel like I was transported back to the Civil War era. I really liked Mattie, Marie, and Harriet, in that order. The others were just ok.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    3.5 The impetus for reading this was, of course, the recent Cannes-winning Coppola film version (which I have yet to see), although I vaguely recall having read it before, way back after seeing the original 1971 film version ... which I re-watched about a quarter of the way through the book. Both film versions seem to diverge greatly from the original book, since the antagonist, John McBurney is a 20 year old blue-eyed, redheaded Irish boy here, which fits neither Eastwood nor Farrell (well, at 3.5 The impetus for reading this was, of course, the recent Cannes-winning Coppola film version (which I have yet to see), although I vaguely recall having read it before, way back after seeing the original 1971 film version ... which I re-watched about a quarter of the way through the book. Both film versions seem to diverge greatly from the original book, since the antagonist, John McBurney is a 20 year old blue-eyed, redheaded Irish boy here, which fits neither Eastwood nor Farrell (well, at least Coppola catered to the Irish part!). Having done my senior thesis on Faulkner, and my honors thesis on McCullers, Southern Gothic lit is also a big favorite of mine, so this piqued my interest on that account also. My other main interest, however, was that the book uses multiple narrators (each of the eight female characters gets at least one chapter) ... and it is rather a bête noire of mine that this is usually done so poorly (looking at you 'The Girl on the Train'), that it renders the book unreadable. Cullinan skirts the issue nicely, in that much of the book is told in dialogue form, and most of the women/girls are from the same milieu anyway, so the subtle differences between their narrations do, more or less, work. My complaints have more to do with the slow nature of the book - it drags badly in places and took me an unconscionably long time to get through, but I am not sorry I read it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenna Vahue

    6/2/17 I've been looking forward all spring for a movie tie-in edition of The Beguiled. I adore all these actresses and I'm one of the unpopular few who don't mind the film covers. You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be picking up my copy next week. 7/11/17 I had been anticipating The Beguiled for months and it was just as wonderful as I wanted it to be. It was a slow burning, literal chemise-ripping, southern gothic fanfare. I loved all the ladies individually with their separate personalitie 6/2/17 I've been looking forward all spring for a movie tie-in edition of The Beguiled. I adore all these actresses and I'm one of the unpopular few who don't mind the film covers. You can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be picking up my copy next week. 7/11/17 I had been anticipating The Beguiled for months and it was just as wonderful as I wanted it to be. It was a slow burning, literal chemise-ripping, southern gothic fanfare. I loved all the ladies individually with their separate personalities and special talents. Even the adults added their own southern spice to the dramatic gumbo of The Beguiled. Corporal John McBurney may have tasted from the forbidden fruit but he definitely paid for it. I know I personally would have been beguiled from the smooth talking Irishman. I mean, come on. Corporal McBurney John was a suave, winking weasel but you couldn't help but be enamored by his charm. He had the entire house wrapped around his wee finger. He was a complex and intriguing character to read. It was a roller coaster of a book and would have been quite boring without his antics. Amelia Sweet little Amy was the one who found him injured in the woods and brought the firecracker into the school. She was a intuitive and smart little girl. She understood nature and loyalty. She stood by John's side until he inevitably turned on her as he did with everyone. Don't cross a little lady when she's got Mother Nature on her side. Edwina Miss Morrow was a snobby little bobby but she made herself a pariah. She was rude to others and shunned attempts at kindness. She was burned by McBurney's duplicity and she set the second half of the book into motion. Her actions increased the drama, danger, and intrigue of the more exciting scenes. I can't blame her too much but she's the product of her raising. Raising by a contraband riverboat-hopping father, that is. Marie Marie Deveaux was the unabashed, spoiled little Cajun heiress who had the best lines. She emitted sass and was one of my favorite characters. She was the youngest lady and stole every scene. She was mischievous and sneaky. She stirred up drama and foiled McBurney's plans against her unknowingly. She only had five lines in the movie barely. It's a shame but I know her true character. She's an adorable, yet demonic, little cherub. Alice Alice was the minx of the house and she was practically frothing with horniness. Her mother was a harlot and her "ardor" was passed on to her daughter. Alice wasn't a villain, but she was complex. Sure, she was a shameless flirt and trollop, but she wasn't too vindictive. She played games but she wasn't awful in my opinion. It was fun to roll my eyes at her antics and appreciate her silly character. She was the Corporal's second choice but she was first in drama. Alice Simms is a hellcat but a intriguing lady to say the least. Finally my favorite lady: Miss Martha Miss Martha was the headmistress of the school and baddest bitch in the South. She was no-nonsense and divine. She was full of secrets and smart as a whip. Her sister Harriet was a lush who snuck wine from the cellar and the antithesis of Miss Martha. Miss Martha kept the school together and was suspicious of Corporal from the moment she saw him limp through her door. She was rad and helped move the book along. You don't want to get on her bad side, especially with her skilled hands and a threadbare copy of Gray's Anatomy The Beguiled was a fantastic read that I extremely enjoyed with a fair film adaptation. If you like drama, cattiness, and dangerous flirtation all tied up in a Civil War yellow ribbon: this is the book for you. It was written by a man but he perfectly captured the desperate measures girls will take when a handsome man turns up during a Y chromosome drought. Just don't go breaking their hearts or you'll pay the price...

