Saturday, April 4, 2015

Book Review: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

     Shout-out to my friend Isabelle for lending me this book!  We have started an informal book club, meaning the two of us lend each other our favorite books and discuss them at lunch.  Anyway, I probably would not have read past this book's detailed and dull beginning  if she had not recommended it so strongly.  And I am so glad that I did!
     Yes, the beginning is dull - a description of a murder trial, which I had no emotional connection to at first - but after that things pick up nicely.  We learn that the trial takes place on an American fishing island not long after World War II, and that a Japanese man has been accused of murdering a man of German descent.  Both are American veterans, but the islanders don't see it that way because of the accused man's race.  This would be a fascinating story in itself, but Guterson weaves a billion other story threads around the central cord of the trial.  These threads work to bring out the significance of the trial rather than distracting from it.  This book feels carefully, lovingly engineered, like a medieval cathedral built by hand by generations of the same family of stone masons.  Or something. That simile dragged a bit.
     Not only is this book beautifully constructed, but its writing style is full and lush too.  The landscape of the island, the appearances of characters, the lives and lifestyles of the islanders, all of these are described in aching beauty.
     William Zinsser says that writers should strive to write simply, and in most cases he is right.  But I think Guterson has surpassed simplicity and developed a ripe, maybe long-winded, but never frivolous style all his own.
Warning: Irrelevant!!
View of Lake Erie from my hotel room

     Anyway, happy Easter & Passover y'all!
     - Carly