Saturday, May 15, 2010

63 - Tinkers; Paul Harding


















I am not really sure how I feel about a book that has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, is only 191 pages long, but took me almost (2) weeks to finish it.  Such was the case for Paul Harding's prize winner: Tinkers.

I thought this novel it was a combination of beautiful and flowery writing, with a boring memory based story.  For me, no matter how great the writing is, if the story doesn't work, it is tough to finish the book.

Briefly, Tinkers, is a story of three generations of New England men. We learn about them basically through the memories of a dying man.  George Washington Crosby spent his days repairing clocks, but now as he lies confines to his hospital deathbed, surrounded by clocks, dying of cancer and renal failure. He has nothing but "time" to reflect on the past.  As George prepares to be joined once again with his father Howard, who predeceased him, he reflects on what he remembers of his father's life. Howard was a Tinker, who traveled door to door selling his wares, up and down the coast of Maine.  His life was one of poverty, and, in addition,  he suffered from epilepsy. Since little was understood about epilepsy in the early 19th century, his wife thought he was mentally ill. When Howard learned that his wife was planning to have him institutionalized, he decided to abandon his family.  (Yes, there is a little more, but blah, blah, blah).

As a New Englander, I loved the imagery of the 19th century New England landscape. I thought the cover art was perfect for this cold, bleak novel set in Maine. The story line, or lack of a working plot just did not work for me. I thought the metaphor of time and life, just tick, tick, ticking away was, in my opinion, enough to depress even the most cheerful readers.  Had it not been that this book had won the Pulitzer Prize, I think I might have abandoned it early on.  I think this is one of those books that lovers of literary fiction will need to try for themselves and decide.

Rating (a generous) - 3/5 stars - Library Book

15 comments:

  1. I had a feeling this would be over my head, so I haven't felt the need to run out and get it right away.

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  2. I've read a few reviews similar to yours. Knowing that it took you almost 2 weeks to read makes me think its not a book I'd enjoy reading. Flowery writing aside, It sounds depressing (ever notice how many award winning books are depressing?). I appreciate your honest review, Diane.

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  3. I think I probably will not read this book-thanks for your honest and perceptive review

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  4. I must admit I didn't know this book won until I saw it in a bookstore today and I didn't buy it...

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  5. I'm glad someone reviewed this--I want to know what it's about, but am not sure I want to read it.

    Wouldn't it be nice if, once, a book that one the PP could be described as warm and touching instead of cold and bleak?

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  6. I have reservations for award-winning books because most of the time I don't "get" what I read. But some are really good, though.

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  7. Mmmmm, yeah...I think I'll pass on the depressing blah blah blah.

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  8. I may give it a try sometime, but I'm in no hurry! It is sad that the plot isn't strong enough.

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  9. I'm with you ... you need to have a good story to really grip me and keep me.

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  10. I bought a copy of Tinkers before seeing Mr. Harding at the Festival of Books. I haven't started it though. I am a tad concerned over the plot and I can deal with a depressing, slowish plot if the characters are well-drawn. I plan to read it soon so I will let you know what I think.

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  11. Guess I didn't miss much by giving up around page 75...

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  12. I have been waiting to see a real review of this one, and had wanted to read it ever since I learned it won the prize. I am not so sure now, as it sounds like it might be a bit of a slog. Thanks for your honest review! I think I may be skipping this one.

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  13. Thanks for the great review. I've heard so many good things about this book since it won the award, but I'm still not sure it's the book "for me"...maybe in a while.

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  14. Thanks for your honest review - my book club reads the Pulitzer every year and we are not sure about this one (we have a friend battling cancel right now). We might have to look at other award winners this year.

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  15. I bought this yesterday, but who knows when I'll get a chance to read it!

    It sounds like I may relate to the New England-ness of it (and my nana worked at a watch factory for years, so there's another connection)

    Lots of highs and lows it seems ...

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