The Well and the Mine – Gin Phillips

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The Well and the Mine has one of the best opening lines I’ve ever come across:

After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash.

The book is set in a small American mining town during the 1930s and gives a vivid portrait of a community struggling to cope with the Depression.

The blurb implies that the book is a mystery revolving around who threw the baby into the well, but anyone looking for a mystery will be disappointed. The identity of the person who throws the baby is revealed, but is really of no consequence. Instead the book is more like a character study; revealing the thoughts and relationships of those living in the American South at the time.

Unfortunately the book was too slow for me. Very little actually happens. I admired the quality of the writing and the rich characters that were described, but I longed for the people to actually do something.

Recommended to people who enjoy gentle books.

Others enjoyed this more than I did:

The writing is pitch perfect. There is a subtle dialect that is charming without being over-powering. Educating Petunia

A real gem of a book paved with so many perfect moments that I can do no justice… Leafing Through Life

I loved this book. The writing style is sparse and yet at the same time lyrical. Page After Page


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25 Comments

  1. Iris says:

    I think I might like this book. That opening line is very disturbing.. and intriguing.

    1. Jackie says:

      Iris, It is just a shame that the rest of the book isn’t as intriguing :-(

  2. Oh, I’m confused – what a brilliant first line but sounds like the rest was a bit slower? I’m certainly curious though…!

    1. Jackie says:

      Novel Insights, The first few pages were fantastic. It is such a shame that the plot disappeared after that. If you like slower books then there is still a good chance you’ll enjoy this one.

  3. Beth F says:

    I love character studies — so perhaps it would be good for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I think that you’ll enjoy this a lot more than I did.

  4. Sorry this one was just okay for you. I think I might like it as character study type stories tend to appeal to me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Bibliophile By the Sea, This is a fantastic character study so you’ll probably enjoy it.

  5. Amy says:

    I’m not one for really slow books either unfortunately. You’ve had a lot of slow ones recently it seems!

    1. raidergirl3 says:

      I admired the quality of the writing and the rich characters that were described, but I longed for the people to actually do something.

      This should be a whole category of books. I may use this line again, attributed to you, of course.
      Sometimes I enjoy those types of books, but generally no- The Gate at the Stairs. Too slow. It’s like that phrase tl;dr – we can call it “too slow; do something!”

      1. Jackie says:

        raidergirl3, I agree! A genre all of their own would help :-) This book is in a whole league slower than A Gate at the Stairs. Several things actually happened in that book ;-)

    2. raidergirl3 says:

      oops, sorry Amy, I hit reply to you instead of adding my own comment. Not enough coffee yet this am.

    3. Jackie says:

      Amy, I occasionally enjoy slow books, but they need to have that magic spark. Very few do and I’m afraid this one didn’t :-(

  6. Jenny says:

    I usually look for more action in my books, and I didn’t absolutely love this one, but I thought it was pretty good. For a book about the Depression, possibly my least favorite setting for historical fiction. I am from the American South myself, and I thought this book painted a solid, nicely nuanced picture of the South in that time period.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, It sounds as though we had a similar experience with this one. I agree that it gave a good description of that time period (from my limited knowledge) but I wish there had been a plot to go with the period atmosphere.

  7. TERESA says:

    I enjoyed this but then I have a penchant for gentle, slow moving reads if the writing is up to scratch. I thought it had an excellent sense of place.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, The writing was great so I can see why you’d enjoy this one :-)

  8. Dorte H says:

    So you can see, a real mystery might have been better ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, I’m now reading The Snowman so getting my mystery fix :-)

      1. Dorte H says:

        I´ll watch out for your review of that one. Whatever it is, you´ll hardly call it quiet.

  9. PBurt says:

    I have this book in my stack to read – hopefully I will like it.

    1. Jackie says:

      PBurt, I hope that you enjoy it more than I did.

  10. Verity says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least! I loved this but can easily see that it would be too slow for you

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, You did warn me! :-)

      1. As did I ;) Yes, not surprised in the least by your reaction.

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