Book Review: Holly
Book Reviewed by Thumper
French is brilliant. French’s follow up to the equally magnificent Billy. One of the few books that I have to disagree with it's publishers' summary of the book. Holly is more than just an examination of an interracial relationship. It is the story of a white girl, Holly, told from a slightly different narrative. Make no mistake, this is Holly's story.
Holly is a twenty year old, blonde, blue-eyed young white woman who lives in Supply, North Carolina in 1944-45, the last year of the Second World War. The novel opens with Holly and her best friend, Elise (who looks so much like Holly, she could be easily mistaken for her sister), at the point in their lives with little or nothing to do. Holly is engaged to her first and only boyfriend Billy, who is in the Navy. Holly is lonely and doesn't know what she wants. Her father Gus has become a drunk and doesn't come home from the lumberyard after work. Her mother Ginger is losing weight worrying about her son, Bobby, who is in the Army. Holly also has a younger brother, Jason, who is the typical 8 year old. This is Holly's world. Holly and Elsie goes to the local hangout, Ben's, meet soldiers and has little adventures. Holly doesn't meet Elias Owens until the last third of the novel. Holly then falls for him, hence the love story. Holly's story.
French told this novel in the third person. The twist that he threw into this narration is that, one; the narrator has his own voice. The narration is a southern voice, it is not the same as Holly or any of the characters. Second, the narrator doesn't explore Holly's head. The audience does not know what is going through Holly's head, until Holly reveals them to another person, usually Elise. I don't know if Holly matured or became stronger as a person. The narrator is simply telling Holly's story. Because the spotlight stays with Holly, what the supporting cast of characters think or feels are not discussed. Personally, I like the narration. French passed the story and told it with such mastery that I started to have hope that the novel would have a different ending. I also have the distinct impression that if French would have allowed a pseudonym to be place on this novel, it could have become a bestseller. So well did he know Holly and her world that I actually forgot that French was a man and a black man on top of that. He wove the existence of a young white woman so tight that it's a wonder Holly and company could breathe air. I hate to sound crass but French showed his ass on this one.
Holly is one for the library. French is one to look out for. Now, if he can only write one with a happy ending, I would be most grateful.