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Book details of 'A Painted House'

Cover of A Painted House
TitleA Painted House
Author(s)John Grisham
ISBN038550120X
LanguageEnglish
PublishedFebruary 2001
PublisherDoubleday
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virtualbookcase.com score: 4.4 ****-  Vote for this book

The Virtual Bookcase Reviews of 'A Painted House':

Reviewer Deborah Stefanides wrote:
I disagree with the critic who thinks Luke is a bit too wise seven year old. Even though the narrator, Luke, is telling a story that occured in the seventh year of his of life, it is clear that the novel is from an adult perspective, much like a grown Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. The narrator is not really an innocent seven year old now, but was when he was seven. Both stories are told using past tense, from adults looking back on their own coming of age experiences.
Reviewer zsanch wrote:
While the novel is interesting, Grisham is no Hemingway and he is no Faulkner. Not that he has any pretensions to such heights. As the other reviewer noted, the observations and the logic are too advanced for the seven year old narrator. Particularly in the case of the Mexicans, they remain wooden caricatures. Though there is atmosphere, ambience, there is no real character development. Luke does observe some terrible things, and he does struggle with "keeping secrets" and with right and wrong, but really, the weight of those decisions is just too great for a child of that age. I do object to the other reviewer's implication that there may not have been any Mexicans in that part of the state. I recall there was a big hallabaloo about Grisham leaving out the Blacks. If that was Grisham's experience, he's the writer, and it should be left alone. Grisham's strength is in the plot. The "action" moves along well. The weakness is in the character development. The characters are faint outlines of real people. One of the strengths is that though he does not really develop the Mexicans as authentic characters, he at least doesn't show them as simple foils. They do work hard, they do return the kindness of Luke's family (in cleaning the barn and helping to paint), and they do defend themselves (when Cowboy kills Hank). In other novels they would have simply become victims.
Unknown reviewer wrote:
I did enjoy "A Painted House" by Mr. Grisham, but I found young Luke Chandler a bit wise for his age of seven years. I was born the same year as Luke and was picking cotton during the same period in rural Arkansas, not far from where the story takes place. Although it really doesn't matter that much, I never personally saw any Mexicans in our neck of the woods until much later. All of the pickers around Biscoe, Arkansas was black folks and white folks, but mostly black folks. They were provided sharecropper shacks along the edges of the cotton fields, which was a wood plank, one room shack sitting on four cinder blocks. I've seen as many as twelve people living in the shacks at once. We did make $1.50 for a hundred pounds of cotton picked. I knew one older black lady who taught me to pick cotton. She had a rather large family and among all of them could make about $30.00 a day. A fair amount of money in 1952. The story started a little slow but gained momentum as the plot thickened. For the most part it brought back memories of a time that was magical. At seven years the whole world was an adventure and although I failed to see this side of the young lad, the story was interesting.
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Unknown reviewer wrote:
I did enjoy "A Painted House" by Mr. Grisham but I found young Luke Chandler a bit wise for his age of seven years. I was born the same year as Luke and was picking cotton during the same period in rural Arkansas, not far from where the story takes place. Although it really doesn't matter that much, I never personally saw any Mexicans in our neck of the woods until much later. All of the pickers around Biscoe, Arkansas was black folks and white folks, but mostly black folks. They were provided sharecropper shacks along the edges of the cotton fields, which was a wood plank, one room shack sitting on four cinder blocks. I've seen as many as twelve people living in the shacks at once. We did make $1.50 for a hundred pounds of cotton picked. I knew one older black lady who taught me to pick cotton. She had a rather large family and among all of them could make about $30.00 a day. A fair amount of money in 1952. The story started a little slow but gained momentum as the plot thickened. For the most part it brought back memories of a time that was magical. At seven years the whole world was an adventure and although I failed to see this side of the young lad, the story was interesting.
This review is not correctly credited. If you are the author of this review, please make yourself known through the comment page.

Reviewer amazon.com wrote:
Ever since he published The Firm in 1991, John Grisham has remained the undisputed champ of the legal thriller. With A Painted House, however, he strikes out in a new direction. As the author is quick to note, this novel includes "not a single lawyer, dead or alive," and readers will search in vain for the kind of lowlife machinations that have been his stock-in-trade. Instead, Grisham has delivered a quieter, more contemplative story, set in rural Arkansas in 1952. It's harvest time on the Chandler farm, and the family has hired a crew of migrant Mexicans and "hill people" to pick 80 acres of cotton. A certain camaraderie pervades this bucolic dream team. But it's backbreaking work, particularly for the 7-year-old narrator, Luke: "I would pick cotton, tearing the fluffy bolls from the stalks at a steady pace, stuffing them into the heavy sack, afraid to look down the row and be reminded of how endless it was, afraid to slow down because someone would notice." What's more, tensions begin to simmer between the Mexicans and the hill people, one of whom has a penchant for bare-knuckles brawling. This leads to a brutal murder, which young Luke has the bad luck to witness. At this point--with secrets, lies, and at least one knife fight in the offing--the plot begins to take on that familiar, Grisham-style momentum. Still, such matters ultimately take a back seat in A Painted House to the author's evocation of time and place. This is, after all, the scene of his boyhood, and Grisham waxes nostalgic without ever succumbing to deep-fried sentimentality. Meanwhile, his account of Luke's Baptist upbringing occasions some sly (and telling) humor: I'd been taught in Sunday school from the day I could walk that lying would send you straight to hell. No detours. No second chances. Straight into the fiery pit, where Satan was waiting with the likes of Hitler and Judas Iscariot and General Grant. Thou shalt not bear false witness, which, of course, didn't sound exactly like a strict prohibition against lying, but that was the way the Baptists interpreted it. Whether Grisham will continue along these lines, or revert to the judicial shark tank for his next book, is anybody's guess. But A Painted House suggests that he's perfectly capable of telling an involving story with nary a subpoena in sight.
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