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A Painted House - John Grisham

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Author: John Grisham / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      04.10.2006 12:21
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      Poor look at coutry life in the American 50s

      'A Painted House' is the first non-courtroom based Grisham novel that I have read and it left me thinking that maybe another one is not the best idea.

      We follow Luke a seven year old cotton picker who lives with his poor family on a farm in Arkansas in the 1950s. Rather than being interested in only sweets and fighting it seems Luke gets involved with everything that happens in the town that summer. He is witness to murder, fights, affairs and many other things.

      It is this overfilling of the story and Grisham's stubbiness to stick to the first person that makes this book flawed. How could a seven year old become so involved and articulate themselves in such a way as to create a coherent narrative of their summer?

      Apart from this major flaw the story itself is light but fun. A lot does happen but Grisham handles the description of events well and we do get a feel for how hard the life of people must have been in that situation. However, due to the poor narrative style this book is limited to an average score. I much prefer Grisham's court based dramas and in particular 'A Time to Kill'.

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        15.08.2005 20:20
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        Story of a boy on an Arkansas farm in 1952

        Yes, I admit I used to love “The Waltons”. Yessiree…I’ve laughed and cried, smiled and sighed and the adventures of John Boy Walton and his extended family living in those beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. I did stop short of watching “Little House On The Prairie” mind…honest. I guess it’s that homely Mark Twain kind of feeling that may have drawn me to my first attempt at reading a John Grisham book recently.

        “A Painted House” is the story of a farming community in 1950s Arkansas. Apparently inspired by his own childhood, John Grisham recounts a tale of life on a cotton farm down in the deep South of the USA in 1952. Luke Chandler is the only child on the farm living with his mother and father together with his grandfather, Pappy and his grandmother. Life is hard and come picking season they have to take on extra hands to pick the crop. Looking for help, the Chandlers hire a group of workers from Mexico as well as the Hill Billy, Spruill family from the Ozarks. Both new groups bring with them a mix of hard workers and troublemakers in the shape of the tough nut, Hank Spruill and the knife wielding Cowboy of the Mexican clan. It’s these two who provide most of the drama as the book unravels to tell the tale of the ups and downs of the Chandler family throughout those Summer months.

        As mentioned above, Grisham is not an author I’d tried before but that was because I assumed he wrote mainly thrillers and that isn’t really my genre as a rule. Renowned for books like “The Firm”, “The Pelican Brief” and “The Rainmaker”, John Grisham has had phenomenal success in reaching a wide audience with many of his books making it into film format. His first book was published in 1988, “A Time to Kill” and ever since he has managed to generally write at least one novel a year with a theme based around legal thrillers usually involving court room dramas. Born in 1955 in Arkansas, Grisham graduated in law in 1981 going on to practice law in Southhaven. With this background it’s clear to see that this particular writer has the inside knowledge to include copious detail in his form of thriller.

        On the face of it, this doesn’t sound the most thrilling of stories does it? Told in the first person by Luke, there is a clear sense of reminiscence on the part of the author with many nuances from his own childhood thrown in. Luke’s love of baseball as his clamours for the radio each night to listen to the St Louis Cardinals game is just one example of how the writer uses the story as a vehicle to elaborate on his own memories from his upbringing. I couldn’t help but feel that it’s this affection that the story is told with that gives this book such a warm glow.

        “A Painted House” could almost be Luke’s diary with the way that the chapters unfold in chronological sequence. Grisham’s understanding of what would be running through cotton farmers’ minds simply adds a depth to the story that makes the underlying tale very readable. What would be mundane to us is life and death to Luke’s father and Pappy, the quiet, brooding patriarch of the family who is caught in the loop of farming to break even and inevitable debt. The fact that he together with most of the men in the town continually fret about the weather adds an air of credibility that takes you inside the Methodist realism of those times.

