Monday, February 25, 2008

Postcards by Annie Proulx

A book review...

Postcards was Annie Proulx's first novel, published in 1992 to some critical acclaim. Many readers will be more familiar with The Shipping News, which was made into a fine film, and also another film based on one for her stories - Brokeback Mountain.

The book is set at a time in America not so long ago when the family farm has become increasingly difficult to maintain. The world is changing. Loyal Blood kills his girlfriend. He says it is an accident but nobody will believe it. He hides the body in a stone fence and tells his family he is leaving with her to start a new life on their own. This event really spells the end of the life the Bloods knew, and the book follows the various members of the family as they try deal with new and different lives across America.

I had difficulty reading this one until I was three-quarters through it. The book is very choppy as it goes from the life of one family member to another, and it takes some time before it establishes a satisfying cadence. This reminded me of another of her books, Accordion Crimes. In that one, just when I was beginning to identify with the characters, the book moves on to a new set. In Accordion Crimes, the story is tied together by a single green accordion that passes through the hands of many people throughout the book. In Postcards, Proulx uses Postcards as a unifying feature. Each chapter is started with a postcard that somehow relates to the story.

Proulx's empathy seems to be with the mother of the family, Jewel, who, freed from the tyranny of her always angry husband, discovers joy in life, and discovers there are many things she can do in this world which she never even imagined. Still the focus of the novel is on Loyal as he travels the country, mining, farming, collecting dinosaur bones, trapping, ever traveling through his lonely and often very sad existence.

I give this book a quiet recommendation. It's a decent read, but don't be expecting a book as rich as The Shipping News.


Wandering Coyote said...

I loved The Shipping News but thought the movie was a steaming hunk of you-know-what. But, I've not read any of her other stuff. I guess I should.

Candy Minx said...

I enjoyed this one very much.

Here is an old article that caused a huge fuss on several book clubs I was involved with when it was published 7 years ago...