"Ignorant boys killing each other," is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war while the lives of others were mourned. In her 70s, Nathan's wife, Hannah, now has time to tell of the years since the war.
©2005 Wendell Berry; (P)2008 christianaudio.com
Wendell Berry is a profoundly beautiful writer. Though I haven't read all of his books, those I have read were thoughtfully provoking, sensitive, subtle, and genuine, with true, memorable characters. In my opinion, Hannah Coulter is among his best, with a narrative that speaks particularly to me as a woman but is not exclusive to men. The story is sensitively drawn, and while it spans decades from before WWII, it gives me as a younger woman a sense of belonging while simultaneously understanding our differences. I feel a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Berry for urging me to my best both as reader and life participant.
Having said this, I reluctantly add that this reader, while dramatically gifted, does not mesh well with Berry???s style. I believe I would have been fine with her as reader of some other literary works, but for Wendell Berry--well, she nearly ruined the book. In trying to figure out why, I can only conclude that Berry's prose contains its own subtle drama and poignancy. Hanna Berry is a simple woman, though possessing a lifetime of wisdom which she speaks in her direct way. Because her character has no artifice, it is jarring for the listener when the reader adds dramatic emphasis, pause, and affectation that were never intended by the author and would never be uttered by Hannah Coulter--unless she were ridiculing for some purpose the very type of "fancy" and pretentious voice inflection this reader imposes on her. It doesn't work. After 10 chapters I had grown so weary of this narrator's false interpretation of Hannah???s character that I quit listening. I waited a few days, then borrowed a copy of Hannah Coulter in print and read the book fresh. To my relief, what I had suspected turned out to be true: Hannah Coulter is a profoundly entertaining and enlightening read, and I would recommend it (with a simple, non-overly-dramatic reader) to anyone.
It was very enjoyable. The story flowed. It made me want to live on the land with a community or as they would say, become a
It reminded me of Mrs. Mike in how a young girl moves to a new place and finds love and a sense of community.
She has the beautiful older woman voice that reminds you of a full life.
It did evoke emotion. The war was very sad, but the family had such a sense of togetherness that it was heartwarming. Grandmam was such a loving character for an abandoned girl that it was heartwarming as well.
I gave this novel only 3 stars as I have really mixed emotions about the narration of this book. Although well executed the maudlin tone throughout made the book tiresome to listen to for long periods. I kept thinking I would enjoy this book more if I was reading it myself. That said, Wendell Berry's thought provoking story brings to question the changing American culture from rural to city life, and the horrors of war, in the mid-1900's. I would recommend this as a read, not a listen.
Elegantly narrated and beautifully written . . . another wonderful book by Wendell Berry. Susan Denaker's understated Hannah is utterly believable and deeply moving. Even though I'm not Southern, I heard my grandmother's voice and was glad.
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