        I couldn’t help but get caught up in the heroes and villains of this piece. Hank makes a very believable young thug complimenting Cowboy’s penchant for violence whilst carrying on an affair with the teenage Tally Spruill makes him a good foil for the innocence of the naïve storyteller. Luke’s fate is interwoven with these two characters with tragic consequences. Meanwhile, the reader is made aware of Luke becoming more self-aware as he grows up a little more each day. After all, uncle Ricky is off fighting for his country in Korea contrasting against the increasing futility of the annual struggle against the elements to bring in enough cotton to pay off the Chandler’s existing debts and move the family up in the pecking order of that time and place. Secretly, Luke’s parents hope that he grows up to become a baseball player rather than a farmer.

        For much of the book I could picture being there amongst the rows of cotton picking inhuman quantities of crop just to earn a few cents each day. Grisham uses a descriptive power that evokes a mental canvas of rural Arkansas that is beautifully observed by the writer. I lived the excitement of the weekly Saturday trip into town, the annual baseball showdown between the Methodists and Baptists and Luke’s first encounter with a television; all good examples of how Grisham achieves authenticity forged from first hand experience.

        There were aspects that I found limiting in the telling of this particular tome. John Grisham has a simplicity of expression that surprised me although this added hugely to the ease with which the pages unfolded. I guess the technical nature of the author’s background together with the legal nature of most of his work would have suggested a more ostentatious style of writing and maybe it does in other books he’s written but I didn’t find that the case here. Most sentences were short and pointed with a punchy style of writing only occasionally marred with starting a sentence with a conjunction such as “or” (taboo as far as I knew). There’s no expansive pen pictures of characters or any particularly insightful potted histories to support the present tense but the dialogue and poignancy of the times is enough to create an image in most readers’ minds. It’s easy to relate to the episodes in the story and stimulate an empathy that makes you root for Luke, throw metaphorical tomatoes at Hank and sympathise with the poor dirt farmers, the Latchers.

        “A Painted House” runs to 388 pages in hardback form and is published by *Century. As far as genre goes it’s more general fiction that anything else. The book would certainly appeal to all ages and has a charm belied by the title although the subplot involving the invalid Trot Spruill that runs throughout the book becoming an inspiration for the future does explain away the nature of the title. Quite frankly, I loved it and found reading a few chapters each night just right for such a captivating story. If you laughed and cried, smiled and sighed at the antics of the Waltons or even Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” then you will probably like this. I certainly did.

        Thanks for reading

        Marandina

        ISBN 0-7126-7039-4

        *More info about the publishers @ www.randomhouse.co.uk
        The hardback originally retailed at £16.99. I’m sure you can get either hardback or paperback much cheaper now at the usual outlets such as Amazon or even Ebay.

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          11.05.2003 13:37
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          If you are a Grisham fan you will know that nearly everything he writes is based around a legal eagle plot. Not with The Painted House, it is based upon his own experience of growing up in the countryside of Arkansas. I heard about it listening to Grisham on a radio show and felt it was worth a read then. The novel itself is narrated through the eyes of a young farm boy called Luke Chandler who lives on a cotton farm with his Grandparents and Mother and Father in 1952. It is based around the two months that the cotton becomes ready to be picked in late august. As the cotton is ready to be harvested his grandfather ( Pappy ) and his father have to find labour to harvest the crop this leads them to hire 10 Mexicans and a family of ?Hill People? the Spruills. The main character Luke ends up having to keep many secrets from his parents due to him being too worried to tell them, one because he may get a whipping or two because he is scared of the person that has sworn him to secrecy. He see fights were people are killed, makes a innocent relationship with the Spruills daughter who is 10 years older than him who lets him see her naked while she swims and finds out that his uncle who is in Korea fighting has fathered a child to the neighbours 15 year old daughter which is a secret that has to be kept from the towns folk. The title painted house is about the difference between country folks where having a painted house isn?t important as it is a waste of money and resources to town people where they see life with different eyes. This book is well worth the read and can be picked up quite cheap; my copy should have been £10.99 but was in the sale at £2.99, but don?t expect the same Grisham style story line.

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          22.04.2002 03:19
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          Although every single character in this book is either burnt crisp by the sun of Arkansas each day or fighting for their life in a rainstorm, this book is a refreshing change for John Grisham. Ordinary people fight the unfightable elements to derive a meagre living from their farm in the face of a murder and social and financial hardship. We live through a cotton harvest with a family and their Mexican and hillbilly help - liking the Mexicans much more, although the saucy hillbilly daughter provides some lust interest. Fear not though if you are concerned that it will be another book about big time lawyers, like The Firm or small time ones, like A Time to Kill. This book is much less formulaic than his previous works. When I finished the last page, I wished there was some way to keep the characters with me. It smacks of a TV series - much in the same vain as the Waltons.

