Oct 1, 2012

Prairie nocturne - Ivan Doig

Prairie nocturne - Doig, Ivan

Summary: Teaching voice lessons to the privileged members of society during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, Susan Duff is hired by a man who once harbored political ambitions to teach his African American chauffeur how to sing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Booklist Reviews
Doig returns to several of the characters from his much-loved Dancing at the Rascal Fair (1987) in this gripping story set not only in Montana's Two Medicine country, the landscape indelibly associated with the author, but also in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. It's 1924, and Susan Duff, the headstrong schoolgirl from Rascal Fair, is now a middle-aged voice teacher in Helena, resigned to spinsterhood after her affair with gubernatorial candidate Wes Williamson cost him the election. Then Wes seeks her out with a proposition: teach his black chauffeur, Monty, to sing. Returning to Two Medicine country, Susan does just that, as the narrative twists and turns its way back into the pasts of the three principal characters and ahead into their shared futures in New York: Monty on the concert stage and Susan and Wes, their relationship still tumultuous, in the wings. As always, Doig incorporates a vast amount of fascinating historical material into his personal drama: the story of the "Buffalo soldiers" of the tenth cavalry in the late nineteenth century; the saga of the Ku Klux Klan's incursion into Montana; and, of course, the Harlem Renaissance itself. The heart of the matter, though, is the three-sided relationship among Susan, Wes, and Monty; skirting the melodrama into which this triptych might easily have tumbled, Doig tightens the reins on his sometimes mannered prose and constructs a subtle, highly textured love story, nicely balancing period detail and well-modulated emotion. ((Reviewed August 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews

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