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The Master Butchers Singing Club: A Novel (Erdrich, Louise) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 4, 2003
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From National Book Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author Louise Erdrich, a profound and enchanting new novel: a richly imagined world “where butchers sing like angels.”
Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher's precious knife set, Fidelis sets out for America. In Argus, North Dakota, he builds a business, a home for his family—which includes Eva and four sons—and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. When the Old World meets the New—in the person of Delphine Watzka—the great adventure of Fidelis's life begins. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted. She meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine's life, and the trajectory of this brilliant novel.
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Harper; 1st edition (February 4, 2003)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0066209773
- ISBN-13 : 978-0066209777
- Item Weight : 12.5 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.12 x 1.25 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,194,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The Master Butchers Singing Club is very little about singing and very much about the privations of the years between WWI and WWII in the upper Midwestern United States. It begins with the story of a German soldier who survives WWI and returns home to marry his fallen best friend's pregnant girlfriend, Eva, to fulfill his promise to his dying friend to take care of her. They fall in love and have three more boys while he studies with his father to learn the family's trade. When Fidelis first encounters a slice of American bread sent in a "care package" to a friend, he is amazed that this slice is "shaped with a precision that could only be the work of fanatics." He becomes enamored of a society so inventive that they would create machines to produce such commonplace items as a loaf of bread. Fidelis eventually boards the RMS Mauritania and migrates to the United States with a suitcase full of his father's "miraculous smoked sausages" to sell in order to pay his way across the United States to Seattle, where the bread was produced. However, he sells his last sausage in Argus, North Dakota, and settles there, working for the best butcher in town to establish his own reputation as a master butcher. Once he has settled, Fidelis sends for Eva and the boys.
In Chapter 2, we meet Delphine, a young woman who hasn't yet come to terms with her own youth of emotional deprivation with a drunken father and sans a mother whose face she's never seen. Argus was a town small enough that everyone knows everyone else's business, All she ever wanted was to escape to where her father wasn't a constant embarrassment and disappointment to her. So she runs off with a circus performer, Cypriani.
Eventually, Delphine returns home with Cypriani and finds employment at Fidelis' butcher shop. She and Eva become close friends, and Delphine becomes an integral part of the family.
The characters in this book are very well developed, and each plays an important part in the family's life. There is a bit of everything in the book - from mystery to history to romance - and throughout it all, Ms. Erdrich's writing genius keeps the reader captivated. The only criticism I would have for the book is that a translation of the few German passages would be appreciated.
The Master Butcher arrives in the US for opportunity and heads west. His skill as a Master Butcher from Europe is his path to success. His other gift is singing, so he enlists the time of other men in the community to join him and drink a lot of beer. Everything he does and has become is colored by his past as an austro-German in the war. The author does a masterful job setting the stage and describing a time in our history and illustrates how our pasts inform our lives.
The author is noted for her brilliant prose style, and she certainly puts it on display here, as she parades before her readers a number of characters, told from different points of view. Among the characters are Fidelis's first wife, Eva, his four sons, and most especially Delphine Watzka, whose character ties the novel--really a series of incidents-- together. And what incidents they are! Some are funny; others are horrific; and a few are bizarre. You're likely to remember them for a long time.
Top reviews from other countries
I didn't care when people died however tragically. There has been for me a shift in her work and in that I am profoundly disappointed.