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            26.02.2002 23:33
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            John Grisham. Do you know if anybody had asked me whether I liked John Grisham, in a professional sense, obviously, I do not know him in a personal sense, so it would have to be the professional sense, yes whether I liked John Grisham, I would have said no. But then I looked at my mountain of books and realised that I had read every one of his novels. Why? I asked myself and the reason is he is easy to read, the writing flows and you need to use very few brain cells to understand his books and enjoy them. Sometimes that is nice, after all reading is about enjoying, it is a form of entertainment as well as a form of intellectual vigour. Having said all that, I was getting tired of his legal thrillers they often had a hole filled plot line, an overly simplistic moral take on the world and were frankly often easy to see the end of after 20 pages. So I had decided not to read Grisham, but then came a different kind of work from him. The critics loved it and it sat in the Times must read list for a few weeks. Anything that sits in that list I have enjoyed, so it was a return to Grisham for me. A Painted House is nothing like Grisham has ever written; it is more along the lines of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, than city slicker lawyer. It tells the tale from the perspective of a seven-year old boy of a farming summer in the Black Oak area of rural Arkansas, 1952, the hardships and the small joys and frustrations of being a kid. The Chandlers farm cotton, it is back breaking work for little reward. Luke, our seven year old is dreaming of owning a Cardinals baseball jacket, and his summer, picking the family's cotton should yield enough dollars for this childlike desire. The Chandlers sit in the middle of Black Oak's social scale, they part own and part rent their land, higher than share croppers, that pick almost solely for the land owners benefit in a very feudal way, but lower than those that own all their own land. The C
            handler's land is not the worst, but not the best. I am sure you get the picture. The tale is simple enough and one that probably reflects any small town in the deep south of America, the prying, the need to know other peoples business, the fear of what other people think of you, the struggle of the farmers to compete for their labour with the big factories of northern America and the struggle of a family to bring up their children with little money to go around. However, the narrative of the story is driven by secrets, the secret of who fathered the local sharecropper's daughter's illegitimate baby, the secrets of murder and brutal beatings and the secret that will in the end cause Luke's grandfather nothing but disappointment. It is Luke that feels the burden of secrets and the burden of discovering what life is like, as the cotton picking season gets underway and then draws to a close. As far as Luke is concerned the summer becomes one of if onlys, if only they had hired different labour, if only their old Mexicans had returned....... The story moves at a slow pace, but draws you in to the small minded, small town world, but is beautifully written. Grisham really captures the essence of childhood: "I made secret Christmas lists in my mind. I was afraid to write down all the things I dreamed of. Someone might find such a list and think that I was either hopelessly greedy or mentally ill." Grisham captures the joy and marvel that the world holds for children, how a simple Carnival holds many a secret pleasure and in certain parts of the book I was almost transported back to my own childhood, tearing around the forest with dreams of being Bryan Robson. For Luke it is Baseball, he is convinced that he will be a big draw Baseball player, just as I was convinced that I would score a hat-trick for Manchester United against Liverpool, of course my hat-trick would be scored in the last ten minut
            es, when Liverpool had been 2-0 up and would win United the title. We all have our childhood dreams. A Painted House is not a classic book, it won't change your view of anything, but it is a nice story, well told and beautifully written. It captures childhood and even though this was set in 1952, it captures elements of childhood that I could identify with. This is a nice comfortable read, it is not taxing and is one of those books that starts to feel cosy after about 50 pages. If you are a thriller person and loved his legal thrillers then you will probably not like this. But if you were like me and were indifferent to his other work and wanted something with a little more substance, then I think this will appeal. A Painted House is out in paperback, published by arrow and priced £6.99. It is half price on Amazon at the moment and at that price you cannot really go wrong. The Times said that this was Grisham's best work yet, and I would agree, it is his best work by a long way. I for one hope he continues to write like this and leaves the some times tacky thrillers alone.

