Fiction Nancy Huston Plainsong

ISBN 13: 9780006479376

Plainsong

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9780006479376: Plainsong

WHEN PAULA INHERITS the fragments of her grandfather Paddon's journal, she embarks on an imaginative and obsessive journey to re-create the troubled history of her ancestors. From the hardships of the early frontier, through the Great War and Depression, and into the boom times of the 1950s, Plainsong brilliantly captures the story of four generations of a family and a prairie town shaped by the sweeping forces of change.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, the town of Anton has been home to the Sterling family: the brothers, John and Jake Sterling, and John's son Paddon. Paddon is an intellectual, a man who intends to make a philosophical study of time his life's work, but he finds his dream defeated by a confluent series of circumstances: an early marriage to a good but unimaginative woman, the birth of one child after another, the need to support his family, the times themselves, and his own mercurial temperament.
The question of salvation is central to this evocative and incantatory novel: Can someone who considers himself a failure be "saved" by having his story told by someone who loves him deeply? Ultimately, Plainsong is a celebration of the inescapable ties of family and place, and the redemptive power of the imagination.

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About the Author:

A native of Calgary and of New Hampshire, NANCY HUSTON now lives in Paris. She writes in both French and English and is the author of The Mark of the Angel, Slow Emergencies, and Dolce Agonia.

From Publishers Weekly:

Originally published in Canada in 1993, this moody novel may be most notable for the number of embedded clauses Huston (Mark of the Angel) strings together in her marathon-length sentences. A poignant and often tragic tale of hard times and abuse over four generations of a Canadian family from the 1890s to the 1970s, the story is told by Paula (a narrator fond of the em-dash, intermittently partial to the comma and dismissive of quotation marks). When she discovers sections of her grandfather's journal, Paula begins to write an imaginary family history, as if telling her grandfather, Paddon, about his own history. It is no loving tale. The Sterling family lived in Alberta, Canada, and were gold miners, farmers and teachers. They were also alcoholics, philanderers, domestic abusers and failed dreamers. Filled with pain and criticism, Paula's history of the Sterling family sometimes seems an exercise in despair rather than redemption, as she chronicles their difficult lives in the goldfields of the Yukon and on the harsh Canadian plains, during the Great Depression and Canada's own Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Amid all the unhappiness and lost hopes, Paula maintains a strong connection with the deceased Paddon, but she never refers to him as her grandfather. He is, instead, the cause and the victim of so much family unhappiness (Paddon's dreams, she writes, had to wait, and "oh yes they would become virtuoso waiters, past masters at waiting, unsurpassable if not in patience at least in pathological persistence"). Though telling the story seems to be therapeutic for Paula, readers will doubt there is any authentic healing.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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