Tuesday, March 12, 2013

reads #13: January 2013

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Carson McCullers, 1940)

I feel I should write as a disclaimer here before you go on reading the review below that while I'm not spoiling any plot lines, I do comment on the general direction the book takes. If you have no idea what The Heart... is about and want to keep it that way, best leave this post alone. Also don't watch the trailer for the 1968 film adaptation, the ending will be spoilt for you in the first second (I sure know what I'm talking about *grumpy face*). Actually, don't even bother with the film, it's really not that great. I meant to do a book/film adaptation review but I'd rather never mention this film again.

After seeing Rhiannon's post on Carson McCullers house, this book went straight on my birthday wishlist. Her blogs (Liebemarlene and The Southerly) often inspire me to pick up some Southern literature.
Let me say something first. This is not a light read in any shape or form. It took me a long while to get through as it was hard to go back to the book and its gloomy pages once I put it down. It is dark but the message is no less essential. 
The Heart... is about five people existing in the margins of society. Each carries a burden that makes them feel lonely and alienated. There's John Singer, the deaf mute who is the central character, Benedict Copeland the old doctor who is frustrated by the struggles of the African-American population, Jake Blount the mad drunk who sees conspiracy theories everywhere, Biff Brannon, the cafe owner who places himself as an observer and Mick Kelly, the young girl who comes to the scary realisation that women have no control over their life and fate. Their story takes place in the late 30s in a Deep South mill town. There's a sense of looming doom intrinsic to the web of those five characters that seems to mirror the ambient malaise leading to WW2.
While reading, I couldn't help but draw a parallel with The Great Gatsby, as both of these books seem to be ruled by the same law, an almost Darwinist one which dictates that if you long to recreate the past and refuse to adapt to the present, your chances of survival inexorably decrease.

Favourite quote: The way I need you is a loneliness I cannot bear.

(Find me on Goodreads)


little henry lee said...

i've never heard of this book before but it sounds really interesting! i've not read that much southern literature but i do like the style so i'll have to check this one out.

moira said...

if you do, make sure to read it when you're in a happy place, it can drag you down xx

Unknown said...

This is one of my favourite books. I love Carson. She's so talented and her life was fascinating and tragic in equal measures.

moira said...

@fluff and fripperies: indeed didnt sound that happy a life from the little blurb i read at the start of the book. Did you read a biography? x

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