§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

Initially I was enchanted with The Painted Drum. I found the first character’s musing interesting and the language in places was stunning. She described the eyes of a character as “peach-colored granite with specs of angry mica”. I was also intrigued by the theme of life and death, the presence of the dead in the lives of the living, particularly as influenced by Ojibwe thought.

But I was ultimately disappointed. Once the narration passed from Faye to the Ojibwe on the North Dakota reservation, I was bored. It was like every other story I’ve read by people fascinated by aboriginal peoples—reverent and wondering, but with little substantial to say. The stories were so typical as to be completely forgettable. It read like a mediocre public television documentary. I hate to say it but I didn’t care about anyone in the book except Faye. I was glad to get back to her in the end, but disappointed that she was settling for a relationship with the sculptor who seemed to me a huge big fake.

I was particularly disappointed with the novel as it focused on the theme of the influence of the dead on living people. Yes that was there, but there seemed little of interest attached to the theme, except for the notion that dead children came back or at least were perceived as birds. There was no Indian mythology that was either fascinating or that seemed to provide a meaningful lesson to non-indigenous people.

The writing was good, very good in places, but it wasn’t used to advance significant plot, themes, or characters. That writing is all that keeps me from rating this novel as frankly awful. Posted by Picasa


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