Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Review: The Whistling Season

The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig

Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Ivan Doig's writing and probably couldn't give him a bad review if he deserved one.  But that's okay, because he doesn't deserve a bad review.

The Whistling Season is one of my favorite of Doig's novels.  Set in rural Marias Coulee, Montana, the novel takes us into the lives of the Milliron family, recently bereft of wife and mother.  Seen through the eyes of eldest son Paul, the book chronicles the eventful winter of 1909-10.  Paul's father, in need of a solution to the lack of culinary skills among the four males now living together without any women, responds to a "work wanted" ad headed "Can't cook but doesn't bite".

In due time, Rose Llewellyn, widow, arrives with her brother, Morris Morgan. Despite Mr. Milliron's confidence that every woman can cook, Rose has been completely honest.  She does everything but the one thing they thought they most needed. Somehow, that doesn't prevent them from keeping her on, and it seems good cooking may not have been what they needed most. Over the course of the winter, a great deal, or nothing at all, happens in Marias Coulee. When the school teacher decamps in the middle of the fall term, Morris Morgan--Morrie--takes over, and the change in the school is as great, and as positive, as the change Rose has wrought on the Milliron home.

Doig spins his story in a rich prose where every word is well-chosen, and every turn of phrase crafted. And if you could argue that the ending is, in a way, predictable, there is plenty in it that you or I would not have thought of if we'd thought all year. Ivan Doig isn't exactly an unknown author, though I don't feel he's gotten the credit he deserves. But I'll do my bit and give him five stars and two thumbs up, and recommend his books to anyone who loves good language, and a story well-told.

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