Liscarkat, how funny that you should have found me out. I am
a professor of wine bottle labels and have exhibited my labels in art galleries all around the country. I will schedule a meeting w/ my graduate advisor and ask whether I can write a dissertion on Djb's poem.
Djb, about the Gaskell and the Grisham:
“A Painted House” takes place in rural Arkansas in 1952 and contains murders and illegitimate births and who knows what all else.
Djb, you're actually not missing much in substituting A Painted House
for Wives and Daughters
. As it turns out, Wives and Daughters
also takes place in a rural Arkansas-like English countryside in 1952 and has murders and so forth.
Just so that you don't feel like you're missing a lot in your book switch, here is a short synopsis I wrote based on my first reading:
Elizabeth Gaskell has been known for her well crafted novels of English life and manners. With Wives and Daughters
, however, she strikes out in a new direction and readers will search in vain for the kind of lowlife machinations that have been her stock-in-trade. Instead, Gaskell has delivered a quieter, more contemplative story, set in rural England of the 1950s very reminiscent of post-WWII Arkansas.
It's harvest time on the Hamley estate, and the Squire has hired a crew of migrant Mexicans and "hill people" to pick 80 acres of cotton. But it's backbreaking work, particularly for the 7-year-old narrator, Molly Gibson: "I would pick cotton, tearing the fluffy bolls from the stalks at a steady pace, stuffing them into the heavy sack, afraid to look down the row and be reminded of how endless it was, afraid to slow down because someone would notice."
What's more, tensions begin to simmer between the Mexicans and the landed aristocrats, one of whom, Osborne Hamley, has a penchant for bare-knuckles brawling. This leads to a brutal murder, which young Molly has the bad luck to witness. At this point--with secrets, lies, and at least one knife fight in the offing--the plot begins to take on that familiar, Gaskell-style momentum. However not all is such familiar British sentimentality. At times Gaskell writes with an easy ironic voice:
Molly Gibson: “I'd been taught in Sunday school from the day I could walk that lying would send you straight to hell. No detours. No second chances. Straight into the fiery pit, where Satan was waiting with the likes of Hitler and Judas Iscariot and General Grant.”
The living conditions of everyone from sharecroppers, migrant workers, Roundheads, and the townspeople are intimately described. It is the story of a little English girl faced with harsh realities: Molly and her father share a small unpainted home beside the cotton fields. Her uncle is fighting in the Korean War. Molly like her forbear, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, is an essential moral barometer in a world of agrarian intrigue—who must keep terrible secrets of Cynthia Kirkpatrick’s illegitimate pregnancy and abortion, Roger Hamley’s crack habit, and ritual Satanic abuse within the Cumnor family line. Wives and Daughters
is a deftly written novel about harsh social and class realities that speaks directly to our hearts, even in this cynical post-modern world. Gaskell gives us memorable characters in uncompromising language that should stay with us long after we put the book down.
BTW, though I'm only 11% done with Dombey and Son
(its over 900 pages!), its going quickly. I especially like the cyberpunk and grunge imagery and I am looking forward to many interesting class discussions.
<small>[ 16 January 2003, 09:24 PM: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>