Monday, January 28, 2013

The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant

The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant
Published July 2006 by Scribner
Source: I bought the audio edition at my local library book sale

Publisher's Summary:
Set on the high ground at the heart of Cape Ann, the village of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans, spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and "witches." Among the inhabitants of this hamlet are Black Ruth, who dresses as a man and works as a stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable childhood at the hands of his aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave. At the center of it all is Judy Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely, who nonetheless builds a life for herself against all imaginable odds.

My Thoughts:
I know many of you love Diamant's The Red Tent. I didn't. I liked it well enough but I didn't love it and I wanted to know what it was about Diamant that everyone loved so much. I thought maybe if I "read" more of her work, I would understand so I picked up The Last Days of Dogtown when I found the audiobook on sale at the library book sale.

This one started off slow for me...and it stayed that way for 9 CDs. Which, once I got used to it and stopped trying to think of it as a novel, wasn't a bad thing. Diamant has written an unusual book, one which is more a collection of short stories, all centered around the same characters and all in the same setting. Throughout the book, Diamant focuses on one character at a time, using that time to give the reader the background of that particular character but always moving the story forward in time. This actually made the book a good choice for listening to while driving as there are is no particular plot line or twists and turns that can't be missed if you happen to be, oh I don't know, focused on your driving.

Readers on the Barnes & Noble website give this one an average of 3.5 stars. I'd have to agree. The Last Days of Dogtown is a quiet, well-written, well-researched novel about a real village that lacked the emotional attachment I crave in a book.

Remains Of A Dogtown Cellar
Dogtown, on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, was originally known as the Common Settlement and was inhabited by respectable people. It's location offered some distinct advantages but over time, the rocky landscape was largely abandoned, becoming known as Dogtown and inhabited only by widows, prostitutes and outcasts. The reason for the name remains unknown, it may have been that abandoned dogs breed and became feral or it may have been because the inhabitants lived like dogs.

Diamant included in The Last Days of Dogtown some real people and the facts that are known about them including Tammy Younger, who was reputed to be a witch, and Cornelius "Black Neil" Finson, a freed black man who was found living half-dead in a cellar and removed to a poorhouse where he died. Today Dogtown is rumored to be haunted.

In the 1930's, a man named Roger Babson hired unemployed stone cutters to carve inspirational sayings into the rocks along the Dogtown road and to number the stone remains of the homes in the village.

No comments:

Post a Comment