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Plainsong (Plainsong 1)

Plainsong (Plainsong 1) [Kindle Edition]

Kent Haruf
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Plainsong, according to Kent Haruf's epigraph, is "any simple and unadorned melody or air." It's a perfect description of this lovely, rough-edged book, set on the very edge of the Colorado plains. Tom Guthrie is a high school teacher whose wife can't--or won't--get out of bed; the McPherons are two bachelor brothers who know little about the world beyond their farm gate; Victoria Roubideaux is a pregnant 17-year-old with no place to turn. Their lives parallel each other in much the same way any small-town lives would--until Maggie Jones, another teacher, makes them intersect. Even as she tries to draw Guthrie out of his black cloud, she sends Victoria to live with the two elderly McPheron brothers, who know far more about cattle than about teenage girls. Trying to console her when she think she's hurt her baby, the best lie they can come up with is this: "I knew of a heifer we had one time that was carrying a calf, and she got a length of fencewire down her some way and it never hurt her or the calf."

Holt, Colorado, is the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone's business before that business even happens. In a way, that's true of the book, too. There's not a lot of suspense here, plot wise; you can see each narrative twist and turn coming several miles down the pike. What Plainsong has instead is note-perfect dialogue, surrounded by prose that's straightforward yet rich in particulars: "a woman walking a white lapdog on a piece of ribbon" glimpsed from a car window; the boys' mother, her face "as pale as schoolhouse chalk"; the smells of hay and manure, the variations of prairie light. Even the novel's larger questions are sized to a domestic scale. Will Guthrie find love? Will Victoria run away with the father of her baby? Will the McPherons learn to hold a conversation? But in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and Plainsong manages to capture nothing less than an entire world--fencing pliers, calf-pullers, and all. Kent Haruf has a gorgeous ear, and a knack for rendering the simple complex. --Mary Park


‘Perfectly formed, beautifully executed’ Mariella Frostrup

‘Beautifully crafted, alive and quietly magnificent. I read it in one mesmerising sitting. I had no choice; it wouldn't let me go’ Roddy Doyle

Plainsong is nothing short of a revelation. I don't expect to read a better novel this year. Or next, for that matter.’ Richard Russo

‘So delicate and lovely that it has the power to exalt the reader’ New York Times

‘Satisfying and warm, Plainsong is as purehearted a novel as they come’ Austin Chronicle

Plainsong becomes a story of mythic proportion, and not just a story about a small town in the American West, but a story of universal concern. Our story’ Boston Review

‘I’ve had the delightful experience once again of becoming so absorbed in a book that I couldn’t have slowed down if I

tried. The book is Kent Haruf ’s Plainsong, the most controlled, cohesive novel I’ve come across in a long time. By this I mean that its various elements – character, setting, plot, language, even the names, even the title – all add up to a work as flawlessly unified as a short story by Poe or Chekhov . . . At certain points I was horrified by the austerity of the isolated lives in this story, and yet on every page I savoured the beauty of the telling’ Chicago Tribune

Plainsong is a beauty, as spare and heartbreaking as an abandoned homestead cabin, always tough but humane, never sentimental. I loved the prose, as bright and hard as the winter sun sparkling off a sandy snow bank; and the characters, scrubbed to their essentials by the extremes of the Great Plains weather. It’s a story that draws the reader like a heat mirage’ James Crumley

‘True to the country he writes about, Haruf builds his characters out of small gestures and daily rituals, not dialogue. Theirs is a deep language, like the rumble before an earthquake’ L.A. Times

‘[Haruf] writes with a plainspoken, hardscrabble edge that saves his story from sentimentality. It’s a noun-and-verb-only style that’s part Russell Banks, part Raymond Carver, but altogether his own . . . Kent Haruf ’s splendid Plainsong succeeds beautifully. Elegant in its simplicity, elemental in its power, it arouses deep and hard-earned emotions’ Newsday

‘Like all the best novels, Plainsong takes you into a world that is at once real and vividly imagined. Here is a poetry of landscape, a tender and passionate evocation of ordinary people in majestic country. It is a novel of the young and old, of the bonds that bind us to each other, and written with a kind of compassion that makes it ultimately powerfully uplifting’ Niall Williams

