Natalie's Reviews > The Well and the Mine

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips
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Aug 22, 12

bookshelves: literary-fiction, historical
Read from August 13 to 21, 2012

I first read Gin Phillips' second book, "Come In and Cover Me," and I wasn't thrilled. However, I suspected it was a lackluster second book--as is often the case--and I was right! Her debut novel, "The Well and the Mine," was a lovely read. What I enjoyed so much about this one was that it touches upon so many social ills and controversies--racism and segregation, industrialization, environmentalism, feminism and the evolution of the concept of working mom/homemaker, poverty, even workplace safety--without ever making a hardline stance or delving into the intricacies of the concepts. I appreciated Phillips' restraint, her way of treating the topics the way her characters really would if they were actual people: a bit of confusion mixed with a large dose of "I'd love to focus a whole lot on this, but I have to make a living and take care of my family first."

The prose was great, and I really love Phillips' voice. The only criticism I have is that -- well, I know it's popular to do the "this chapter is in this character's voice, the next is in another character's voice" thing. When authors employ that technique, though, I always want them to CHANGE voices. If Albert is speaking, I want to be able to know it's him, not Leta or Tess or Virgie, based solely on the language used and the rhythm of the words. To me, it seemed like minus a few phrases and the actual content of the paragraphs, all of the characters had the same voice. Sure, Tess might have had a fixation on the magical, and Virgie might have been a bit more humanitarian, but all of them spoke exactly the same. Even Jonah, the sole African American character who speaks, spoke exactly like the main characters, who were white. Maybe I was expecting too much, but in such a segregated society, in which Jonah certainly faced more obstacles and fewer educational opportunities, I'd expect his dialect to be markedly different from Albert's.

A really good book -- deceiving in its simplicity, and a great demonstration of an author who held back and let her characters' lives do the explaining.
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Reading Progress

08/17/2012 page 60
24.0%

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