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Southern Lady Code

Essays
Written by: Helen Ellis
Narrated by: Helen Ellis
Length: 3 hrs and 11 mins

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Publisher's Summary

"I loved it." (Ann Patchett)

The best-selling author of American Housewife - "Dark, deadpan and truly inventive." (The New York Times Book Review) - is back with a fiercely funny collection of essays on marriage and manners, thank-you notes and three-ways, ghosts, gunshots, gynecology, and the Calgon-scented, onion-dipped, monogrammed art of living as a Southern lady.

Helen Ellis has a mantra: "If you don't have something nice to say, say something not-so-nice in a nice way." Say "weathered" instead of "she looks like a cake left out in the rain". Say "early-developed" instead of "brace face and B cups". And for the love of Coke salad, always say "Sorry you saw something that offended you" instead of "Get that stick out of your butt, Miss Prissy Pants". 

In these 23 raucous essays, Ellis transforms herself into a dominatrix Donna Reed to save her marriage, inadvertently steals a $795 Burberry trench coat, witnesses a man fake his own death at a party, avoids a neck lift, and finds a black-tie gown that gives her the confidence of a drag queen. 

While she may have left her home in Alabama, married a New Yorker, forgotten how to drive, and abandoned the puffy headbands of her youth, Helen Ellis is clinging to her Southern accent like mayonnaise to white bread and offering listeners a hilarious, completely singular view on womanhood for both sides of the Mason-Dixon.

Several pieces in this collection originally appeared in the following publications: “Making a Marriage Magically Tidy” in the New York Times column “Modern Love” (June 2, 2017); “How to Stay Happily Married” in Paper Darts (Winter 2017); “Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s 1979” in Eating Well (November/December 2017); “How to Be the Best Guest” as “An American’s Guide to Being the Best Guest” in Financial Times (March 2016); and “When to Write a Thank-You Note” in Garden & Gun (February/March 2018). 

©2019 Helen Ellis (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“Thank you Helen Ellis for writing down the Southern Lady Code so that others may learn. As a Southern Lady myself, I can not only confirm the veracity of the facts, I can tell you the book made me laugh like a hyena. A true Southern Lady loves anything that is both funny and profound, which this book is, so I loved it.” (Ann Patchett)

"A vibrant storyteller with a penchant for the perverse, Ellis pivots...to nonfiction in this ribald collection of essays on manners, morals, and marriage, all colored by her off-kilter Alabama upbringing.... Ellis’ sharp eye for pop-culture preoccupations inspires smart-mouthed provocations.... Ellis is a strong, vivid writer - and this book is gut-busting funny." (Publishers Weekly)

"By turns lighthearted and heart-wrenching.... Reminiscent of each character from the TV sitcom Designing Women, Ellis’ wonderfully amusing writing is hard to put down, and this book is no exception." (Library Journal, starred review)

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What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Lili
  • 2019-04-25

Love the sassy, southern, narration!

Essentially a book of comedic essays written by a long time happily married southern woman now living in Manhattan. Funny, warm, personal, self deprecating, and focused at least in part, on aging. For me the best parts of the book are any of the times she quotes her mother who has spent years instilling good southern manners in her daughter. Each passage begins with her mother yelling...Helen Michelle! And is immediately followed by some tidbit of perfect advice. Her mom should write a book.

There are a couple of very jarring mentions of graphic violence, the worst is the description of a real murder, relevant because the author attended a murder trial to support her friend, the District Attorney. As well as some graphic descriptions of porn on Twitter. Both felt very out of place in a book of comedic essays. But most of the essays are about life, food, friendship, marriage, middle age, and of course manners. And I loved the narration, it was like Reese Witherspoon but turned up to 11 on the southern accent dial.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kari C.
  • 2019-07-19

Fabulously Honest

I absolutely LOVED these essays! As a Southern Lady, I found Helen's honesty totally hysterical and genuine. I don't even mind that she "outs" some of our code language. I love the profanity sprinkled throughout...in public a SL would never curse, but with girlfriends one can be herself. And, when listening to these essays, you'll feel like you've been girlfriends with Helen since childhood. Listen, laugh, cry, and enjoy!

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  • Laci Brown
  • 2019-07-08

thank you

wonderful writing and narration. I enjoyed very much. thank you. I have confirmation that I come from a long line of southern lady code speakers.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-06-02

Just OK

As a Southern woman, I know there is tons of material to work with for this book. Unfortunately, I found most of the humor flat or trite. It had the potential to be so much better.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Triss Critchfield
  • 2019-05-27

Quick & funny

Great voice to listen to. Didn’t find any of the essays particularly insightful. Trite, almost lazy conclusions.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-05-22

Worth Listening to Twice

I was so disappointed when I got to the last essay. so I started over.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mackenzie
  • 2019-05-08

Real LOLs

This book was so wonderful. Most of the time it made me giggle or even belly laugh. It even made me tear up. I have recommended this book to all of my girl friends, even the non-southern lady ones. I loved that Helen Ellis narrated it herself. It is hands down one of my favorites.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Niki
  • 2019-05-07

Loved it!

Quirky and lighthearted with southern charm. Just makes you feel good and giggle. Love it.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • StefanievPB
  • 2019-04-28

Not as advertised

Being from the South, I expected to hear stories about southern ladies and southern ways of living. This is not that. I did not enjoy any of these essays.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Dani
  • 2019-04-28

A book about privilege

Edited Review: Actually, the more I think about this book, the more I feel like it’s not representative of the south and that this book is basically a rich white woman talking about her privilege in a variety of essays... downgrading from a 3-Star to a 1-Star.
I’m going to return this one.

Original Review: This is a good book, but it’s just not a book for me. The author and essays are comical, but a lot of the references went over my head due to my age. This guides me to think that the target audience wasn’t my generation—which is fine, it just was an obstacle for me when reading the book. The author also has a very spastic way of telling a story. At first, it was difficult to get into and caused me some frustration. I stuck with it and eventually pushed through. I got the rhythm of the author and her stories became more enjoyable.

As I said, this is a good book; it’s just not a book for me.

0 of 6 people found this review helpful