Book review: The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter

Posted by Bel. The time is 3:35pm here in Wellington, NZ.

When I began reading this, I thought it was a short story collection. It begins with the first chapter focusing on two deaf-mutes, their lives so closely meshed I wasn't sure if they were friends or lovers. Then the next chapter switches to another person, living in the same town. I realised they'd been briefly mentioned earlier - and then the next chapter did the same thing, each time expanding on their lives and making the fragments vivid and cohesive.

Soon you have met a circle of small town folk, their lives linked and their destinies somehow mapped out. I grew to be immersed in the narrative and neighbourhood, as each character came to life - from the teenage girl yearning for music that might lift her out of the drudgery of being so poor, to the black doctor ill-suited to a time period where racial divides were still so apparent.

It is a book about people trapped in the hard slog and although I found moments of it uplifting, and decided that ultimately the ending is positive, there are some twists in the book that one would generally refer to as a "downer", though I suppose the title "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" is a warning there. I really enjoyed the style of writing though and found the atmosphere and characterisation so evocative and appealing that it was a joy to read regardless.

A note on the cover (as always). The image above is taken from the wikipedia page, which says it was the first edition's cover. A stunner and a fine example of classy design. The copy I had from from our blessed Wellington Central Library was none of those things. It was a prime example of typical mid-1980s design. Imagine a Napoleon Dynamite style illustration, done with neon coloured pencils. Yup, on a hard cover even. Foolishly I neglected to photograph this monstrocity before I returned it, but I have entertained myself doing self portraits of the two books I have more recently finished. Stay tuned!!

PS Carson McCullers was 23 years old when she wrote this...biiiitch.

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