Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tinkers by Paul Harding
In this debut novel, Paul Harding tells the story of the last few days of an elderly man dying as he's surrounded by his family. While the author does touch on the man's physical state as he dies, the story really takes place much more inside the man's head. As George Washington Crosby dies over a period of several days, his life "flashes" before him, though more slowly than what we've come to think of as one's life flashing before them. Various memories are recounted, mostly from George's childhood, growing up as the eldest son of an epileptic father (at a time when epilepsy was considered a form of insanity) and a bitter mother. George, in his twilight years, becomes a repairer of antique clocks; his father was a peddler and repairer of various household goods; hence the title "Tinkers"; both father and son tinkered. The author's real gift is in his prose; he deftly describes both items and scenes in a very visual way, although some of the descriptions were too wordy and complicated for me, as the inner workings of a clock, for instance.
It's not a long book - under 200 pages. Still, it took me a bit of work to get through. It's one of those books with reviews on the back cover touting it as "remarkable," etc., that leave me feeling like there might be something wrong with me that I didn't love it as much as I was supposed to. (And it did win a Pulitzer Prize.) It's a good book, but I didn't think it was great.
Mine's up for grabs; if you want it, say the word.