Dave Clapper's Reviews > Plainsong

Plainsong by Kent Haruf
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's review
Jul 28, 07

Recommended for: Nance, Kath, Lena, anyone
Read in July, 2007

Oh, what a beautiful book. Haruf's language is so deceptively simple--there's probably not a word in the book beyond sixth grade reading level. But with this simple language, he creates such beautiful, sad, lonely, human people. I'm particularly in love with the McPheron brothers, two elderly bachelor farmer brothers (and they're the single largest reason I think Nance needs to read this book).

Something else about the simplicity of the language--I can't recall a single time that Haruf directly stated what a character was feeling. There were no internal dialogs, and no mentions of the words sad, happy, angry, or any of their synonyms (that I remember). Rather, Haruf simply relates their actions and their words between one another, and the reader makes a much stronger tie to what the characters are feeling. This may be the most literal rendering of the "show, don't tell" rule I've ever read.

Many times, during the course of reading, I found myself pleading with the characters not to do what I knew they were going to do. But of course they did, not because a cheesy plot demanded it, but because it was the only thing these oh-so-very-real characters would do in the circumstances.

The final chapter was a bit of a let-down, I have to admit--it tied things up a bit neatly for my tastes, especially considering how very, very real every moment to that point felt. But it wasn't enough of a let-down to make this anything less than a five star book. Highly, highly recommended. Beautiful, sad, human, and hopeful.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Kathy I'll definitely read this, then, Dave. I have had it on my shelf for a long time. Thanks.

Dave Clapper It's a pretty quick read, too, so it won't push other books on your to-read shelves all that far back.

message 3: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen the second paragraph of your review is beautifully written and perfectly captures the author's talent.

Betty Morrissey Nice review for a very very good book!

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