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    I'm kind of conflicted about this book. I couldn't put it down, and was very impressed by the number of narrators Cullinan managed to pull off, each one reasonably distinct, largely unlikeable and wonderfully unreliable. It got a lot darker than I was expecting, and I never did know who to believe, which is great. I also never worked out where the reader's sympathy was supposed to end up (except for maybe with Mattie) and that's pretty unusual too. On the downside, the final chapters get a littl I'm kind of conflicted about this book. I couldn't put it down, and was very impressed by the number of narrators Cullinan managed to pull off, each one reasonably distinct, largely unlikeable and wonderfully unreliable. It got a lot darker than I was expecting, and I never did know who to believe, which is great. I also never worked out where the reader's sympathy was supposed to end up (except for maybe with Mattie) and that's pretty unusual too. On the downside, the final chapters get a little confusing (and insane), but I did like the ending. If I didn't know that it was published in 1966, I might assume it was quite a feminist story, but that's the source of my conflict really - are all these women well-written, flawed, human characters? Or are we actually meant to think they're silly, man-crazy young girls and spinsters? I really want it to be the former. Looking forward to seeing what Sofia Coppola did with the film adaptation.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thebooktrail

    Visit the locations in the novel An interesting book this one. It was good but not great and the pacing although should have been slow building was a bit too slow in the beginning. It’s quite a disturbing read in many ways – a solider arriving injured at a house in Virginia only to be tendered to by women who have no idea of the world outside. They at first feel threatened but it soon becomes clear that it might be him who should be afraid. There are several girls who give their viewpoint of the Visit the locations in the novel An interesting book this one. It was good but not great and the pacing although should have been slow building was a bit too slow in the beginning. It’s quite a disturbing read in many ways – a solider arriving injured at a house in Virginia only to be tendered to by women who have no idea of the world outside. They at first feel threatened but it soon becomes clear that it might be him who should be afraid. There are several girls who give their viewpoint of the events which unfold and I admit to getting a little confused over who was speaking although each chapter is signaled clearly. Sometimes it felt a little repetitive as one girl told the story of another in a different way. But on the whole, the tension, ghostly sequences ,sense of foreboding and danger runs throughout with only a few dips. There are some uncomfortable moments as some of these girls are under age and they are exposed to so much. I wasn't too keen on these moments. The setting is what makes this book – a small plantation house with a mixed race woman, the house slave and white students in the middle of the Civil War and all that entails. The heat, the oppression, the sexuality and the sense of how on earth this is going to end kept me reading. And those frissons of excitement and the unknown, the mouse in a cage of cats, the mouse which fits back and then oh that ending. I think fewer characters and narrators would have been much more effective in the long run and a shorter novel.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Amazing that such an internal novel was made into a movie not once but twice. Told in the first person alternately,by the 5 students, black slave housekeeper and two sisters who run the school for young ladies in Virginia, only a few miles from some of the biggest battles of the Civil War. The moment wounded Northern soldier, the twenty year old and Irish born Johnny McBurney makes his appearance he has entered a simmering pot of adolescent jealousies and dramas just waiting for his presence to Amazing that such an internal novel was made into a movie not once but twice. Told in the first person alternately,by the 5 students, black slave housekeeper and two sisters who run the school for young ladies in Virginia, only a few miles from some of the biggest battles of the Civil War. The moment wounded Northern soldier, the twenty year old and Irish born Johnny McBurney makes his appearance he has entered a simmering pot of adolescent jealousies and dramas just waiting for his presence to put it on the boil. Using an easy and none too sincere charm that has probably seen him through well enough before, he enters into a power play between himself and Miss Martha, who runs the school and her dipsomaniac sister with an iron will. Secluded as they are and cut off from most outside contact, even from their families, this group of women has created an unhealthy atmosphere in which each reveals her character and self-deceptions. The only character I found truly likable was young, nature-lovoing Amelia.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I don't have much patience for novels which paint women is such an unflattering manner, especially when the author is male. Characters were nonsensical, pathetic, and so bored with their existence that the mere presence of a male in their vicinity had them all acting like brainless creatures. I don't have much patience for novels which paint women is such an unflattering manner, especially when the author is male. Characters were nonsensical, pathetic, and so bored with their existence that the mere presence of a male in their vicinity had them all acting like brainless creatures.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Peyton

