Thursday, September 15, 2011
Burnt Mountain by Anne Rivers Siddons.......
You may be able to guess how fast I read this book based on how soon I'm posting a review of it after I posted my last review. (I never read two books at the same time.)
**This review contains some spoiler information, so stop reading at the **** below if you don't want to know some of the things that happen.**
I have a hard time being objective about any book written by ARS. She's one of my favorite writers, and I don't even care if it's because she's a Southern Writer (capitalization not an accident) or if it's because she writes about places I can recognize and identify with, sometimes on a personal level. (Terry Kay is another one - check out To Dance with the White Dog if you get a chance.) One of her best-known novels, Peachtree Road, is one of my favorite books of all time. I intend to read it again.
In Burnt Mountain, Thayer Wentworth (if I ever have another child, I'm going to name her Thayer) is sent to summer camp, where she discovers a love of horseback riding, storytelling, and Nick.
Thayer's strained relationship with her mother is balanced by her nurturing one with her grandmother.
One thing that I have long admired about Siddons' books is that the setting almost becomes a character itself. Burnt Mountain is no different, even though most of the book takes place in locations other than Burnt Mountain itself. Siddons also has a knack for getting us inside the characters' minds and souls. Even if we don't particularly LIKE a certain character, we certainly can't say we don't understand him or her.
I almost always cry during and after reading one of Anne Rivers Siddons' books. Sometimes that becomes a lasting sadness that I can't shake for days. I don't mean to imply that her books are depressing; they are just so fraught with emotion that they stick with me. Kind of like the adrenaline from skydiving used to last for several days, only in reverse. Sometimes I think the sadness comes from the fact that I may never aspire to be the kind of writer that Siddons is. And I really, really, really, really would like to be.
I do feel compelled to point out, however, the thing about the book that disturbed me. I hope this won't come across as nit-picking, but some errors in time sequence appeared to me to be true structural flaws.
Thayer falls in love at camp the summer before she is to go on to college. She is later subjected to an abortion arranged by her mother (could she really have been that ignorant?), from which she gets an infection that ultimately leaves her barren. That smacks of the 1950's. Or maybe 1960's. Yet when Thayer marries one of her college professors immediately after her graduation, they get caught up in Atlanta's preparations for the Olympics. That was 1996. Siddons mentions contemporary makes and models of cars (I'm not savvy enough to know when some of them came along, and I'm too lazy to look them up), and one of the characters has a cell phone. I realize cell phones were in existence in the years immediately preceding 1996, but they were still novelties, they were expensive, and service was unreliable.
Thayer marries immediately upon her college graduation, and while she is on her honeymoon she learns that her beloved grandmother has died, leaving her a magnificent house on Bell's Ferry Road. Yet when she runs into her camp love, Nick, a short time afterward, he has married, had two children, earned an advanced degree, and divorced. Nick was to start college the same year she did, so they were the same age.
Even with the flaws, I was able to enjoy the book immensely, and I may even read it again immediately. That's the highest endorsement I can give a book.