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              30.09.2001 05:45
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              John Grisham is one of the world's top bestselling authors, so much so, that his books have the legend 'The New Bestseller from John Grisham', splattered across the cover, even before they reach the bookshops. As a lawyer who writes 'legal' fiction, Grisham has proved the adage, 'stick to what you know', and utilizes his knowledge to the full. His books have been so successful that most have been made into films, so why has he suddenly decided to ignore his successful formula, by writing A Painted House? Has he suddenly become arrogant through previous success, and believes he can write anything, or could it be that in fact he is again writing what he knows, as this book was apparently inspired by his own childhood background in rural Arkansas. THE PLOT. "Pappy and Gran had been renting the land since before the Great Depression, which arrived early and stayed late in rural Arkansas. After thirty years of backbreaking labour, they had managed to purchase from Mr Vogel the house and the three acres around it. They also owned the John Deere tractor, two disks, a seed planter, a cotton trailer, a flatbed trailer, two mules, a wagon and the truck." A Painted House is written in a first person, past tense, narrative, from the perspective of a seven year old boy, Luke Chandler. Luke's family are cotton farmers, and the whole story is centred around the picking season of 1952, which is towards the end of the cotton industry. It is basically a portrait of life in the rural South in the 1950s, seen through the eyes of Luke, and although he is young, the adult perspective comes through by means of him witnessing and spying on the adults in his life. It also covers the interactions of the various migrant workers who pick the cotton on the farm. DOES IT WORK? Well, yes and no. Grisham is not, and has never claimed to be a literary genius. His books are mainstream, and will never atta
              in 'classic' status, and neither will A Painted House. Take young Luke; he is the one narrating the story, but no seven year old could think or indeed speak as he does in the book. So one assumes it is written by him as a reflecting adult, so that sorts that out, or does it? There is no denying the inquisitiveness of a seven year old, but in the book there are instances where you question if one so young would really be interested in what was happening, and the outcome. So I felt that some of his thoughts did not really equate to a seven year old. I don't feel either that Grisham really develops the characters in the book. He creates them with ample room to flesh out, then leaves them in limbo. There are also times where he slips up and recounts, for example, conversations that Luke could not possibly have heard. He also occasionally slips from first to third person narration. Leaving aside the actual characters, Grisham does a good job on the plot. He develops a storyline with mystery, tension and a good helping of twists and turns. He even manages to throw in a couple of murders and some intriguing secrets. The problem here is, he doesn't see everything through to the end, and I closed the book feeling let down. CONCLUSION. I feel John Grisham should stick to his 'legal' thrillers. He has had a brave attempt at changing genres, and has failed. If you want a quick, basic read, which touches on an era in history, fine, but don't start on this book thinking 'Grapes of Wrath'. The fact that everybody and their granny are giving this book away free at the moment, surely says it all. It would be impossible to state publisher and cost for this book as the rights have been sold to many publishing companies, and therefore prices vary. With regards to the book being 'free', various book clubs and also some retailers are at present offering this book free when you
              make further purchases.