Plainsong is a well-crafted investigation into how disparate voices, each unique and interconnected, can come together in the most unlikely of circumstances . . . Haruf offers a fresh approach by creating layers which intensify and deepen as the novel progresses, alternating between each character’s life at every chapter’ Observer

‘With deftness and precision, Plainsong orchestrates the overlapping lives of these and other characters . . . Haruf ’s descriptions are sublime in their exacting simplicity . . . A beautiful, contemporary novel that reads very much like a story from another time’ Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Holt, Colorado, a tiny prairie community near Denver, is both the setting for and the psychological matrix of Haruf ’s beautifully executed new novel . . . Walking a tightrope of restrained design, Haruf steers clear of sentimentality and melodrama while constructing a taut narrative in which revelations of character and rising emotional tensions are held in

perfect balance. This is a compelling story of grief, bereavement, loneliness and anger, but also of kindness, benevolence, love and the making of a strange new family’ Publishers Weekly

'Ken Haruf's prose murmurs a haunting melody through the intertwined lives of a Colorado community. It is a simple tale of life, death, love and hatred' The Times

‘A lovely read, illuminated by sparks of spare beauty’ Time

‘It’s written in a flat, palms-on-the-table style, which effectively suppresses what could have been sentimental in the story. Plenty to gulp over still, though. A first-rate, old-fashioned read’ Time Out

Plainsong is the unisonous austere chant of a church service, and the hundreds of thousands of fans of this book have been nothing less than devotional in their praise of Kent Haruf ’ Times Literary Supplement

‘The emotional register of Plainsong, though kept in check by understatement and a stoic approach to the vicissitudes of life, is powerful. And Haruf works a quiet magic in the way he fits his characters’ lives in with the landscape and weather that surround them’ Washington Post Book World

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 542 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0375406182
  • Publisher: Picador (28 Jun 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008ERS1C0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,530 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern American Writing at its best 31 Aug 2000
By A Customer
Plainsong is a modern American classic that sits comfortably in the company of works by Steinbeck and Hemmingway through to Richard Ford. It is a simple story that captures effortlessly the day to day struggles of its principal characters set against a rugged landscape that is ever brooding in the background. The book avoids sentimentality as it carefully draws you closer to superbly drawn out characters. For lovers of modern American writing, this book is a must. You will not be disappointed.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in simplicity 18 Feb 2006
If you want thrill, this is not the book for you. It does just what it suggests on the cover and the title - it is a layering together of simple stories in an ordinary way that in its ensemble makes a beautiful melody of the lives involved. This is a book of heart and soul told in a beautiful lyrical fashion. Sure the plot is thin and that's part of the beauty - everyday life isn't jampacked with adventure. Just let the words and the characters wash over you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down. 20 Jun 2010
I started reading this yesterday morning and finished it this morning. It is a 'must' read and throughly enjoyable.

Although it doesn't have a vast story, it deals mainly with two sets of brothers x 1 pair elderly, the others young.

A man whose wife is sick, through some sort of depression, with two sons she clearly loves but cannot live with. Her husband the schoolteacher who has problems of his own in the classroom as well as at home.

Two elderly men who take in a girl because she needs a home and grow to accept her and her situation and the girl herself who realises life's mistakes go hand in hand with kindness.

I loved the banter between the two older brothers and was sorry that the book ended. It really was a totally different read for me and I must say I loved it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read 5 April 2001
By A Customer
Plainsong is quite simply a must read book. Although you can't buy his other novels in the UK order them in from .com as they even surpass this brilliant book. As other people have reviewed on the hardback this is a book that will make you laugh outloud in parts (and I mean outloud) and break your heart at the same time. This is masterful storytelling - you are in awe of it! This book deserves the same kind of success as Angela's Ashes and Memoirs of a Geisha - read it and like me press it onto every friend you have - they will thank you for it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a magical book you should read! 12 Oct 2000
By A Customer
I loved this book - it made me laugh out loud, its beautifully written, poignant and wry. The only drawback was that it ended. If you like E Annie Proulx you should read this. And then you should go buy Kent Haruf's other novel, "Where You Once Belonged", which is also outstanding. He sure knows how to unravel a quirky story this man. Get to it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have read this year 18 Mar 2001
Kent Haruf has a style of writing that draws you into this book , I couldn't put it down.It was like watching a good movie.The characters were so real.I bought his other 2 books straight away on the strength of Plainsong.An inspiring Author who has become one of my favourites.
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By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This gentle and beautiful novel is one of a kind. It tells of the people of Holt, a small town in farming country. The story encompasses Guthrie, a schoolteacher and his two sons aged 9 and 10, Ike and Bobby. Also involved are the McPherons, two elderly men who protect a young girl who has been made pregnant by an out-of-towner, Victoria Roubideaux. There were moments when the beauty of the writing overwhelmed me. It is a gentle, pastoral community, but there are people within it for whom one feels an almost visceral dislike. The depiction of the boys’ childhood experiences are brilliantly handled. Their mother has withdrawn herself from the family and their naïve attempts to bring their mother back to them are heartbreaking without ever spilling over into melodrama.

