Sunday, 15 October 2017

Last Bus To Wisdom - Ivan Doig



It has taken me a while to read this fabulous book.  Not because the book is bad, but because things at home got in the way.  But this weekend, in between the housework, I ploughed through it, wanting to find out "what happens", but not wanting it to end.  This was Ivan Doig's last book, but thank goodness I have only read one other, as he may well be my favourite author of all time.   I've been reviewing my lists of books read over the last ten years, and to my surprise, I see I have read a lot of American fiction.  If you had asked me if I'd done that I would have answered, "well, maybe a few..."
If you think you won't like American fiction, if you have no interest in American writers, if you only stick with one kind of book, all I can say is break away!  Find this book and read it.
Donal lives with his grandmother following the death of his parents.  In the summer of 1951, Donal is sent from Montana to Wisconsin, to spend the summer with his Aunt Kate, grandmother's sister, whilst she has "female trouble" surgery.  And so he sets off, courtesy of Greyhound buses, all the way to Aunt Kate's.  The people he meets even before he gets there are described so well, so full of life, that I found myself on the bus with him.  And when he gets there, although he is expected, Aunt Kate is not what he expected, and neither is Uncle Dutch.  Within a couple of weeks Dutch and Donal have struck up a lasting friendship.  So strong that when Kate decides that the boy is not worth the trouble and packs him back to Montana, it is no surprise to the reader that Dutch is on the same bus, and looking for adventure.  And what adventures they have, that Summer.  If I was a kid of 11, in the 1950s, I think this is what I might be dreaming of, too.  A glorious romp, rich with a certain kind of language, huge characters, and an insight into a way of life now almost gone.