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Accordion Crimes

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  6,713 ratings  ·  593 reviews
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Proulx brings the immigrant experience to life in this stunning novel that traces the ownership of a simple green accordion.

E. Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes is a masterpiece of storytelling that spans a century and a continent. Proulx brings the immigrant experience in America to life through the eyes of the descendants of Mexicans, Po
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 17th 1997 by Scribner (first published June 19th 1996)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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 ·  6,713 ratings  ·  593 reviews

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Judy Vasseur
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is outrageously entertaining, each paragraph is an incredible short story in itself. Each sentence is packed with interesting anecdotes and outlandish descriptions. Annie Proulx created characters that continue to swim around in my imagination. This book follows the existence of a green acccordion hand-made with great care in the late 1800's in Italy as it crosses the ocean and passes through different hands, different eras and into the modern age. Because Annie Proulx is a historian w ...more
Accordion Crimes traces the history of a small green accordion, as it's passed down through the hands of generations of various immigrants to America. I have read and liked The Shipping News, and the concept of this novel appealed to me immensely - I'm fascinated by immigrants/emigrants and their experience of leaving the home country and adopting to the new one, full of hopes for a better life - often escaping dire poverty and persecution. During the great transatlantic migrations at the turn o ...more
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Very disappointing. This book's main character is the accordian whose whereabouts the novel follows through magical and strange circumstances. The character development was lacking and the story was hard to follow. One of those books one has to force oneself to finish. ...more
Craig Pittman
Alternate title: "Eight Million Ways to Die."

Unlike what seems like half the country, I have not read "The Shipping News" or anything else by E. Annie Proulx. But when I saw "Accordion Crimes" for sale for $1 on a library surplus books table, I picked it up and read the first page and was hooked. She offered a muscular prose style, but one that was in service to propelling the plot and giving life to the characters. The first line in particular, telling about the Sicilian who makes the accordio
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's hard for me to say enough about Proulx. In this book, she follows an accordion as it changes hands and moves around the world. She tells the stories of the people who play it. The accordion as a "silent" narrator.

Again, the story is quintessentially American as it traces the immigrant journey Stateside...just the description of the accordion itself, in the beginning pages is enough for me to recommend the book.

I know that Proulx is shy, retiring, even reclusive (my favorite writers, her, Sa
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who fetishize E Annie Proulx
Shelves: fiction
Two stars for Proulx's coherent and interesting writing style. No extra stars for wasting my time on a pointless book.

Halfway through this book I knew it was going to be a chore to finish. When I finally did, I felt a great burden lift off my shoulders. I am free to read better books!

This is basically a collection of short stories focused on generally nasty people who live in America throughout the years and happen to play the (various kinds of) accordion. Apparently there are a lot of accordion
May 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Annie Proulx has taken home the big awards and answered the door when Hollywood came knocking. I'd read The Shipping News and a short story collection. I expect good writing when I pull something from the shelf that bares her moniker. Nothing prepared me for the virtuosity she could bring to the page until I read Accordian Crimes. I can't say that everyone will enjoy the morbidity of her tale nor the picaresque trail of a green accordian that leaves behind a hundred stories calling out for your ...more
Allie Riley
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many cultures preserve their heritage through traditional music and dance (among other things). So it was a stroke of genius, in my opinion, for Proulx to use a musical instrument, the accordion of the title, as a narrative device to hold together the eight stories which together make up this wonderful novel.

'Accordion Crimes' is essentially a social history of the immigrant experience in America, beginning with the accordion maker in 19th century Sicily who crosses the ocean for a better life,
Sep 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
A book that traces the history of a little diatonic button accordion through the people that used it. I enjoyed "The Shipping News," and thought that this might be a clever story. I was more than a little disappointed. This depressing little history had a lot of squalor, a lot of grime--and through it all, the urge to make music...NOPE. More like if there is a little kid in the vignette, he/she is going to be either neglected, physically abused or sexually molested. ...more
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book deserves praise for how well it is researched, crafted, and written. The whole time I am reading the book, I am wondering how much of this Proulx has lived, how much of it she has made up, and how much of it is researched. We follow the accordion as it passes thru numerous hands, generations, regions of the country. Each passing of the accordion calls forth a short story of its own, with characters that for the most part have lived hard lives and will come to hard ends. I found the tra ...more
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I can't remember the last time it took me so long to get through a book. I kept thinking that it would get easier as I read on, but it wasn't until around pg. 350 (out of about 475) that I actually became mildly interested. I'd never read any Annie Proulx and the description of the book intrigued me, but it was nothing like I expected. I was hoping for more of a story ABOUT the accordeon, I guess, but it was really how the accordeon ended up in the hands of random people that you never had any i ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, best-of-2019
The frame of this novel is the history of a single accordion, from its manufacture in Italy to the late twentieth century. But the rollicking heart of this story is of people and their cultures, how this one simple accordion encompasses so many styles of music, all of which are an integral part of the immigrant experience. America is here in messy, hot-hearted, bigoted, hateful and loving expressions. Life and death, disfigurement, addiction, and the private agonies of lost loves are here in Pro ...more
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
If this book was about 250 pages, I would have given it the highest rating, but by the end of it, I felt exhausted from a literary sense. Proulx is a truly talented writer, crafting so much detail and description into her prose that you can really see and sense her characters and scenes like no other authors I've read. The concept of the story was unique in that the main character is an accordion that gets accidentally passed through many hands over a 150 year period during pivotal American immi ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm still reeling from this novel. I could hardly bear to put it down in the evening, and read it in giant, sustaining gulps. I loved it.

