Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Master Butcher's Singing Club | Louise Erdrich

This is one of my all time favourite novels. It is the story of Fidelis Waldvogel and friends Delphine Watzka and her partner Cyprian who try and make a life for themselves in the small prairie town of Argus, North Dakota. Fidelis and Cyprian fought in World War I and their children fight in World War II. 

When Fidelis goes home from his time as a sniper with the army he seeks out Eva, his best friend's fiancée. He tells her of his death and his promise to marry her and look after the child. Due to the poverty in Europe they head off to North Dakota to a German community where he becomes the butcher.

Delphine and Cyprian are the other main characters. They make a living as a vaudeville act who after a crisis return to Argus to Delphine's alcoholic father. In cleaning out his stench filled house they discover three bodies in the cellar and try to figure out that mystery. 

Eva and Delphine meet and become good friends. Their destinies are intertwined as Eva is nursed through her cancer which kills her. Delphine brings up her four boys who all go off to war eventually. 
There is a lot here with the themes of love, family, friendship, small town politics and the Singing club all developed into a memorable story.

The community is a German American one which is also part of Erdrich's own as well as her Native American heritage. i went on to read most of her books and they are all very good but this one is the best.

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