It is a very long time since I read Plainsong, the first in the trilogy of the late Kent Haruf's (pronounced to rhyme with 'sherrif') books about the small town American community living in the fictional location of Holt, Colorado, but now that I am up to speed with Eventide and Benediction it seemed like a really soothing set of quiet but deeply moving books to share in the run up to Easter
Revisiting what I thought about Plainsong in April 2013 has been interesting...
Victoria Roubideaux must come to terms with a future determined by a baby.
The McPherons...well the lovely kind, gentle McPherons. I defy anyone not to feel a slight swell of emotion when they offer Victoria an unconditional home out of the kindness of their hearts and then take her to buy some things for the baby. Only the best will do.
And what a stunning book Plainsong is, expecially when read in an atmosphere that allows the quiet to permeate, because Kent Haruf is said to have 'an extraordinary grasp of quiet' and I couldn't agree more. This is fiction almost written as plainsong, no extraneous notes, perhaps just an occasional extra detail to embellish very slightly, but Kent Haruf stops well short of intense, leaving the reader to supply all the emotion. It is to Kent Haruf's credit that at times I felt as I was hovering just above, looking down and watching as a detached onlooker, yet at other times I was right there and living it all. There was a moment, when Ike and Bobby visit their mother having carefully chosen her some gifts, and all I could do was put the book down and tune into Hildegard von Bingen's soaring yet simple plainsong melodies which I had playing in the background.. .more about the wonderful Hildegard to come.
Plainsong is that sort of book and one that for me lived up to every accolade printed on the first three pages, I can't recommend it highly enough.
Interesting because I have now reminded myself that although all three books arrived together, for some reason I didn't immediately pick up Eventide. It only surfaced again last week when I was shuffling back to bed with the streaming cold and the hacking cough and a great big pile of books. I was in need of comfort reading, especially as the sun was blazing down outside, the garden was beckoning and I didn't feel in the least like any of it.
And yet again I had unwittingly created exactly the right atmosphere in which to read how Harold and Raymond McPheron, having given a home to Victoria Roubideaux and baby Katie and loved them as family, must now say goodbye as Victoria heads off to college. New characters are woven into the plot with the chaotic and dysfunctional Wallace family and their children always on the brink of care proceedings and social worker Rose Tyler, with the patience of a saint, trying to sort them out. There will be others various all with their trials and challenges, and as homes crumble and disintegrate and children create safe spaces of their own I really just wanted to bus them all out to the McPheron's place for some tender loving care.
And the McPherons...well there will be tragedy and all I can say is it's a good thing my eyes were streaming anyway.
Eventide is about people under duress doing the best with what they have, whether intellectually and emotionally or socially and financially, all whilst coping with tragedy, loneliness and life's day to day concerns, and it was every bit as moving as Plainsong. Kent Haruf's masterly grasp of the small often unnoticed moment that speaks volumes ever apparent.
So there I am, basking in the quiet, surrounded by tissues and Vick and cough mixture, and way too comfortable to move when I turn the final page, so there was nothing else for it... I send a text message to Bookhound out in the garden where the weather is so lovely he is mowing the grass..
'Next time you pass that shelf opposite the boot room door can you find a book called Benediction by Kent Haruf, my need is urgent and I'm quite thirsty too..'
My thoughts on Benediction to follow (it was where I thought it was, and was delivered with a nice cup of tea) but meanwhile has anyone else read this trilogy...
And have you been as moved as I have been...