Victoria’s problem is that she has fallen for the wrong man and her solution is highly individual as, after a period of taking the conventional route, she takes up residence with the McPherons, unworldly farmers who have limited lives by choice.

The experience of reading this beautiful book is profound. There were moments when I had to put the book down and think about what it was telling me. These coincided with moments of danger for Ike and Bobby, and moments of sheer terror which held me in thrall to the complex of problems faced by people. But this is a quiet book. It’s a book that demands to be read while it puts you through some uncomfortable moments. I cannot think of another book that has had such a sublime effect on me. I simply loved it.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plain stuff 17 Dec 2008
By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kent Haruf's Plainsong reads like a collection of intertwined short stories more than a novel. I suppose the title emphasises simplicity, both in the writing and in the protagonists' destinies, as well as that plainsong is the music of several overlapping voices. Still, the technique is hardly revolutionary. And the problem with Haruf's novel is that only one of the stories really appeals, that of the pregnant teenager who finds refuge among the unlikely, old farmer brothers. That one is touching and even has good moments of conflict and suspense. But while the rest is readable, it tastes too much of the worn-out, divorce-among-academics-and-the-impact-on-the-kids theme.

The book is set in rural Colorado, and if verisimilar descriptions of heifers giving birth or horses being autopsied are your thing, it may appeal to you more than it did to me. Even that, though, can get maudlin at times, in spite of the austere title. And the author constantly makes use of the article "the" instead of the indefinite to refer to as yet undefined things or people. This is all right once in a while, but Haruf over-uses the trick; it forces the reader's attention artificially and gets annoying, the written equivalent of people who finish all their sentences with an interrogative up tone. Right?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
lived up to all the reviews- moving and funny.
Published 3 days ago by buff
2.0 out of 5 stars For example great detail about examining live cattle and in the next...
I had to get this book for my reading group. I am undecided, I wanted to continue reading it but it is almost gruesome. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Christine Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Loved this book. It is a 'quiet ' book. That may or may not sound odd but i suppose what i mean is that the language makes it seem as if not a lot is happening whereas a lot is... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime
Haruf shows the whole of the human condition within a tale of a small town and it's inhabitants. masterfully written with a simplicity of style and narration,
Published 1 month ago by Mrs
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice easy read
Nice easy read. Characters well depicted but ends too soon so you really need to read next in trilogy. Light.
Published 2 months ago by PM Hounsell
4.0 out of 5 stars The story is charming and I enjoyed it very much
This book is exquisitely crafted. Haruf is a master of showing, not telling, his reader what he wants them to know. The story is charming and I enjoyed it very much.
Published 2 months ago by Project Sunrise
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it !
Delightful . I read it years ago , and then reread as I found there was now a sequel . Loved it both times . Definitely feel good , but not sentimental .
Published 3 months ago by Dr Sheila M M Sorby
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, honest simplicity
The story weaves the lives of disparate characters together. The way that those lives touch & interact is by tuns surprising, heart-warming & moving. An excellent read.
Published 4 months ago by MadaboutRadley
4.0 out of 5 stars Smalltown idealized
A simple tale, finely written, with lots of 'feel good' relationships. I think this is the most undemanding and enjoyable of the trilogy.
Published 5 months ago by sniper
4.0 out of 5 stars The extraordinary ordinary
Ordinary lives and events made absorbing by a persuasive authorial voice and a humane vision. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
Published 6 months ago by Fitzalto
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