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                16.09.2001 04:32
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                I had always considered John Grisham a writer of courtroom dramas and not a writer of ‘day-to-day’ life on an Arkansas cotton farm. And neither did I think he could write with a perceptive eye for characterisation and a detail that involves the reader. He does, and he does it well in A Painted House. I will raise one arm humbly and admit that I have never read a John Grisham novel. The simple reason being that his genre of writing has never interested me, and neither would I have done if this novel were not a freebie. A Painted House is narrated by Luke, aged 7, whose family has toiled for years on a cotton farm. The farm is neither owned outright by the family or profitable. During the picking season, Luke’s grandfather hires hill people and Mexicans, who are due to remain on the farm until the cotton has been picked or the St. Francis river floods the fields. He in turn hires the Spruill family and a group of Mexicans. Here begins Luke’s summer that will change life on the farm forever… The novel echoes a plot and narrative similar to the ‘coming of age’ theme in J.D.Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, with the misinterpretation that adults have of children of neither being able to experience nor understand the complications of an adult world. In Grisham’s novel however, there is a good mix of the morbid and a humour that is associated with a small closs-knit town. Luke’s experiences could in fact be closely linked to the ‘adventure’ found Huckleberry Finn stories. Through his young eyes he sees murders and overhears the adults talking. In turn he has many secrets to keep, but as he finds out, many of the adult characters within the novel, divulge secrets to him. Eventually, as a child Luke has to think like an adult in order to lighten the load of his own burden, but the choice is, which secrets to tell and to whom, and which to withhold. Grisham does this with
                the suspense that I gather he has gained in his ’courtroom’ novels. But this isn’t just a serious story of a child growing up in a hard world. The humour within A Painted House counteracts the morbidity of the plot. Black Oak, the town in which the family live nearby has the usual idiosyncrasies that are usually associated with small towns. Pearl, the grocery storeowner has a “calling in life to monitor the movements of the town’s population” and Stick the town’s Deputy, is rumoured to live the life of Riley in an uneventful, Baptist town. Grisham presents an array of characters that are stereotypes of their ilk, which is probably the only criticism I have of the novel. Grisham’s characterisation does seem to rely heavily on each having to act to type, although this does help with the number of characters that are presented in the novel. In this way Grisham allows for an easy understanding and enjoyment of the plot rather than getting bogged down with the finer details of characterisation. It woks successfully. As I said earlier, this doesn’t seem to be the usual Grisham novel in plot, but is a delightful and easygoing read, which has probably gained him a larger readership.

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                  27.08.2001 18:37
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                  I got John Grishams “A Painted House” free with a book club l belong to. Im generally more of a Maeve Binchy girl – heart rendering tales of betrayal through love etc etc. I have read Grisham novels in the past – The Firm, The Client and so on – they generally all have been Mafia based with a court case. I didn’t know anything about his new novel so when l picked it up to read l was assuming something similar. WRONG! From reading the blurb, l knew the story was told as through the eyes of a child – Luke Chandler in 1952. It was his experiences one summer from picking cotton in his grandfather’s fields in rural Arkansas. It is also said to loosely based around Grisham’s own child hood experiences. The line that had me worried was and l quote “As the weeks pass Luke sees and hears things no seven-year-old could possibly be prepared for, and finds himself keeping secrets that not only threaten the crop but will change the lives of the Chandlers forever.” Ok so from reading that l thought – there may be scenes of murder/violence or otherwise which l might not enjoy reading. Definitely not a hearts and roses book. But l read on. The main groups are the Chandlers who were Baptists and the church was central to their lives. In this family grouping we are introduced to the matriarch and patriarch Eli Chandler and his wife – the main stays of the family who even in old age are revered by all family members (and at times resented too!) Luke’s mum and dad – Jesse Chandler and his wife. Also Ricky Chandler is mentioned a lot but he is fighting in Korea so we never actually meet him. The Spruills – a family of hill people employed by the Chandlers in order to help pick the cotton crop of 1952. In this family we have Leon and Lucy Spruill, Hank, Tally and Trot. Also they brought their nephews Bo and Dale. They camped
                  in the Chandlers yard whilst picking the cotton. The Latchers – we do not become introduced to the Latchers until later in the book. They are a poor family with dozens of children, and the rumour mill has stated that their eldest unmarried daughter is pregnant. Both the Mrs Chandlers are dispatched by the churchwomen’s group (gossips!) to find out if there is any truth behind this rumour. They are unable to infiltrate the Latcher’s for information until the unfortunate Libby’s labour goes wrong and they are needed to help out. The Chandlers then hear information that ensures they keep quiet about the Latchers misfortune. The Mexicans – a group brought in on a cattle truck to help the local cotton farmers pick the cotton. They sleep in the barn at the Chandlers farm and pick their cotton. The group is lead by Miguel, but there is also the unknown quantity of Cowboy. The story tells tales of market day, fairs, church picnics and ball games. Disaster looms missing persons, floods, hurriances (or twisters l don’t know the difference!), murder and illegitimacy. I did not find the book hard to read, but it did not live up to the line quoted in the inside cover of the blurb. It was the story of a rural cotton family trying to do what was required to keep their heads above water and provide for their nearest and dearest. It is told rather convincingly through the eyes of seven year old Luke Chandler, and how he experiences things for the first time – like his first flood or sight of a naked lady! At times l was smiling. It is a good book, and a far cry from Grishams other literary works. I got this book free so l have no idea about the cost of it (l also have it in hard back which would make it more costly) but it was published in 2000 by BCA and the number logged on the back cover is CN 19124. Happy Reading Heather

