rating: 3 of 5 stars
Harper Perennial is re-releasing this 1963 NYTimes Bestseller, with a foreward by Jane Smiley. Having read it, I'm not sure why: yes, it's a good read, but it's quiet (like Plainsong or Gilead, and it's very old-fashioned in terms of theme (not to mention setting: the farm doesn't have running water!).
The story takes place mostly during the years between 1900-1930, set within the bounds of a visit by the three Soames girls to their family home during the Korean War. Each gets their own story, told in the third person (except the very first bit, told in Mary Jo's voice), and even the story of Matthew has a decidedly female tinge to it. Lots of description, and a strong backbone of Rectitude on the part of Matthew and Callie, make this a different read than one might otherwise expect from a family saga. While the stories are all about different people, exploring their inner lives and motivations, you don't get that sense from reading the book: it's too much of the same piece.
In Smiley's preface, she says "[n]ovelists who write a single, excellent novel area a rare breed." I'm sure that for some, this will be that single, excellent novel; just not for me.
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