Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Tilted World

            There are some lovely aspects to this historical novel by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly. I enjoyed the premise of a federal agent during prohibition falling for the best moonshine maker in the region. I liked the setting and the sense of the impending flood of 1927 – the impetus for the climax. The details were gritty and solid and did a fine job evoking the era of Prohibition on the Mississippi. Certainly it was a quick and pleasant read and I enjoyed the finely-crafted language.
   The poetry in the novel no doubt belongs to Beth Ann Fennelly, the poet co-author. To my taste, though, there’s an inherent difficulty in using language that’s so clearly out of the realm of most of us, and especially of federal agent and bootleggers. It can work and in places it does, but in other places the voice of the poetry became for me a distraction, an obstacle to being completely in the world of the characters. I enjoyed it for the love of words, which were certainly quite beautiful, but at the same time regretted I couldn’t immerse more fully in the world of the story. The language jumped out as not belonging to the world of the story, making it difficult to forget or ignore the well-crafted sentences that were telling it.
            Thus I would recommend this book for those of us who like a more ‘literary’ take on an action story—and are willing to trade some degree of immersion for the pleasure of a well-turned phrase.