By Sharyn McCrumb
‘’Mother, the sub is on the bottom and they can’t get it up’’, she whispered.
They didn’t believe her, of course. (…) But when I heard about it, I believed her. As close as she was to my brother (…), if he had time for any last words before his life was extinguished (…), she would have heard them.’
For my first book recommendation I thought a relaxing yet peculiar book would fit well, as summer is here and everyone enjoys a reading session in a park or garden.
Key words: ballads, Appalachia, Scotland, heritage, family, tradition, songs, mystery
Best read: anytime, writing style is easy to follow and relaxing
Top tip: stay away from too many online reviews and summaries, the main beauty of this book is its unpredictability!
Sharyn McCrumb’s The Songcatcher holds a certain mystery around it, and the story really captivated and enchanted me. The book is about following a ballad through generations and swapping between past and present to tie people together through their ancestors and this song. The root of the story is in Scotland, on Islay, in the eighteenth century, moving then to America in North Carolina. The narrative passes important historical events, such as mentions of the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, The Civil War in America and Second World War. The book also sheds some light on gender issues, managing to depict the past times as they were without polishing the truth, but overall the atmosphere the book creates is more secretive and elusive, leaving the reader space to create continuations and stories themselves.
‘Elegiac… Ms. McCrumb writes with quiet fire and maybe a little mountain magic… Like Nora, she plucks the mysteries form people’s lives and works these dark narratives threads into Applachian legends older than the hills.’ (The New York Times Book Review)
The mysterious atmosphere, the folklore and the superstitions are what make this story to stand out. The originality of the concept of the ballad being followed through generations almost pardons the faulty writing at times (switching from one character’s perspective to the other too fast) and the author’s attention to the historical context’s accuracy makes it fascinating. Despite the swapping of perspectives which becomes slightly confusing after one point, this is a book that makes you curious about the unfolding of the narrative and it really brings back some magic from the past, including supernatural and old superstitions.
While I got this book in a second-hand bookshop some good years back, it is quite difficult to find at the moment in shops. However, it is still available on the author’s official website for the US and on Amazon here for the UK (Kindle edition, hardcover and paperback). The latter delivers to Romania as well.
Sample available here.
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored and does not contain any affiliate links.