I cannot recommend it highly enough--I would put this in my personal top 10 novels, certainly my top 5 contemporary American novels--and Annie Proulx is remarkable.

I've moved right into reading Heartsongs--short stories by Proulx. I can't get enough of her 'radiant prose.'

Read this book, my friends. It is brilliant.
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I started this with so much hope, following a positive review from my sister. My sister who shall henceforth be renamed She Who Cannot Be Trusted In Matters Of Literature. It's a book with a litany of godawful characters, the first likeable person appears at page 512. PAGE 512 IN A BOOK THAT IS 543 PAGES LONG! The lesson I have learnt from this book is that I dislike spending time with ugly personalities both in person and in literature. ...more
Jereme Gray
I'm sorry to say I did not enjoy this. It was a slog to get through. Though the writing is sound technically I was looking for a through line. Somewhere. Anywhere.

Alright, I'm ok with this being more a collection of short stories or novella length pieces with some arc running through the length of the book. That link was nominal at best. So how about a through line within the individual chapters? Not to be found either.

In a novel with so many characters there are very few I ended up giving a d
May 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
The premise sounded interesting: following the accordian through a series of owners from all walks of life. But the characters were extremely uninteresting. I didn't mind the book's darkness because I really didn't care at all what happened to any of the characters, tragic or otherwise. But it's not enough that it's boring... Proulx's writing style is so frustrating. One paragraph might be a single sentence, going on and on, through myriad descriptive phrases, punctuated with endless commas, so ...more
oh boy... this is a tough one to rate. i adore annie proulx, and her writing is so good. but, man, did this book draaaaag for me, and i am not totally sure why. the book is a series of connected short stories, with the common denominator being an accordion. each character who ends up with the little green accordion is well portrayed by proulx, and some of the settings are very vividly created. and yet, i found it so clunky and disjointed. i never got into a good flow with this, and it feels like ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
I think Annie Proulx deserves to be called the Mistress of Bizarre Deaths. The cruel ways in which characters meet their ends was already what I remember her Wyoming stories for, but this book tops all of those!
The only stable factor within Accordion Crimes (except for the deaths) is a little green accordion, which throughout the book gets into the hands of countless people from various descent. Roughly a century goes by, while Proulx takes us on a wild and windy road through her limitlrss fanta
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: maybe a short story college professor???
Recommended to Janet by: Just picked it up
I picked up this book because I LOVED The Shipping News and The Red Violin, which has the same story format as this book. I also love history, specifically the story of immigrants, so this book seemed to have it all for me.

I really don't like to give books bad reviews because I know a book is someone's deeply personal creation, but in this case, I must...

First of all, this is really a book of short stories masquerading as a novel. That might be okay for some, but I really don't like short stor
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Sigh. I had such a hard time with "The Shipping News" -- god knows why I turned straiht to another Proulx novel. I think I was hoping I'd like this one more. But I just didn't. It was fine at first, although the characters and situations continually struck me as overdrawn. But what I disliked the most is that, so far as I can tell, it's more a collection of short stories rather than a coherent novel. Yes, there's the accordian in each section, but that's about it. And I really didn't care enough ...more
Thom Bland
This was one of the most creatively written and well-researched novels I have ever read. Divided into 5 novellas, the common thread is a handmade squeezebox accordion that passes through the hands of players of succeeding generations. Most of the "crimes" are believable yet still outrageous. This is the third novel of Proulx I have read, following The Shipping News and That Old Ace in the Hole. Spoiler alert: Don't forget about the $1,000 bills hidden away inside. ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It was a bit of work, but worth it. It presented so many different experiences of immigrants to the USA over a long time. It felt like a good time to be reading this.
R.K. Cowles
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
3 3/4 stars
Sep 30, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-on-tap
Come for the unceasing suffering, stay for the endless slurs. What is the point of this book? 3X wasn’t fast enough.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't easy. Still, I count having read it as a major accomplishment. It's brutal, dismal depiction of immigrant life sings with exraordinarily deft description, effortless dialog, and vigorous storytelling that rewards the reader on every page. ...more
Frederico Prado
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brutal and beautiful novel on i) what meant to be an immigrant in the late 19th and early 20th century at the US and ii) what means to belong somewhere
An accordion passes from hand to hand in 19th and 20th century America. It is, therefore, the wanderings and the lives of his emigrants of various origins. Poles, Germans, French, Norwegians that we will follow, all constituting a superb picture of America made.
Annie Proulx is one of the great American writers of today, no doubt about it. And she's not well known enough. Read it! You can start with this book that you won't let go in.
Jo Deurbrouck
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it
This book disappoints me. In me. It is literally crammed with perfect descriptions, just-so sentences, brutally sharp ironies and understated, spot-on observations of human nature. In other words, it's classic Annie Proulx.

But I only barely stayed with it.

Two reasons: first, the book is unrelentingly harsh for more than 500 pages. I plain got tired of this world of sad, misguided, damaged and downright evil humans. Second, the only character who runs completely through the book is an accordian.
Ed Smiley
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
This book may startle those who were charmed by the far more gentle and restrained The Shipping News. It is a far more original, far darker, and far edgier work.

This is, in one sense, the life story of an accordion, a work of love of by a destitute Italian immigrant whose dreams were doomed to fail, the living thing which is a music, a tradition. This accordion, much like the ring in The Lord of the Rings, seems to want to be found, and seems to pick people, often leaving their lives upside down
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Also published as E. Annie Proulx
Edna Annie Proulx is an American journalist and author. Her second novel, The Shipping News (1993), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for fiction in 1994. Her short story "Brokeback Mountain" was adapted as an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award-winning major motion picture released in 2005. Brokeback Mountain received massive c

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