Who wrote this book and when?
Katherine Anne Porter published this in 1939.
Has there been a film version?
Not that I am aware of.
Who are the important characters?
There are three novellas in this book:
Miranda and Maria – two young girls at the turn of the century
Aunt Amy – a beautiful woman who is the girls’ aunt, she is dead but lead a wildly exciting life
Uncle Gabriel – Amy’s husband
Aunt Eva – a suffragette who grew up with Amy
Mr. Thompson – a dairy farmer
Mrs. Thompson – a sickly woman, mother of two boys, and Mr. Thompson’s wife…obviously
Mr. Helton – the hired hand at the dairy farm, he loves the quiet and his harmonicas, he is a very hard worker with a mysterious past
Pale Horse, Pale Rider
Miranda – a newspaper woman who is a little obsessed with the war and death, also the Miranda from “Old Mortality” now grown up
Adam – a soldier about to leave for the war
What’s it about?
Old Mortality: the story of Amy as she is viewed by her great niece, Miranda. Amy was supposed to be a tragic beauty who married without love and died early from a broken heart. But Miranda discovers there is more to the story.
Noon Wine: The Thompson dairy farm is revitalized when a mysterious man shows up and asks for work. Mr. Helton doesn’t talk much and seems only interested in working and playing the same song on the harmonica. The Thompsons consider him a Godsend until a man shows up who knows all about Mr. Helton’s sketchy past and changes everything.
Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Miranda works for the newspaper and is frustrated with the war and all the senseless death it brings. She has become involved with a young soldier named Adam who is resigned to dying in the war. When Miranda catches influenza in the epidemic of 1918, she details her near death experience for us.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
I’m not exactly sure except that it’s powerfully and beautifully written and that it seems to be a treatise on death…which is usually interesting.
Do I recommend you read this book?
*shrug* It’s good but not stellar.
How did this book make my list?
I don’t remember.
Has it won any awards?
I don’t think so…
“Her heart was a stone lying upon her breast outside of her; her pulses lagged and paused, and she knew that something strange was going to happen, even as the early morning winds were cool through the lattice, the streaks of light were dark blue and the whole house was snoring in its sleep.” – p 179
“But she could not consent, still shrinking stiffly against the granite wall that was her childhood dream of safety, breathing slowly for fear of squandering death, saying desperately, Look, don’t be afraid, it is nothing, it is only eternity.” – p 252
I almost wonder if Adam is one of the two boys from the Thompson farm.
This book takes a little reading to understand what’s going on. I gathered by the title that it had something to do with death but the three different takes Porter has on it are magnificent. She looks at deaths that are from suicide, from accident and murder, and from illness and war. She uses these examinations to pose the age-old questions of who are we and where are we going and what does all this mean in relation to eternity. Overall, these stories are gorgeously and painfully written and wonderful to read.