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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Work Song

Work Song - Ivan Doig Doig crafts his prose with the skill of a poet, and tells his story with the down-home humor of a country yarn spinner. I think the author had a smile on his face when he wrote this book. Also, this is a book that can be read by a Victorian prude and not be embarrassed by explicit sexual content.

Morrie the school teacher from the previous book, The Whistling Season, provides the first person narrative in this story. Ten years have passed during which time Morrie has traveled the world. At the beginning of the book he arrives in the 1919 copper-mining center of Butte, Montana to see if he can get a piece of the "richest hill on earth" which is how the Anaconda Mining Company describes it. Of course things are never that simple, and the story evolves from there.

The book is a historical novel that describes the conditions in the copper mines and the issues relating to the conflict between the labor unions (more than one) versus the mining company and their thugs. There are details in the plot that seem contrived. But what historical novel isn't contrived? Apparently, there was a wide diversity of opinion among the critics regarding this book (See this review). I think there are times when critics from the urban east and west coasts don't get the rural and "big sky" settings from the center of the nation. For me, the telling of the story was done in such a clever way that I didn't care if the plot was declared thin by others.

Here's A LINK to a very negative review of this book. He calls the book "mawkish, corny, clumsy and uninviting." Apparently what I call "down-home humor of a country yarn spinner" is something that grates on his nerves. What I thought to be near music is dissonance to him. Which of us is correct? What worries me is that the writer of this negative review is an experienced staff reviewer for the Washington Post. And me, I'm ... ah, well I guess I have no particular credentials. My suggestion is read the book and decide for yourself.