Friday, 10 April 2009

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - Carson McCullers

Read: November 2008

The Ballad of the Sad Café in one sentence:
A down-to-earth, rugged novella full of eerie uncertainty and a sense of impending doom.

You know how some books, for whatever reason, just completely fail to capture your imagination? The Ballad of the Sad Café was one of those books for me. The story is that of a backwater town in the Deep South, and the strange events which take place there. It all centres around a love triangle involving a formidable and wealthy southern entrepreneur named Miss Amelia, and her two sort-of-might-be-suitors, her violent ex-husband Marvin Macy, and a hunchback dwarf by the name of Lymon who claims to be her long lost cousin.

It is the arrival of this dwarf which precipitates the creation of a café in Miss Amelia’s general store, and soon this café is bustling with people and cheap food and drink. Why exactly the café is such a success is never entirely clear, but its existence fills a hole in the towns society, and the dwarfs unusual personality creates an intriguing spectacle. But in the background, Miss Amelia is love-sick for cousin Lymon, and at the same time, Macy has been released from prison and is making his way home.

The Ballad of the Sad Café is raw with a feeling of out-of-the-way America, ungoverned and ungovernable. There is little to criticise it for, except that I just couldn’t get into it. The central novella is only 87 pages long, and yet it took me more than a fortnight to read. Every time I sat down to read my eyes would grow heavy-lidded or my mind would grow distracted. I guess some books just don't work for some people at some times. This was one of them for me.

5 out of 10

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