The Cutting Season
- Profile Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 13 September 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
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In Louisiana within sight of the Mississippi River, there is Belle Vie. When I began to walk within the old plantation house, I thought 'if these walls could talk.' After all, Belle Vie knew all the secrets of the Clancy family and the families of the slaves.Good and bad deeds had taken place there. There were bones on the property to prove it. Words had been spoken there. Some words were lies, and some words were true. Attica Locke's period in American History is the Civil War and the aftermath of the war to the present time. "Most black folks with roots in Louisiana could trace their people back before the war, when slaves had built the state's sugar..."Always, there were secrets. Whoever grew curious to look for the answers to the secrets didn't live to tell the truth. For example, Inez Avalo, a migrant worker, who meant no harm to any one, but brought horrible harm to herself. This is not just a deep, dark mystery. It's about a place with a historical story to tell. For example, the cutting season is harvest time on the plantation. Leave it to me I didn't think of that as the meaning of the title until one night the meaning became clear within a few sentences in the book, THE CUTTING SEASON."The cutting season, the harvest, is late fall, and goes until the first frost. It's been that ways for hundreds of years." As I read Clancy's bright idea for Belle Vie my thoughts turned to the importance of maintaining history at whatever cost. Not allowing greed to sway the mind from the importance of keeping alive what our ancestors have built and died for during wars and aftermaths of wars. Merging with another business just to make more money is so shallow and shortsighted when it comes to keeping the meaning of our lives alive in architecture, legends, etc."Caren paused over the name. She thought by now she'd heard all the stories, the legends and tall tales. But she had never heard....."Our History is a part of ourselves. Just like our blood flows through us, times of long ago flow through us, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. More money is not important. Leaving bridges to our past is what will build confidence within us.After all the plantations have a deep desire to tell the stories in their way. If I listen, this is what will come through the leaves and twigs."The plantation was a chorus of whispered voices. The wind in the tree leaves, the wind in her hair, and the long, green fingers...."atticalocke
Won through Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.This book was a well written page turner. I enjoyed it very much. The suspense held me captive. Very impressed as only the author's 2nd book. I will certainly keep an eye out for more from her.
I was very excited to get a review copy of <i>The Cutting Season</i> for two reasons. First, I loved her first novel, <i>Black Water Rising</i> - there are images from that book still banging about in my head. Second, it's the first novel published under Dennis Lehane's imprint for Harper Collins and I think Lehane's a rock star. He made a great choice of first book and first author to promote.<i>The Cutting Season</i> tells the story of Caren, an independent woman who seems stuck - drawn back to the place where she grew up, settled into the pattern of who she used to be and who she is expected to be. As the manager of a historic plantation, her job involves what you might imagine, but also something you might not - the production of a pro-slavery play written by a doyenne of the plantation's history. The play and events surrounding it really heat things up and create a mystery that allows the author to meditate on race relations then and now, the nature of relationships, and on getting unstuck. Expect to stay up late reading just one more chapter and to be given imagery and history that will cause you to think about how much we've whitewashed in our history. Highly recommended.
The basics: The Cutting Season is the story of Belle Vie, an old sugar plantation in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. Caren currently runs Bell Vie, which has been turned into a historical site. Tours regularly come through to witness the history of how the land was once farmed by slaves. It's also a popular location for weddings and special events. Caren's ancestors once worked as slaves on Belle Vie, and her mother worked there as a cook. With deep, complicated family ties to the land, Caren returned home to Belle Vie with her nine-year-old daughter Morgan. When the body of a young woman is discovered on the grounds of the plantation, Caren finds herself trying to solve the crime and discover if there's a connection to the mystery of why her great-great-great-grandfather disappeared from this land so many years ago.My thoughts: If pressed to pick a genre for this novel, I would begrudgingly call it a literary mystery. Somehow this moniker sells it short to me, however, as Locke uses a mystery to explore themes of race, class, history and progress. Caren is a fascinating character who slowly shares the details of her life, and the lives of her ancestors, with the reader. I appreciated how Locke used Caren to demonstrate the complicatedness of her relationship with Southern history.I devoured this novel in twenty-four hours, and even though Locke sprinkled only minor clues throughout the novel, I did correctly guess the resolution to both the historic and contemporary storylines quite early. While normally figuring out the ending dampens my enjoyment of a mystery, in this case it did not. Finding out who killed the young woman on Belle Vie is never really the focus of the story. Caren gets caught up in the investigation, but the more urgent and fascinating storyline is of the plantation itself. Locke traces its history from before the Civil War, through emancipation, to Caren's childhood and, finally, to present day. Glimpsing into race relations over all of these years was illuminating enough, but what sets Locke apart from her peers is her ability to also weave in detail about business, politics, love, and parenting. Her books feel like complete worlds, and thus provide the reader with a multi-dimensional tale.The verdict: The Cutting Season falls a little short of the impossibly high standards Locke set with Black Water Rising, but it will enchant fans of fiction with social justice themes. The mystery's resolution didn't surprise me, but Locke's writing, characterization and exploration of historical and contemporary race relations on a Louisiana sugar plantation are powerful enough to transcend the mystery's slight weakness. Locke once again proves she can write about the past and present powerfully.
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