Sunday, 9 June 2013

The Round House

Mom had planted the pansy seedlings she'd grown in paper milk cartons.  She'd put them out early.  The only flower that could stand a frost. Louise Erdrich, The Round House
My local Waterstones told me they 'wouldn't be stocking' the new Louise Erdrich novel and would I like to order it?  Well no I wouldn't actually.  I took a trip to Blackwells in Oxford where I could actually pick up a copy from the shelves.   It was well worth the visit.  I think this is Erdrich's finest novel since Love Medicine was published in 1984.  If you are familiar with earlier works you will recognise the landscape, some of the named characters - Nanapush, Lamartines, Morrisseys - and the 1980s setting, but it works perfectly as a standalone novel.

It begins with 13-year old Joe and his father pulling up tree seedlings that have worked their way into the foundations of their house on a North Dakota reservation.  Wondering why Joe's mother is late home from work they decide she must have gone to the grocery store at Hoopdance and decide to drive out to meet her.  Suddenly Joe's mother drives past them, very fast, in the opposite lane.  They follow her home and when she doesn't get out of the car but remains sitting in the driver's seat staring ahead they realise that something is very wrong. 

Joe's mother has been the victim of a brutal attack.  Joe resolves to find out who did it, and although the novel has elements of a whodunnit or a thriller it is really, I think, a coming-of-age story.  Despite its harrowing theme and the examination of the legal issues surrounding attacks on Native American women, the novel is at times laugh-out-loud funny. I loved Joe's crush on his Aunt Sonja the Swedish ex- stripper with a heart of gold and the chase between furious Father Travis and Joe's friend, Cappy.  The novel's denouement, revenge and revelation had me avidly turning the pages and I didn't want the book to end. 

Litlove has an excellent review (as always) at Tales from the Reading Room


Aarti said...

I loved this book, too. I didn't love Love Medicine when I read it - it was so, so sad. Unrelentingly so. But I could tell Erdrich was a fantastic writer. And this book - wonderful.

Sunday Taylor said...

This sounds so good! Thanks for letting us know about this new book by Louise Erdrich. I will be sure to get it.

Peggy Ann said...

This is a new author for me Nicola! And my library has her books. Thanks!

Nadia said...

I have this one on my TBR pile and looks like I need to get to it ASAP!! Sounds fantastic!!

JoAnn said...

I love Erdrich's short stories, but have yet to read one of her novels. Wondering if I should start here or get a copy of Love Medicine instead?

Anbolyn said...

I read about 1/3 of this when it first came out and I didn't like it. There was something about the adolescent male humor that really turned me off. I'd be willing to give it another go, though, because I think it was just the mood I was in.

Amy said...

I just finished this today and enjoyed it enough to pick up some more of her work.

Grad said...

I placed this one on hold last week and it's waiting for me to pick up from my library. I'll let you know how I like it, but you and Litlove usually pick good ones, so I have great expectations!

Cathy at Potterjotter said...

This is a new author to me so thanks for sharing her. Have a bit of time on my hands at the mo so may look out for this one - but not in Waterstones, obviously! xCathy

Ellen said...

I really liked Love Medicine and The Beet Queen, I've got The Antelope Wife to read. There are some incredibly good contemporary American women writers out there. said...

Aarti, I think Love Medicine is a difficult read - I didn't get it the first time I read it - but yes it is sad. Glad you loved The Round House!

Sunday, My best read this year!

Peggy, do let me know how you get on.

Nadia, it's wonderful - hope you think so, too!

JoAnn, I'd start with this one then go back to the beginning.

Anbolyn, oh I agree that you have to be in a certain mood for certain books. Even though I love Anne Tyler I have to be in the mood to read her.

Amy, glad you enjoyed it. The Last Report on the Miracle at Little No Horse is another good Erdrich title.

Grad, do post if you enjoy it!

Cathy, nah, darned Waterstones!

Ellen, The Antelope Wife is on my tbr list and I still haven't read Tracks.

Bellezza said...

Just accepted the opportunity to read and review this in October from TLC Book Tours. Your review has made me all the more glad that I did. You, and Victoria, write fabulous reviews that make me want to put my hands on the book immediately.