Postcards by Annie Proulx
Published by Fourth Estate
Published 1 October 2009 (first published 1991)
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
This is story of Loyal Blood, a man who spends a lifetime on the run from a crime so terrible that it renders him forever incapable of touching a woman.
The odyssey begins on a freezing Vermont hillside in 1944 and propels Blood across the American West for forty years. Denied love and unable to settle, he lives a hundred different lives: mining gold, growing beans, hunting fossils, trapping, prospecting for uranium and ranching. His only contact with his past is through a series of postcards he sends home – not realising that in his absence disaster has befallen his family, and their deep-rooted connection with the land has been severed with devastating consequences…
‘Postcards’ was Annie Proulx’s first novel, which received huge acclaim and marked the launch of an outstanding literary career. Her works include short story collections ‘Bad Dirt’, ‘Close Range’ (featuring ‘Brokeback Mountain’) and novels such as ‘The Shipping News’ and ‘Accordion Crimes’.
Even before he got up he knew he was on his way.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I really enjoyed Postcards. I thought Proulx’s novel, The Shipping News was much better but Postcards is a well-written first novel, showing what Proulx is capable of. Proulx’s style of writing reminds me a lot of Joyce Carol Oates. I mean this as a compliment as Oates is one of my favourite writers. Postcards reminded me a lot of Oates’s earlier novel, A Garden of Earthly Delights which also deals with similar issues. I really like the author’s style. I found the book absorbing and easy to get lost in. I enjoyed the way some chapters explore Loyal’s life when he goes on the run. I enjoyed the way Loyal’s life is contrasted by chapters focusing on different members of the family he left behind. Postcards is quite slow paced, gradually building tension as time passes for Loyal and his family. This is one of the very few well-written novels where a female writer writes from a male perspective and Proulx makes it work, similar to what she did in The Shipping News. Postcards is great. Proulx is a new favourite author. The characters in this novel are wonderfully complex. Loyal by definition should be an unlikable villain. The novel opens with him raping and murdering someone after all. Yet, Proulx does her thing and by the end of Postcards I had developed real sympathy for him. The other characters are equally impressive. I had a great time reading Postcards and recommend it.