Benediction by Kent Haruf
Five words from the blurb: Colorado, heart-break, friendship, ordinary, humanity
Benediction is a quiet novel about ordinary people living in a small town in Colorado. The book focuses on Dad Lewis, a man dying of cancer. It shows how his friends and family cope with this situation and forces the reader to look at life in a slightly different way.
I normally complain about books being too quiet (see my thoughts on Harvest below!) but Haruf has a way of making the most ordinary scenes zing with life. The thoughts of everyone involved are explained with such compassion that it is hard not to become emotionally invested in everything that happens.
I haven’t read Plainsong or Eventide and that might help to explain why I wasn’t as excited about this book as others have been, but Haruf’s writing impressed me so much that I will be reading all of his books at some point in the future.
Recommended to everyone who enjoys literary fiction.
Harvest by Jim Crace
Five words from the blurb: village, outsiders, threat, communities, suspicion
Harvest is set in a small English village about 250 years ago. It is an atmospheric piece of historical fiction that looks at how a rural community is affected by the arrival of three strangers.
The writing was vivid and wonderful descriptions allow the reader to picture exactly what life was like all those years ago.
The style was chatty and friendly so it was easy to warm to Walter, the central character. The passionate way the story was narrated also helped to alleviate some of the darkness in the subject matter.
But, despite the many merits of this book, I didn’t fall in love with it. The plot was too meandering and slow and the story was too ordinary to excite me. I finished the book because it was quite short, but it failed to teach me anything new and I don’t think I’ll be rushing to try any of Crace’s other books.
If you enjoy simply being transported to different historical time periods then you’ll love this book, but I prefer plots that are a bit more exciting.
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
Five words from the blurb: Ireland, financial, collapse, tensions, generation
The Spinning Heart shows the effect that Ireland’s financial collapse has on a series of ordinary people. Each chapter is narrated by a different character so the reader sees a range of perspectives.
The writing was excellent and the Irish dialect was (to my untrained ears) perfectly deployed.
Unfortunately I’m not a fan of short stories. The Spinning Heart is a very short book and I don’t think that a book this length can justify having 21 different narrators. Some characters reappeared, but overall it felt disjointed and am not convinced it can be described as a novel.
If you enjoy short stories then I’m sure you’ll love this book, but it wasn’t for me.