Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

I have a ton of books to review but am just not finding the time this week…how about two mini reviews of some men named David:

David Malouf – The Conversations at Curlow Creek

Two men sit talking in the middle of the night in a lonely area of the Australian Outback. One is an officer, the other a criminal. In the morning, the officer must hang the outlaw. As they talk, the officer ponders the justice of what he is about to do, what it will feel like to take a man’s life. At the same time, the moment brings him to reflect on his past and what brought him to Australia (a search for a long-lost brother) and what he left behind (the woman he loves.). It took me some time to get used to Malouf’s writing style, which I can only describe as tangential and discursive, but it was definitely worth the effort. The overall effect is lovely.

David Guterson – East of the Mountains

The hero of this meditative novel is Dr. Ben Givens, a seventy-year-old retired physician. He has been recently diagnosed with incurable colon cancer and on the morning the novel opens has decided to commit suicide by faking his death on a hunting trip. There are a series of memorable scenes in this book, the best of which, although violent, involves a pack of Irish Wolfhounds and a coyote. Guterson is also really good at evoking the rugged beauty of Washington State. This is ultimately a sad book, although that sadness is interrupted by moments of generosity, hope and happiness.


7 Responses to “two Davids”

  1. Colleen

    Hhmm, I read The Conversations at Curlow Creek a few years ago and it left me completely cold. I think maybe the writing wasn’t doing it for me. Also, unfairly, I couldn’t help comparing it to True History of the Kelly Gang, which won that cage match without any effort.

    As for the Guterson book, I may check it out. I really enjoyed Snow Falling on Cedars, which may be one of the most under-rated books I’ve ever come across.

  2. Thomas at MyPorch

    I’ve read one book by Malouf and I had a hard time with his writing style for the reasons you mention. This story sounds fascinating though. I might have to give him another try.

  3. litlove

    I am impressed by the way you always tackle such difficult books, verbivore, and find a way to appreciate taxing styles and tough content. Way to go!

  4. Dorothy W.

    Interesting to hear a bit about Guterson. I’ve never known how seriously to take him, as I’ve read some dismissals of his work. But perhaps those weren’t fair.

  5. verbivore

    Colleen – I have never read The True History of the Kelly Gang and have now added it to the list – thanks!

    Thomas – Thanks for leaving a comment. I admit that at first I thought the Malouf wouldn’t work for me, but slowly the story grew on me. I’ll be reading another one of his soon and hopefully will enjoy it. We’ll see!

    Lilian – That is a good question. At first, I was a little annoyed. The first paragraph is somewhat “too much” and I thought the rest of the book might follow suit, but it didn’t exactly. There were moments that I thought Guterseon was being just a little heavy handed with symbolism and even emotion, but overall I think the writing was nice.

    Litlove – Thank you, I appreciate the comment. I like difficult books, not sure why, but I enjoy how they make me reconsider things sometimes.

    Dorothy – I have also had the sense in the past that some people dismiss his work, which I think is a bit too easy. He writes well and the stories are trying to tackle difficult subjects. I think people would have lots of different opinions as to whether he is successful in that. I’ve enjoyed both books by him.

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