    “How could I hate you,” I said. “I don’t even know you.” The Beguiled is astounding in every way. This is the historical novel I have been waiting for. The Beguiled is the story of a small group of Confederate women and girls who nurse an injured Union soldier back to health. The Beguiled is told by each of the women and girls in turn, with intriguingly conflicting accounts of the events that follow the soldier’s arrival. There are no unbiased narrators here. None of the characters demand sympathy “How could I hate you,” I said. “I don’t even know you.” The Beguiled is astounding in every way. This is the historical novel I have been waiting for. The Beguiled is the story of a small group of Confederate women and girls who nurse an injured Union soldier back to health. The Beguiled is told by each of the women and girls in turn, with intriguingly conflicting accounts of the events that follow the soldier’s arrival. There are no unbiased narrators here. None of the characters demand sympathy; it is something the reader chooses to give or to withhold, like the restrained sympathy Miss Martha chooses to give Corporal McBurney. To further explain the plot would spoil it, so let it suffice to say that The Beguiled is a slow-burn drama of manners and deception. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for a book with fast-paced action from the start. It is about the complex dynamics between men and women, the claustrophobia of women and girls in wartime, and the hypocrisy and profound cognitive dissonance that was asked of people in the name of the war effort during the American Civil War. While I greatly enjoyed Coppola’s film adaptation, it feels defanged in comparison to the novel and its more overt handling of war crimes and slavery. Most authors are most confident writing main characters of the same gender as themselves. One of my reading goals for this year is to read (well-written) books focused on characters of one gender but written by the other. I really enjoyed The Beguiled in the context of this goal.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Polly Roth

    1.5 Stars This dragssss. Long story short, The Beguiled has like 6 uninteresting narrators and zero twists in its plot. From page one you know that something goes wrong with McBurney due to "clever" foreshadowing, so I was nonplussed when it did. Also, none of the characters have anything more to them than what you get on the first page. It seemed like the author was setting up some big reveals in regards to some, and then nothing ever happened. I felt bait-and-switched. Basically, there is zero 1.5 Stars This dragssss. Long story short, The Beguiled has like 6 uninteresting narrators and zero twists in its plot. From page one you know that something goes wrong with McBurney due to "clever" foreshadowing, so I was nonplussed when it did. Also, none of the characters have anything more to them than what you get on the first page. It seemed like the author was setting up some big reveals in regards to some, and then nothing ever happened. I felt bait-and-switched. Basically, there is zero mystery in The Beguiled after you read the first chapter.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marina Antunes

    It starts off great and things get really interesting towards the middle of the book but the ending is very unsatisfying - Cullinan ratchets the drama to the highest peak and then pulls back completely. It works as an unconventional approach but I didn't love it. It starts off great and things get really interesting towards the middle of the book but the ending is very unsatisfying - Cullinan ratchets the drama to the highest peak and then pulls back completely. It works as an unconventional approach but I didn't love it.

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