Katelyn Beaty's Reviews > Tinkers

Tinkers by Paul Harding
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's review
Feb 02, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, family-life, death
Read from January 25 to February 02, 2011

I picked this book up because it won the Pulitzer for Fiction last year, and immediately I saw Marilynne Robinson's fingerprints all over it, in themes and style: an old man, eight days before death, calls to mind fragments of his life and grapples with the memory of his father, an eccentric who suffered from epilepsy. Like Robinson, Harding is keen on capturing the beauty and strangeness of our world, and he vividly describes the bleak winter landscape of 19th-century farmland: peeling birch bark, silvery moon shadows cast atop the trees, tracks left in the snow by people and carts. The language is crisp and beautiful, and I was introduced to so many new words: solder, boreal, tureen, alluvial, intaglio, vitreous, anneal (okay, I might have kept a list while reading).

Harding is interested in perspective and memory, and how people are limited in remembering things as they really were. As such, the narrative jumps from perspective and tense often, and I admit I sometimes had trouble figuring out whose mind we were in, and in which century. This is surely intentional, but it made for challenging reading nonetheless. Also, at times I found Harding's language grandiose to the point of distraction, a bit affected. The same could be said for Robinson, but at least in 'Gilead,' she seems at ease with her diction, whereas Harding seems to be proving himself in sections of this book.

Still, if you like Robinson as well as novels with metaphysical themes, I recommend Tinkers.

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