Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Whistling Season - Ivan Doig

Every so often I find a book that makes me evangelical - and here, set in the lonely hugeness that is Montana at the start of the 20th Century is one of those.

Three motherless brothers, a father, and an advertisement in a newspaper from a housekeeper seeking employment headed "Can't Cook, Doesn't Bite".  And there I was, hooked by this wonderful tale of what happens to everyone when the Rose the new housekeeper and her brother arrive on the afternoon train and alight, in the middle of nowhere to start a new life.  Morris, the brother, after a few false starts, is taken on as the school teacher, and Rose whistles her way through the dust and dirt and makes their home clean and loved again - but it's true, she can't and does not cook.  So the lumpy porridge and questionable stews continue to be made by Dad. 

Small fights, big problems, and a mystery.  Children growing into adolescents;  bullies and those who are bullied, and Morris is teaching all of them things that are not on the curriculum but that will fascinate and educate them in a far more important way than ordinary spelling, ordinary arithmetic....... In 1910 the arrival of Haley's Comet in the skies above is something they learn about and want to celebrate

The last couple of chapters will solve the mystery....... and had me putting the book down several times because I didn't want it to end.  And when I at last got to the last lines, it was with a sigh of total enjoyment.  

I was passed this wonderful book by a friend who hoped that I would like it - Oh! I did!, I did! but sadly, when I looked up the author -  who had never come into my sights before, I find that he died in 2015.  I hope he knew before he died that he was a glorious storyteller - and at least there are many books of his for me to look forward to.