Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A Virtuous Woman - Kaye Gibbons

Forget about love as in chick-lit.  Forget about happy ever after.  Here is a small book, and inside it's pages you will learn of a love that is probably like many others, but unlike anything you have known.  In alternate chapters, Ruby and Jack Stokes tell the reader how they feel about each other.  Ruby tells the reader how she met Jack, how she settled with him and what she is doing now that she has been diagnosed with lung cancer.  Jack tells you that Ruby was the love of his life - for it is clear from the first couple of paragraphs that Jack's telling starts after Ruby has died.

Hard to say where and when the book is set, but that does not really matter.  Certainly the author lives in North Carolina, and I'd say that the book was set there, sometime in the 1940s or 50s.  What is necessary is that you read this short book slowly, so that you don't miss the beauty amongst the words.  Written in the colloquial style of the place they live in, it takes a little while for the rythym to click, but when it does, you'll get it.  And the last chapter?  read that slowly, because it involves three people's thoughts and is written in a stream of conciousness style.  Unless you have a heart of stone, I defy you not to be moved by this bitter-sweet gem of a book.

NB For non US readers, towards the end of the book the word "haint" appears a couple of times.  It's a spirit, or a haunt.........