Monday, February 7, 2011

The Widower's Tale

I listened to this Julia Glass novel on CD.  Julia Glass drew a lot of attention when her first novel, Three Junes (2003), won the national book award.

I love audio books.  I know a lot of people who drive for a living check them out.  Our collection gets hit particularly hard between Thanksgiving and Christmas when many of our patrons hit the highways on the way to visit relatives.  I listen to books while I knit. 

I chose The Widower's Tale because I liked Three Junes so much-- I liked how Glass got into her character's heads and seemed equally apt at covering male and female points of view, old and young, gay and straight.  I liked how even though the characters told the story, the reader (or listener) had a better understanding of the events and connections within the plot than the characters did. 

The Widower's Tale is also told from a variety of character's point of view, but it doesn't cover as much ground as does Three Junes.  The narrators are all male and they all live in Massachusetts.  In an interview Glass said she likes to use male voices as a way of fictionalizing parts of herself, but that she identifies with all her characters.  The first voice you hear in the book is that of Percy, a 70-year-old, retired Harvard librarian.  I was initially turned off by his stodginess but won over by his sense of humor and wit. 

Throughout, Percy remains the most interesting.  As the story opens, he has a daily routine, grown daughters who live nearby, he's lived in the same house since he was a young man, and even his status as a widower is something he is well used to, having lost his wife over twenty years ago.  It could be that his 71st year proves to be the most eventful of his life. 

All the voices in this book are conveyed by reader Mark Bramhall, himself a Harvard graduate.  Though all male, the four narrative voices that tell this tale range in age from 70 down to 20 and in ethnicity from Eastern US to Antigua, Guatemala.  Each character's voice is fully developed by this talented reader.

--EM PWPL Reference Desk

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