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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Meandering Love Story

The Master Butchers Singing Club - Louise Erdrich

Fidelis, a German veteran of the First World War, emigrates to the United States where he sets up a butcher's shop in North Dakota and becomes involved with Delphine, the daughter of the town drunk. In the process both of them have to divest themselves of other relationships and entanglements. It's a slow, meandering story involving a host of minor characters and incidents that seem only tangentially related but are eventually shown to be part of the overall design.

The narrative voice is informed throughout by a poetic sensibility that produces some very evocative writing but is ultimately frustrating because it's so slow as to be almost ponderous. The plot it is built up of a series of elaborate vignettes, beautifully depicted, but lacking any real momentum, as if this were a series of short stories that had grown into a novel.

The characterisation struck me as implausible at times; psychological realism seemed always to be sacrificed to the demands of the narrative voice. I felt that the author was too often speaking through her characters. As a result, the dialogue never entirely convinced me and the characters, though strongly drawn, never seemed recognisable.