Monday, September 22, 2008

The Master Butchers Singing Club

The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich was originally published in 2003. My paperback copy has 389 pages. This is an incredibly depressing, yet beautifully written novel. Erdrich's language is poetic and lyrical. Her characters are rich and complex. She captures their inner thoughts perfectly. We feel their humanity and the intricacies of their relationships. The setting is realistic and believable. The plot is very satisfying and intriguing; it's part family saga, character study, and a mystery. Ultimately, though, it has a very sad, depressing theme, with no great joy or happiness. Rating: 4.5 Review
Louise Erdrich's The Master Butchers Singing Club is a powerfully told story of love, death, redemption, and resurrection. After German soldier Fidelis Waldvogel returns home from World War I to marry his best friend's pregnant widow, he packs up his father's butcher knives and sets sail for America. He settles in Argus, North Dakota, where he sets up a meat shop with his wife Eva, who quickly befriends the struggling yet resourceful Delphine Watzka. Delphine, who runs a vaudeville show with her balancing partner Cyprian Lazarre, has returned home to Argus to care for her alcoholic father. While most of this emotionally rich novel focuses on the changing landscape of small-town life as seen through Delphine and Fidelis's eyes, Erdrich does a masterful job of illuminating hidden dramas through her secondary characters. Erdrich's portrayal of these various townsfolk, including members of the Master Butchers Singing Club, truly shows off her storytelling talent. Her ability to infuse each character with a distinct and multifaceted personality makes this novel an intimate and thought-provoking adventure. --Gisele Toueg
"Fidelis walked home from the great war in twelve days and slept thirty-eight hours once he crawled into his childhood bed." first sentence

"The light pouring through the curtains made a liquid sound, he thought, an emotional and female sound as it moved across the ivory wall." pg. 2

"Although they were tradesmen and master butchers, his family also prided themselves on acquiring a degree of learning and on a talent for producing male voices of special beauty that skipped from son to son." pg. 8

"A stocky Polish girl from off a scrap of farm is not supposed to attract men so easily, but Delphine was compelling. Her mind was very quick - too quick, maybe." pg. 17

"A dog's love is something more or less complicated, according to the owner of the dog. Fidelis, for example, was faintly contemptuous of canine adoration, believing it was based mostly on the dog's stomach rather than the dog's heart." pg. 32

"For a time, the two butcher shops divided the town between them, just as the Catholic and Lutheran churches did." pg. 42

"For of course, every so often the town received a great shock. It seemed that just as people grew into a false assurance, believed for instance that their prayers worked and that evil was kept at bay, or thoughtlessly celebrated the quiet of their community with a street dance, a parade, or any kind of energetic complacence, something happened. Someone turned up dead. A child smothered in a load of grain." pg. 43

"These things happened with such regularity that Delphine developed a nervous twitch in her brain, A knee-jerk response that rejected hope and light." pg. 54

"When small towns find they cannot harm the strangest of their members, when eccentrics show resilience, they are eventually embraced and even cherished." pg. 89

"It was a routine, she later thought, she didn't treasure enough. An even life, without any jumps or starts. No stalls either. It was the kind of life you didn't know at the time you were living it was a happy life." pg. 169

"Neither Fidelis or Cyprian had known glory, and though both had known the granduer of horro, there was nothing to say about it." pg. 177

"The pleasure of this sort of life - bookish, she supposed it might be called, a reading life - had made her isolation into a rich and even subversive thing." pg. 301

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