Thursday, March 31, 2016
The Girls From the Five Great Valleys
The Girls From the Five Great Valleys / Elizabeth Savage
Amazon Encore, 2014, c1977.
This is another title from the Nancy Pearl BookLust Rediscoveries series, and it is one that I really loved. It takes on the stories of five girls from midcentury Montana, and the way they progress through high school into a wider life, surrounded by small town social mores.
With five main characters, not all of them get equal billing; I felt that three characters -- Hilary, Doll, and Amelia -- got the most attention. But there is enough about all of them to make the reader interested in each one. This is definitely a book for the reader who loves character development and a way with language; there is not a lot of plot and what there is moves slowly, driven by characters. I thought it was a beautiful, thoughtful, and intriguing read.
The story begins with Hilary, and from there moves outward to her connections with the group of five girls that make up her circle of friends. There isn't necessarily a lot to connect them, except for propinquity and habit. I think anyone who grew up in a smaller town and experienced this kind of friendship will understand, and will also recognize the growing apart that occurs as people get older.
The ways in which the friendships are tested, and the girls each take their own directions into adulthood makes this a strong story. None have an entitled or easy road, but they go the way that their inclinations and circumstances lead. I actually found it powerful how Savage can take each character and make it clear what her ability and interest is, and then let the character follow it. I also enjoyed how the families of the five girls also have their own incidents and personalities. It all folds together very nicely into a complex and dimensional narrative.
There is darkness in the story, and hope, and surprise. I loved the ending, which made me reconsider the entire book (do not read it first!). The setting is also vividly evoked, becoming almost a character in its own right. I can't really give a plot summary, because, as I've mentioned, it's a sketchy "plot" -- if you're going to read this, you'll be looking more at the beautifully drawn characters and place.
This is another hit for me, a rediscovery I am so pleased to have made thanks to Nancy Pearl.
This book reminds me in a quite vague and un-pindownable way of Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. Not in the plot elements, as Anne is in the Maritimes 40years before the setting of this book, but in the way that a group of young women maintain friendships for this moment.