Thursday, 5 June 2014

Linda Spalding's The Purchase

What Was On My Night Table

 Another book I had placed a hold on at the library and had forgotten about by the time it was 'my turn' to get it... this is The Purchase by Linda Spalding and it appeared on the Governor General's Awards for Fiction, 2012 list.  Linda Spalding is a wonderful writer and this book is another testimony to her very capable writing abilities.
 It tells the story of the trials and tribulations of a young Quaker, Daniel, who takes his family deep into 18th century Virginia to begin homesteading.  He inadvertently trades his favourite horse for an 8 year old boy who is black (the "purchase").  Daniel is mortified this has come about as it is against his moral and religious teachings to be a part of the slavery movement.  He tends to blame the fact of this purchase for the numerous problems that befall him and his family as they go about trying to make a life for themselves in the wilderness.
I did not get a good sense of any of the characters in this book.  I have since read them described as 'faint' and I would agree with this.  Right to the end, I did not have a good fix on each of them.   In particular, I found Daniel to be a weak character and as often happens in these 'frontier' or 'pioneer' novels, the women are the real backbone of the family.  They seemed to have the necessary backbone to take care of things, were decisive and had the strength of their convictions, something Daniel was lacking.  They birthed and raised children, learned to farm, became skillful at all sorts of crafts and fed the family all against the brutality of certain neighbours and harshness of  life in the wilderness itself.
 For me Daniel was an interesting character at the start of the novel but then he faded; I was irritated by his longing for his horse while seemingly not to be as caring about his own sons.  The book handled slavery in a way we have read before, with scenes and instances of  incomprehensible brutality.
This book has received many accolades and has been described as 'powerful'.  I did not find it so; however, I thought it was a good read and enjoyed most of it right to the end.