(This post is spoiler free!)
Yesterday, I finished reading Daniel Woodrell's eighth novel entitled Winter's Bone. I decided to read this prior to watching the film (which I admit that I haven't gotten round to watching yet) because I always like to compare the adaptation to its source material. Since I haven't watched the film, this post is purely focusing on the novel and the aspects of it that I enjoyed.
The plot of Winter's Bone focuses on a teenage girl named Ree Dolly, who lives in a small village deep within the mountains of Missouri. After her father goes missing for some time, Ree decides to search for him - however, asking the wrong questions in her neck of the woods can lead to violent beatings and even death. Her father's disappearance coincides with a court sentence - if he does not attend, the family risks losing their home and their land. Ree's search is for her father and in the hope that she can save her home from being snatched away.
Firstly, I think it is appropriate to call this novel a slow burner; Ree's questioning of the other residents of the area accounts for a good portion of the novel. There isn't a great deal of action for most of the novel, but what is remarkable is how easily Woodrell imposes the strong sense of threat to the reader without much physicality. This helps to keep the tension of the story highly strung, which effectively creates foreboding throughout the entirety of the novel. While the lack of action may sound dull to some, the short length of the novel (it is around 190 pages long) means that much of the content is compacted - there is never a sense that the events are being drawn out for too long.
The style of writing itself is quite interesting - Woodrell uses a third person limited narrator. The narrative isn't from the perspective of Ree yet details are limited so that it appears as though the narrator follows Ree around. It is this use of narrator that really helps to create an air of intrigue, as the reader discovers more of what happened as Ree does. This means that, when the climax of the novel is reached (I won't reveal what it is!), it comes as quite a surprise to the reader.
Finally, the characters of Winter's Bone are constructed in such a way that you never really know their motives until the very end of the novel. Ree as a protagonist makes the book quite poignant, as there is almost a sense of admiration for her tenacity - especially when you consider the risks that she takes and how old she is.
Overall, I would thoroughly recommend Winter's Bone to anyone - it isn't too long or difficult to read, but it is both a satisfying and thought-provoking.
- Kate Shortt -