Torn between a loyalty to her grief-stricken, struggling family, her first experience of romance and a burning desire to be a writer, a sad event forces Mattie to piece together a local mystery whilst making an important decision about her future.
Well, I'm a bit late to the party on this one. Ten years late to be accurate. Jo told me to read it ages ago, but I'd been putting it of for some reason. This is always the way when I'm faced with an 'acclaimed' book - am I just setting myself up for inevitable disappointed? If I don't enjoy it as much as I feel I'm supposed to, does this mean I'm not getting it I'm being a bit thick? Or maybe I was just putting this one off because it has a bit of a boring cover. Probably a mixture of all of the above. God, I really need to stop asking all these questions and just get on with it.
I was definitely mulling over this a little too much, because it turns out there was no reason to worry whatsoever...
So here we are in the 1910s, in the US, in a place and period I know nothing about. The fact that whether I did or not is completely irrelevant is testament to just how fantastic this book is. With a historical novel, I think it can maybe go in one of two directions - building a story around a famous incident and having that dramatically impact on the characters and plot, or having the story just 'sitting' on its setting, absorbing attitudes and conventions of the time, but never being completely dictated by them. This book definitely falls into the latter camp - when we were introduced to Mattie and her surroundings, I was initially a bit wary that this was going to be overshadowed by ISSUES - attitudes towards women and race, for example - but it manages to explore these (which it should) without the brilliant central story getting lost at all. This is about Mattie and how she comes to make an important decision whilst being pulled in many different directions - a familiar YA set up and skillfully told with the perfect balance of plot, place, and prose. I was initially more intrigued by the real-life murder mystery element, but that's not what this book is about at all, rather it's used as a device to push Matt's story along and very beautifully it does it too.
I remained on the ladder, looking at the figurine in my hand. You're wrong, Aunt Josie, I thought. It's not pride I'm feeling. It's another sin. Worse than all the other ones, which are immediate, violent, and hot. This one sits inside you quietly and eats you from the inside out like the trichina worms the pigs get. It's the Eight Deadly Sin. The one God left out. Hope.