Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stormy Weather by Paulette Jiles

Jiles has written an amazing book, passionate and descriptive. I have always heard of the "Dirty '30s", "Great Depression" and "Dustbowl" but through the lyrical prose and the voices of the characters of this book I now feel I have experienced it. Not just the hardships, but the survival instincts that come to the fore in times of disaster, as well as the humour and optimism that is the backbone of survival. This is one of the best books I have ever read. The descriptions of life and of environment are spellbinding. The characters are believable and well-defined. The story is set in 1930s Texas, for the most part telling the story of the hardy people who chased the oil from discovery to discovery, and particularly of Jeanine, the main character who grew from child to adult throughout the book. It is through her eyes we become witnesses. The endless search for work in the oil fields meant immediate shanty towns were set up whenever a new well was about to come in. The desperate and yet hopeful people continuously packing up and moving on when the flow slows down. Complete with a background of gambling, horse-racing rumbling alongside like an underground river, the book does not lose momentum through all this. Unfortunately, the very end for me tended to lose steam, possibly the author wanted to show the calm after the storm. At any rate, though complete, I felt it lacked the passion of the rest of the book. Nevertheless, I still highly recommend this book. You will not want to put it down.

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