Margaret Wilson – The Able McLaughlins

able-mclaughlins-margaret-wilson-paperback-cover-artTo start out saying, simply, I loved this book. I know I have said that about a lot of these books, but I truly enjoyed this book. To come back from that statement a little, this book didn’t make it into any favorite books of all time category for me, but it was definitely a worth-while read. I think that this to date wraps up most about what I find intriguing and at the same time frustrating about this project though. I am not sure if I would read any more of Wilson. She is a fantastic story teller of the most minimal sense which is refreshing and more modern than most American writers of the time. But what I find intriguing is that this novel was a period piece, written about pioneer Scotch in Iowa before the railroad got to them. By the time this novel is written, cars were plentiful and the roaring 20’s were in full swing. So this simple pioneer novel would have been passe by this time I think. To think of the great New York crowd reading this novel driving in their automobiles and going to talkies and speak-easies. What a weird book to win. So I want more context for this work, more debate, more reaction. Some New York Times reviews or something, and much of that is not available about this early works. The other thing I constantly come back to is that this is the 1920’s America, voted the best novel of that given year. Hemingway is writing during this time, Fitzgerald is writing during this time. We have so much information about these men it is staggering, this isn’t Paleolithic times, ok this was less than 100 years ago in our country during the time of the printing press and widespread journalism, and yet we know nothing about these authors or their works.

Anyways, as an aside I guess to some of the things that have confounded me during this project. Wilson’s book is a grand relief for me as I do not like American pseudo-Victorian-ism, like Poole’s book is shaping up to me, Bromfield’s work, Wharton’s book (which I ended up adoring – but for the majority of it I loathed intensely). Wilson writes a humble story about not-well off Scotch from Glasgow and Ayrshire. I loved the characters and their intensely personal characteristics. I loved the minimalist symbolism sprinkled through. I loved the themes of mistaken identity, secrets and the lies that go into protecting them, how secrets can steal your soul. I loved a lot about this book. I loved the pacing as we would jump forward long stretches of time, and then calm down for the 10 day search party for Peter. I loved that Wully was put through the ringer in this book, over and over again. I secretly love when an author has it out to put their man character through hell. Wilson is a fine writer. I think there were opportunities she missed, and somethings she could have left out, but Wilson cultivated this novel’s ending slowly and painfully and made you earn it, which I liked intensely. First class work definitely, and if anyone could ever get there hands on this book, I would recommend it to the novice and experience reader alike which isn’t something you can often say of great works.


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