Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

The library's morning book group will discuss The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig this Friday, August 6 at 10:30 a.m. Set in Montana in 1910, The Whistling Season is the story of the Millirons, 3 motherless boys and their father, a homesteader who replies to a classified ad (the family reads voraciously and gets several papers by mail) for a housekeeper who "can't cook but doesn't bite." Paul, the oldest of the three and a quick learner, narrates the story of the year that Halley's Comet, a new housekeeper and schoolteacher come into their life on the prairie during the, as the author's synopsis puts it: "unforgettable season that deposits the noncooking, nonbiting, ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee along with a stampede of homesteaders drawn by the promise of the Big Ditch -- a gargantuan irrigation project intended to make the Montana prairie bloom."

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by the author the San Francisco Chronicle calls "the reigning master of new Western literature." Doig's prose is often poetic, but he doesn't let that get in the way of his skilled storytelling.

You can find discussion questions on Ivan Doig's website. On the same site, Doig's background notes on The Whistling Season explains the autobiographical parts of this novel, as does his interview with Harcourt Books.

Update: the book group was pretty unanimous in their enthusiasm for this book. One member is giving a copy of it to her grandson to read. One of the questions that stirred up the most controversy, although not on the official list of discussion questions, was: what did Rose eat?! (In the book she barely eats anything, except rusk.)

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