13 Comments

  1. This is Berry’s first novel (or rather a revision of it, about a third shorter than the original, which is nearly impossible to find now), and I may have mentioned before that it’s my least favorite. So grim, and lacking in any tempering feminine presence at all. I understand your response.

    • Amy

      Janet, why was this novel revised so much (or maybe I should say shortened so much)? It feels incomplete, almost like a series of short stories and descriptive essays.

  2. Hi Amy,

    Berry is an extensive reviser, and it becomes very hard to find the originals once the revisions have been issued. (I only have them because my diss director was so skilled at finding such things.) With these earlier books, he didn’t know he’d be returning to these characters, so it’s at least partly a matter of rewriting or removing the things that end up being out of character in light of the later books. (In the original NC, for instance, Nathan has an affair.) He’s said too that in general, some of what he wrote as a young man sounds “callow” to him as an older man looking back. (That’s something I can understand!)

    The original NC has some additional episodes, but they don’t really change that essential grimness. I think part of the disjointed feeling is that Berry is playing with point of view in a young narrator who’s observant but has a lot of maturing to do.

    On a totally unliterary, gut impulse note: I hate the episode with the pet crow in this book. 🙁

    • Amy

      Thanks, Janet,for@ coming back to explain! It’s wonderful to have a bloggy buddy who’s an expert! :-). I also hated the pet crow episode and actually thought it out of character for Berry as a writer (if that makes sense). Of course, I guess sometimes writers must “allow” their characters to do things they themselves don’t necessarily like.

  3. Thank you for this review. I fell in love with Berry after reading That Distant Land and have accumulated several of his novels since then. Haven’t read Nathan Coulter yet, but am glad to have your perspective on it.

  4. I need to decide which Berry novel to read next. I loved Hannah Coulter and Jayber Crow, but I haven’t read any others. I think I was waiting to treat myself. I picked up one that I thought was a novel, can’t remember the title, but realized it was a series of short stories or vignettes and lost interest. I don’t like short stories.

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