Set in Kent Haruf’s fictional landscape of Holt County, Colorado, Plainsong is a story of simple lives told with extraordinary empathy. Tom Guthrie is struggling to bring up his two young sons alone. In the same town, school girl Victoria Roubideaux finds herself pregnant and homeless. Whilst Tom’s sons find their way forward without their mother, quiet and gentle Harold and Raymond McPheron agree to take Victoria in, unaware that their lives are about to change forever.
A novel of haunting beauty from one of America’s greatest writers of our time, Plainsong explores the grace and hope of every human life and mankind’s infinite capacity for love.
'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
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