by Carson McCullers, originally published in 1940, read by Cherry Jones, 2004, HarperAudio
This book was one of my worst experiences. The novel plodded along giving the reader the minutest details about each of the character’s daily existence. For instance, I wasn’t much interested in a party where the boys and girls just hung around and looked at each other, especially when this non-activity went on and on. There are similar passages throughout the book that just lead to nowhere.
I got this audio book thinking it was one of the great novels of the South and I would be enlightened. Instead, I was extremely disappointed. The characters all seemed like stick figures to me. I couldn’t get close enough to them to really care about their lives. One of the characters is a black doctor who, when he isn’t treating his destitute patients, sits around reading Karl Marx and Spinoza and laments that he can’t seem to connect with his children. Duh!
Compounding the problem with the novel is Cherry Jones’ less than stellar performance. When emotion is called for, she cranks up the volume as she substitutes her shouting for real intensity. At other times she seems to over-phrase the lines so that the listener anticipates hearing something that should be significant, but it usually isn’t.
Why did I ever get through all twelve disks? I don’t know. I had a three-day drive from Rhode Island to Florida and many times I thought I should abandon it. I didn’t and suffered all three days.
Maybe this novel was a sensation when it was first published back in 1940 because no white writer had attempted to capture the essence of black poverty in the South. Having read some Sinclair Lewis and John Steinbeck that focuses on the same subject, I would have to say that this attempt pales in comparison.