Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Master Butchers Singing Club - Louise Erdrich

 This is the story of several misfits, a couple of dreadful crimes, some unrequited love, and some death.  And why had it sat on my shelves for years? because I just devoured it once I started reading.

Starting at the end of WW1 when Fidelis, a German butcher and former soldier, takes the biggest chance of his life and takes a boat for the United States.  Armed only with his butchering knives, a suitcase full of smoked sausages ready to sell and the clothes he stands up in, he eventually arrives somewhere in middle America, settles down, takes a job, and brings his wife and son over from Germany.  Into the same  town come Delphine and her balancing act partner Cyprian, back to check on her father, who has drunk his way through most of his adult life and all of Delphine's. A crime is discovered and the sheriff wants answers he will never get.

Delphine becomes a close friend of Fidelis' wife, nursing her through her final terminal illness, and then stays on in town to look after her father.  In the meantime, she takes the place of her friend in the butcher's shop, watches over her friend's sons and wishes that she wasn't there......

To tell you more would give away too much.  I found myself loving Delphine.  I felt for her for so many reasons, I understood the butcher's feelings about her, I knew that she would be stuck in this little town for years, and I wanted to find out more and more about her.  The book has quite long chapters, but these are divided up into short sections, so it's easy to pick up and put down - not that I put it down much, reading 100 pages at a time when I could!

Louise Erdrich writes so beautifully that for me, every page was a joy.  There is laughter and tears, bitter pills to swallow, some awful deaths, some lovely events, some funny descriptions of happenings.   It's not a thriller but is a page turner.  It's not a love story but it has love at it's heart.  It's not about war, but because dreadful things happen in war we have to know about them.  And one crime is described so graphically it made me wince.  But the thing is that I just wanted to keep turning the pages.  Nothing in this 400 pager put me off,  the descriptions were such that I was there, in with the smells, the tastes, the sights.  I know she has written more, and I am going to have to look about for some of them.  Love her style and  would recommend to anyone who loves a well told tale.