Southern Lady Code

Essays
Narrated by: Helen Ellis
Length: 3 hrs and 11 mins
4 out of 5 stars (151 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

“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)

“Helen Ellis’s Southern Lady Code lives between Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes and Sloane Crosley’s I Was Told There’d Be Cake. Ellis’s irreverent doses of humor are life lessons celebrating colloquial expressions, regional specialties and offering delightful commentary on everything from what should be served at cocktail parties to what should occur behind closed doors.” (A.M. Homes)   

“Helen Ellis is hilarious, brilliant, and utterly mad. Southern Lady Code will make you a better woman or a better man - once you have cleaned up the coffee you spit through your nose from laughing so hard. I loved this book: every essay and every word.” (Chris Bohjalian)

“Helen Ellis's brilliant voice shines in this witty, weird, and utterly wonderful essay collection - a glitter bomb of delights. From bringing foam fingers into the bedroom to trying pot for the first time in your forties, there's something for everyone in Southern Lady Code. Reading this feels like settling into a comfy couch and having a martini (or three) with your most hilarious friend.” (Cristina Alger)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

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For all the southern girls who no longer live in the south!

Loves the cadence of the book. Loved hearing the all about the should and should nots of social graces. Helen Ellis is right on with everything! I could listen to this over and over again! Now if I can only get my yankee husband to listen. I get teased where I live about my cooking, thank you cards and being completely dressed and ready it’s 9am even if I’m not leaving the house. The hissy fits I throw when the house is messy. Helen is truly relatable to all southern girls!

1 person found this helpful

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Funny, charming and full of life lessons.

I enjoyed this book as it was a series of short vignettes that reflected every day life for many people. Listening to the author/narrator was like sitting at the Well worn kitchen table with your best friend and a glass of sweet tea.

1 person found this helpful

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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!

1 person found this helpful

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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.

1 person found this helpful

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Funny 😄

I have never laugh this hard over audio book. She was funny, witty, and downright Southern, I was just sad that it was not longer.

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Funny, loved the author reading this book

Such a funny book. I loved that the author read the book. Listening to this felt like sitting with a girlfriend, gabbing about life!

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Unfortunate Choice

I wish I would have read through the reviews beforehand. Southern Lady Code... was unfortunately not as it was advertised and not as expected subject wise. I could see why someone would enjoy it, but I purchased the book under the pretense that it would actually relate to Southern ideas and stories. Note: I was forced to give one star because you cannot submit without one.

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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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Quick & funny

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