I feel a bit lost now that I have finished this book. It’s been keeping me enthralled these last few weeks – I haven’t had much time for reading so it’s taken a while. I did not mind at all, as I enjoyed the slow pace of the story at my own slow pace. Every sentence, paragraph and chapter takes its own good time, never boring, always just right. You get into the mood of Dell’s own 15-year old mind in the first half of the book. He describes, paints, elicits exactly what he sees and observes with such accuracy that it is as if you slowly witness a canvas unravel, as he paints it, stroke by stroke. In fact, when Dell observes how Florence paints, sitting in the middle of Manitoba Street. ‘Her picture was nothing more than the view straight past the vacant post office and a pair of broken-in houses to the backs of the commercial row where I walked and that had been alive when Partreau was a whole town.’ He cannot quite understand why this is a subject for a painting ‘since it was right there for anybody to see any time, and wasn’t beautiful – nothing like Niagara Falls in the Frederic Church picture, or the flower arrangements my father painted with his numbers kit’. She still has a lot of filling in to do, just like Dell still needs to fill us in on the rest of his story.
The book has been reviewed quite recently by just about every self-respecting newspaper, and it has received much praise. Well-deserved. I have not read any other novels by Richard Ford, but will do after this one.
The story has the most catching first liner ever and it has been quoted widely: ‘First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed. Nothing would make complete the sense without that being told first.’ In Part 1 Dell relates this story, how his father, an ex-army man, decides to rob a bank, helped by their mother who expects that it will provide her with the means to leave their father, with their two children, Dell and his twin sister Berner who are then 15.
This will affect them for the rest of their lives as their parents end up in jail and Dell is uprooted to Canada and Berner runs away. This is a story of loss of childhood, of loss of what Dell expected his life to be, living in America, with his family.
As I said, I feel quite at a loss myself now as the story was somehow there in the background of my mind during the day, when working, travelling, writing reports, to come back to at night to read a bit more.