Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Shadow Tag

Waterstone's no longer seem to stock the latest Louise Erdrich titles. Plenty of shelf space for charmless celebrity biographies, but no space for a fine contemporary American writer. I suppose it is market driven. Here in the UK I have to order Erdrich's latest novels when I find out about them from blogger friends who are also fans, such as Frisbee Wind or from the website for Erdrich's bookshop Birchbark Books.

If you are new to this writer I would suggest starting with Love Medicine or, my favourite, The Beet Queen. Her novels are not for the faint-hearted - I don't mean that they are gruesome - I mean that many of them examine the harsh realities of life for those living on and around the reservations. Shadow Tag arrived last week and I started reading on Sunday night. Something nice about beginning a much-anticipated novel on a Sunday - kind of sets you up for the week!

Finished The Historian. I thought it was very well-written but could have been edited by at least 200 pages for a sharper story. Too much travel and history and not enough character development for my tastes. That said, it genuinely made me jump a couple of times and there was some beautiful descriptive writing:
At farms along the road we stopped to buy picnics better than any restaurant could have made for us: boxes of new strawberries that gave off a red glow in the sun and seemed not to need washing; cylinders of goat's cheese weighty as barbells and encrusted with a rough grey mould as if they'd been rolled across a cellar floor.

13 comments:

mary said...

I started Plague of Doves but didn't get far with it, maybe I should try again.

InĂªs G. said...

Yes, yes, yes to all you said about The Historian - I felt the same way. Do most writers' editors have no red pens and a will to hack off yet another redundancy?

callmemadam said...

I read The Beet Queen a long time ago and liked it a lot. I haven't seen any of the author's other books since then and you've just explained why!

Steph said...

Given that I just read a wonderful book that was only 192 pages (The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt... due out in May, I believe), I feel like 200 pp is a lot to trim from a novel! It could be a completely different book... and so that is part of what made The Historian so frustrating for me. Because it was rather bloated and anticlimactic in the end.

I have Plague of Doves by Erdrich, but haven't read it or anything else by this author. Must rectify that!

potterjotter said...

This is a new author to me - I will put her on my 'to read' list ... which grows longer everytime I read your blog!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I cannot believe I haven't read any of Louise Erdrich yet. Lately, there seems to be even more buzz about her and from what I've read thus far, it's most assuredly work that is right up my alley. Something about snowy, cold landscapes and a mystery thrown in always pulls me in.
Looking forward to your thoughts on The Historian - I can see why it could have been cut down a bit and allowed for a much more concise worked, but I really enjoyed the extra pages! The writing style definitely worked for me. Sadly, this same style didn't work for her second book for me The Swan Thieves. :(

bookssnob said...

Thank you, Nicola! I'd never heard of Louise Erdrich before but now I can't wait to try her. I shall get whatever the library has!

Mad Housewife said...

I need to get back to Louise Erdrich. Last year I planned to read them all and then forgot.

So let me find my copies again! Bought them at a sale.

And thanks again for restarting me on the right track!

Bellezza said...

I know I've read Louise Erdrich, but for the life of me I can't remember what! I must confess she has left me rather nonplussed; perhaps I should try one you have photographed here. Maybe the gap of years gone by since when I last read her work will help me appreciate her more.

Glad you liked, basically, The Historian. I agree it could have been shorter and therefore sharper.

LizF said...

I read The Historian a couple of years ago and the abiding memory I have of it is wanting to shout 'get a move on' at points and eventually resorting to skim reading. Having said that I did finish it and thought on balance that it had been worth reading.
Louise Erdrich on the other hand is excellent.
I read The Painted Drum and was fascinated by it and I have Plague of Doves and The Blue Jays Dance which I originally bought for my daughter in law when she was pregnant but then couldn't bear to give up!
As you say it is near impossible to find her books in a physical book shop so really the only way that people can find out about her is via bloggers like yourself. Keep up the good work

Vintage Reading said...

Mary, I found POD difficult I must say. The Painted Drum is very good.

Ines, yes my book group agreed that we liked it with some reservations.

callmemadam, I loved The Beet Queen. I did find one of her novels, Tracks, in Oxfam books lately!

Steph, bloated is certainly the word! I'm interested in the Hustvedt. I've seen very good reviews in the UK press.

potterjotter, I like to keep you busy;-)

Coffee and a Book Chick, I read the first chapter of the Swan Thieves which was at the end of my copy of The Historian. I quite liked it, actually. Sorry you found it disappointing. I wished I'd loved The Historian but sadly didn't.

Louise Erdrich sets a lot of her novels in a fictional North Dakota town called Argus. She's very good at bleak landscapes.

booksnob, can't wait for your unique take on LE!!!

Mad Housewive, I found her second novel Tracks in Oxfam Books recently. I've not read it but I think I need to re-read Love Medicine to put it into context.

Vintage Reading said...

Lizf, The Blue Jay's Dance is fantastic and I think it should be mandatory reading for all pregnant mums. Wish I'd had it when I was expecting the twins.

Loved The Painted Drum. Plague of Doves not so much. I found Tracks in a second hand shop recently.

LizF said...

I have to confess to having started A Plague of Doves and getting sufficiently bogged down that I gave up so it makes me feel a bit better that I am not alone in finding it a more difficult read than some of her others.
I'm very pleased that I found a copy of The Master Butchers Singing Club in a charity shop at the weekend in a nice American edition too!