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                    14.08.2001 05:22
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                    As a major fan of John Grisham I was utterly horrified by this novel! It's so unlike anything he's written before and in my opinion utterly drab. When I was a third into the book I knew it was highly unlikely it was going to improve….and it didn't - Yawn. I have come to the conclusion that this must be a re-release, probably of his first novel ever published. It has absolutely nothing to do with what he knows and does best - court room dramas. It's basically about a farm boy whose father reaps cotton and who are their pickers one particular summer. There is a murder committed but don't get too excited, they never find the body! If this is the first book you've ever read of Grisham's please don't give up he's produced some fantastic books ….'The Firm', 'The Pelican Brief', 'A Time To Kill and the one I enjoyed the best to date…..'The Testament' to name a few! So please read them and throw this one where it belongs, on the bonfire! In saying this though I do think John Grisham is a fantastic writer, don't get me wrong. It's just that I found this book extremely hard to get into. Usually I have great difficulty putting his novels down and going to bed at a decent hour. But this one threw me - basically I found it boring and about a third into it I was speed reading, hoping it was going to pick up to the fast pace and intricate plots he usually spins. I also love lawyer-based novels too and this story as I mentioned earlier is way off subject. So maybe that's why I'm canning it so much. John - if you read this, please don't hate me, I still think you're a fantastic writer, I just didn't like this particular story. Sorry! Thank you for reading this op. By rating this opinion the NSPCC charity will receive 5p. Thank you!

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                      01.08.2001 06:31
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                      Being a huge John Grisham fan, I tend to look forward with high expectation to any new novels being released. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with this release. I was attracted to John Grisham's writings from his first novels - 'A Time To Kill' and 'The Firm'. I found these two books fast-moving, exciting, hard-to-put-down. 'A Painted House', however, I found a struggle to get through. JG's first legal thrillers were well-written and despite being sometimes over the top, highly enjoyable. I found, however that his later works seemed to be lacking some of the excitement of the first few. This trend continues with 'Painted House'. It is a lovely story, detailing the growth from childhood innocence to unwarranted experience and written in such a way that it wonderfully describes the hardship and childish wonders of the 'olde worlde' cotton picking lifestyle of the Old South. My main problem is that this is just not the Grisham I know and love. If you have read his novels before and disliked them, you may well enjoy this. If you believe that 'The Firm' or 'The Pelican Brief' were wonderful pieces of writing, then I would avoid this one. Put it this way: 'The Firm', 'The Pelican Brief', 'A Time To Kill' and even 'The Chamber' were made into Hollywood films - I can't see the same happening with 'A Painted House'.

