Windmill £7.99 (324pp) (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
Mudbound, By Hillary Jordan
Friday 07 November 2008
In a week of historic American elections, Hillary Jordan's emotive debut, set in 1940s Mississippi, is a timely reminder of the realities of post-bellum politics in the South.
The novel's long-suffering heroine, Laura McAllan, a city-bred teacher, is fast approaching middle age when she meets and marries Henry, that "rare and marvellous creature, a 41-year-old bachelor". Indulging her new husband's desire to own his own land, Laura moves to a remote cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta. An isolated new mother, with only her bigoted father-in-law for company, she wages a day-long battle against mud and dirt.
Life takes a turn for the better with the arrival of two returning war veterans: there is Jamie, Henry's good-looking younger brother, and Ronsel Jackson, the witty and engaging son of one of Henry's black tenant farmers.
Adultery and alcoholism, rough justice and racism may be the stock in trade of any number of Southern novels, but Jordan neatly sidesteps pat endings and solutions. The novel's alternating narrative voices work well. Only Ronsel's wartime flashbacks, which are uneasily shoe-horned into the homespun domestic drama, feel forced.
The flat landscape of the Delta and its sudden electric storms provide a suitably gothic backdrop for the shocking denouement to come. The winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for a novel "promoting social responsibility", Hillary Jordan is happily a writer who puts her duty to entertain first.
Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
- 5 Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him Wembley Stadium tickets after that rant
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Costa Book Awards 2015: H is for Hawk named book of the year
Run DMC's Darryl McDaniels: 'Kendrick Lamar is killing it, but radios are too afraid to play him'
Grumpy Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Louise Mensch says 'F**K YOU' in explosive tweets about David Cameron, Saudi Embassy and the Queen over King Abdullah tributes