Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

It's been awhile since I've written a book review. I've been in a bit of book slump lately. But there was one bright spot. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig was the November/December book club selection for the library book club, Books on Main. I had read a review of this book in The Providence Journal ages ago and decided that the book sounded interesting. I added it to my list of possible book club choices and finally got around to selecting it. It was a wonderful selection.

The Whistling Season is told through the eyes of the now middle aged Paul Milliron, as he recounts his childhood in rural Montana in the early 1900's. Paul's father is an overwhelmed widower trying to raise three rambunctious sons while also eking out an existence on the unforgiving land. When he hires a housekeeper, sight unseen, from a newspaper add that states "can't cook, but doesn't bite", the lives of the the Milliron "men" are changed forever. The fascinating Rose arrives with a surprise guest- her scholarly and gentlemanly brother, Morris. When the teacher in the one room school house runs off to get married, Morris takes over the duties as teacher. His passion and knowledge transform the children of Marias Coulee in wonderful ways. As the story unfolds we learn more about the lives of the people living in this harsh landscape.

The Whistling Season is a simple story, beautifully told. Doig is a master of language and his writing is glorious and poetic. As a matter of fact, Doig himself has discussed in interviews his love of the "poetry under the prose". He states that "rhythm, word choice, and premeditated lyrical intent are the elements of this type of writing". His writing evokes a different time and place. What I loved most about this book is its simplicity. There is no intrigue (OK, maybe a little at the end), no drama, no big conflicts. Just a good old fashioned story. That seems like a rare commodity these days. If you want to read a story filled with lyricism, simple yet fully formed characters and be transported to a time gone by, I highly recommend Doig's literary novel - The Whistling Season. I don't think you will be disappointed.
I would give The Whistling Season 4 stars - I really liked it.


  1. I loved this book as well. As you know, I am a huge fan of audio books. I happened to have this one both in print and on my mp3 player, and I used both methods trying to get the book read by the meeting date for "Books on Main." After all that, I never did make it to the book club meeting!

    I was intrigued from the start, curious about who this new housekeeper Rose and her brother were. I fell in love with the quirky and intelligent Morey.

    The narration of the audio was good, but I recommend reading this beautifully written book with your eyes. Because I went back and forth from the written version to the audio, I found that I was missing a lot of his interesting writing style when I was listening. I found myself going back to the book to re-read certain parts.

    I would definitely read another Ivan Doing book. Madge recommends: Read this one, and use your eyes!

  2. I loved the quiet simplicity of this book and the writing was so poetic. I haven't read anything else by Doig. If you do read another of his book, I'll be anxious to hear what you think.


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