A finalist for the National Book award, Ivan Doig, who has published 11 books, has been hailed as the "West's preeminent literary novelist" by the Denver Post.
"The Whistling Season is a book to pass on to your favorite readers: a story of lives of active choice, lived actively." (Publishers Weekly)
With the passing some years ago of Wallace Stegner, Ivan Doig is probably the writer who now most personifies the West. English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride with me Mariah Montana are among my favorites. It was with great enthusiasm that I began to read his latest, The Whistling Season. It was for that reason, perhaps, that I was initially disappointed. It had the tone of a juvenile book, at first. There's nothing wrong with that—I write juvenile fiction myself. But this seemed just a note off from where it belonged.
True, the book is about a juvenile, through his reminiscence 50 years hence. There was something that did not ring true. I don't know if I got over it, or if the book improved. More likely I was picking something up in the narration that wasn't just right.
Ultimately, the book is not a disappointment, though not his best work. Early on you could see the happy ending rolling toward you like a train in the distance: recently widowed farmer with three boys sends for a housekeeper on the basis of a cryptic ad. Surprise, surprise, she's quite good looking. The real surprise is that she brings her brother with her. He turns out to be much more than we expect, and in many ways is the center of the book.
Much of the novel takes place in a one-room Montana schoolhouse, beginning in 1909. There are several sub-plots that provide the action. The real story is about the kind of education one could get in that kind of setting. A couple of years ago I was privileged to have the opportunity to edit the history of a similar school in Idaho. That kind of grade-spanning education, all but lost today, had much to recommend it.
There is some entertaining wordplay throughout the novel. We come dangerously close to learning a little Latin. In the end, the entire book turns on the definition of a word. A bold step that a lesser writer might not have pulled off. Doig does it with ease.
39 of 39 people found this review helpful
Five big shining stars! This is the book for long trips alone. For that matter, it is the book for lots of short trips as well. A lovely story that is beautifully written and perfectly narrated. I found myself thinking about Oliver and the children, Rose and Maury throughout my day. These are characters that will stay with you long after the book is finished. Mr. Doig's description of Montana in the early 1900's is fascinating. This is a "slice of life" story with caring, honest people and real relationships. Take the long way home, look forward to traffic back ups and enjoy this one! I look forward to more writing by Ivan Doig, and will search for narration by Jonathan Hogan. What a perfect pair.
31 of 31 people found this review helpful
It was easy to get lost in this story. So well done by Mr. Doig. As a native Idahoan, my knowledge of Montana, Idaho and Washington, gave me even more of an experience of going home. Listen carefully and you will experience it as it is, for yourself.
A very talented author who captures the simplicity of the time, and intricacy of the characters.
One of the few Authors I would love to meet.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
This book kind of meanders along when Rose shows up to help a widow keep his house and help with his three boys. Her brother comes along and you can't help but be facinsated by his character as well. Of course they have a secret which in the end is the focal point of this coming of age story.
I kind of wondered if it was just going to be a set of vignettes and never really get anywhere, but all the little pieces fall into place as it goes along. If you find it slow at first, just keep going (although sometimes it's easier to just move to something else.) The author did an excellent job of weaving the facts of the time with his historical fictional characters, such as Hailey's Comet.
I must admit I hated the narrator at first. And yet the longer I listened to the story, the more the narrator seemed to fit into it. So if you like Little House types of stories, this may be a good one for you. By the end I was excited to get in the car and listen and I found myself sitting in the driveway for extra time to listen befor heading in the house. I thought about this on long after I finished reading it.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Thought it was a creative and enjoyable story. Enjoyed listening. Worth it if you're not looking for violence, sex etc.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
As a Westerner who is currently living across the Atlantic this book made me nostalgic for the West and for my family's (and many a Westerner's) past. Simple and country-eloquent in writing and masterfully narrated. A great listen and maybe even a better read. For anyone who enjoys Stegner, Steinbeck or any of the other great American West writers, you'll love this.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
This is an entertaining read on some levels, but somewhat banal on others. It is the kind of book I would recommend without hesitation to a junior high or high school student. If nothing else, it gives some kind of picture of life in Montana a hundred years ago. It is good, clean, wholesome reading (if that's what is good for kids). Four-letter words are consistently avoided, and even some 8-letter words like "pregnant," which might presumably alarm some younger readers. If you have the sophistication of an adult, you may find quite a bit of it banal and that the characters don't fully ring true. This story centers around a family in Montana (around 1910) whose mother has died. The adolescent and pre-adolescent sons attend a one-room schoolhouse. The story narrated in flashback by one of the sons as an adult is mostly from the point of view of the boys. They occasionally get involved in nothing worse than innocent, cheerful mischief. They experience life with a widowed father, a new female housekeeper from Minnesota, and the erudite man she tells them is her brother. Much of the book has the feeling of a TV family sitcom. This family has few tears, no fights between the sons, no jealousies, no recalcitrance, no serious issues of discipline for the children, etc. What we get is a cheerful, amusing story with an occasional difficult situation thrown in to provide a moral lesson. Despite its shortcomings, the story moves along nicely. The narration is fine.
14 of 15 people found this review helpful
Truly a wonderful experience to read this book. Ivan's words brought even the most ordinary everyday circumstances of a century ago to such vibrant life that I was living right beside a family I have come to know so well I now miss them. Frequently I caught myself in awe of his eloquence. The narration was superb. Well Done!
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
Doig has a terrific ability to write about the small things in life and make them interesting. The flatness of the narrator threw me off the first hour. It's bland. Eventually, it becomes a very good listen -- but more because of where the story goes than how it's read.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This book is beautifully written and performed. The story is wonderful and has the feel of clearly depicting a time gone by. There were times I laughed out loud. The characters had life and I was interested in them and their lives.
If you have never read Doig before, this is a great first read. You'll be hooked.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful