QUIET DELL BY JAYNE ANNE PHILLIPS
SCRIBNER (HARDBACK), 2013
This book is part of my Popsugar Reading Challenge 2015 (http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2015-36071458). The category for this book is ‘a book based on a true story’.
I put a bit of thought into this one. I was browsing online for great books based on true stories. I ended up looking at a page from an old archive of the Guardian newspaper with their top twelve books based on true stories. I had a quick read through the plot outline of each one and Quiet Dell sounded right up my street.
BLURB FROM THE COVER
From one of America’s most accomplished and acclaimed fiction writers, a chilling, spectacularly riveting novel based on a real life multiple murder by a con man who preyed on widows—a story that has haunted Jayne Anne Phillips for more than four decades.
Jayne Anne Phillips’s debut collection, Black Tickets, galvanized critics and readers when it was published in 1979 and announced her as one of the great new voices of her generation. Her four novels, prize-winners and reader favourites, have secured her place as one of America’s most celebrated storytellers. In Quiet Dell, Phillips re-imagines a gruesome crime in a tiny West Virginia community not far from where she grew up.
In Chicago in 1931, Asta Eicher, mother of three, is lonely and despairing, pressed for money after the sudden death of her husband. She begins to receive seductive letters from a chivalrous, elegant man named Harry Powers, who promises to cherish and protect her, ultimately to marry her and to care for her and her children. Weeks later, the family are dead.
Emily Thornhill, one of the few women in the Chicago press, covers the case and becomes deeply invested in understanding what happened to this beautiful family, particularly to the youngest child, Annabel, an enchanting girl with a precocious imagination and sense of magic. Bold and intrepid, Emily allies herself with the Chicago banker who funds the investigation and who is wracked by guilt for not saving Asta. Driven by secrets of their own, the heroic characters in this magnificent tale will stop at nothing to ensure that Powers is convicted. A mesmerizing retelling of a harrowing crime, Quiet Dell is a tour de force of obsession and imagination.
When the year turns, there are bells on the wind. All the old years fall on the ground like lights. When you walk across those lights, it sounds like walking on all the piled-up leaves of giant trees. But up high the bells are ringing for everyone alive. There are silver and gold and glass bells you can see through, and sleigh bells a hundred years old. My grandmother said there was a whisper for each one dead that year, and a feather drifting for each one waiting to be born.
This is my first time reading Jayne Anne Phillips.
I loved Quiet Dell. The novel is based on actual events (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Powers). I’d no prior knowledge of the case before I read Quiet Dell. I really enjoyed the writing and the characters. I got absorbed into the world of Emily and the Eicher family. This novel has a lot of sad moments as we read about what a nasty piece of work Powers was and what he put Asta and her children through in the last hours of their life. I really enjoyed the ending. I didn’t know about the case before I read Quiet Dell so I didn’t know how things would turn out. I got a real sense of time and place in Quiet Dell. I thought this was a cracking read.