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                        18.05.2001 03:02
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                        Can you keep a secret? You can? What if it wasn't just one secret but a whole series of them? And what if some of them were bigger than others? And what if you were only seven years old? Well, if you are sure, I'll let you in on a little one... this book is really, really good and it's all about secrets. One secret not enough for you, huh? Well I'll tell you another one of mine, but only if you keep it to yourself. There are few things more rewarding than sitting down to a book of which I fairly low expectations, only to be pleasantly surprised by the depth and breadth of enjoyment which it contains. I am much more familiar with the opposite feeling, that moment when I realise, some pages into a book I have been looking forward to for months, that, it is, in fact, big granny pants.Fortunately, however, A Painted House falls firmly into the first category of story. I wouldn't even have bought this book, as after reading The Chamber, I decided John Grisham and I were not going to have a long and beautiful friendship, but as www.justgoodbooks.co.uk were giving it away with your first order (still available, and if you sign up with them with mypoints you can net yourself an extra 500 points into the bargain) how could I refuse? And what a thoroughly delightful read this was. Instead of Grisham's usual, in my opinion, overplotted procedurals, here he displays a lightness of touch I hadn't previously thought he possessed. The story centres on two months in the life of a farming family in 1952 Arkansas. We watch their trials and tribulations as they gather in the cotton harvest through the eyes of seven-year-old Luke Chandler - who gets to keep an awful lot of very big secrets and to share a few of them with us. The story begins with the hiring of a 'hill people' family, The Spruills, and some Mexicans to help the Chandlers pick the cotton, and traces the ensuing weeks, as the family work to bring h
                        ome the cotton and Luke dreams about playing for the Cardinals baseball team and the return of his 19-year-old uncle from the Korean War. This may not sound like an immense amount of plot, but the characterisation is beautiful. We learn about the vagaries of farming life as Luke learns about them in this late summer full of secrets. There is birth, there is murder and secrets about both to be kept, but most of all there is a bittersweet tale of one boy's experience of life. The central character, Luke, is wonderfully realised and, through him, you come to feel like part of his family too. From his gruff Pappy (grandfather) and Gran, through his father and mother - desperate to leave the farming life behind and live in a painted house - and his wayward Uncle Ricky, you get to know them all. Even though Grisham is telling the tale of life in the Fifties in its broadest sense, he never loses sight of the things which are important to Luke. There are so many lovely bits that I wanted to quote you from the book, but I have picked just one or two thoughts from Luke to try and give you a feel for it. 'After a month in the fields, I missed school. Classes would resume at the end of October, and I began thinking of how nice it would be to sit at a desk all day, surrounded by friends instead of cotton stalks, and with no Spruills to worry about. Now that baseball was over, I had to dream about something. It was a tribute to my desperation to be left with only school to long for.' When I read that passage I recognised those feelings from my own childhood. That feeling of boredom that creeps up on you towards the end of the summer holidays, when you start to think that school might be fun to go back to. Of course, it never lasts, but that is the beauty of being seven, and, by extension, the beauty of this book. Resolution is not needed, for this is merely the tale of one summer. It could lead to a sequel, but on the oth
                        er hand it also stands perfectly alone. As I read this book I was reminded of several similar novels that I have enjoyed in the past - To Kill A Mockingbird, virtually anything by Maya Angelou and, unlikely as it sounds, The Little House on the Prairie.If you like those, you will certainly like this. Even if you have tried and disliked Grisham in the past I would urge you to give this one a go - but keep it a secret won't you? Bookends If you are a cheapskate like me, you can get a free copy of A Painted House when you buy something else and sign up for www.justgoodbooks.co.uk (NB. This is only the free book for new members, existing members are offered a different one). If, however, you just plain want to get your paws on one, it is retainling on www.bol.com for £8.50.

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                          08.05.2001 03:07
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                          John Grisham is undisputedly the king of legal thrillers. A lawyer himself, he wrote his first novel, ‘A Time To Kill’, in his spare time, getting up at 5 each morning and writing for a few hours before he started work. Book two followed, ‘The Firm’ and that’s when things started. By the time the celluloid version featuring Tom Cruise had appeared, Grisham was a sensation. Since ‘The Firm’, Grisham wrote a new book every year and the film adaptation was never far behind. February 2001 brought ‘A Painted House’ but this Grisham book was a little different, there wasn’t a lawyer in sight. A Grisham himself puts it, “There is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues.” Instead Grisham revisited his childhood and writes about an extended family of cotton-pickers in rural Arkansas. The protagonist is a bit different deviates from the norm as well, instead of Harvard graduate lawyer it’s a seven year old boy, Luke Chandler. The story is told through Luke’s eyes, and his musings on the important things in life, baseball, his Saturday trip to the cinema and the object of his affections, 17 year old Tally. He loathes the pain of picking cotton and aspires to be a professional baseball player, playing for his beloved Cardinals. His mother shares his dream and wants her son to be the first Chandler to leave the poverty trap of the family farm. The story revolves around the cotton-picking season, a three month period in the autumn which determines whether the family will survive the incoming year or not. The mammoth back-breaking job is too much for a family and so they must hire workers. In this case the workers are the Spruills, a troublesome family from Eureka Springs and a group of ten Mexicans. Over the course of the three months lives are changed for all three groups amidst a backdro
                          p of murder, harsh labour, secrets, pregnancy and the Korean War. Plenty of action, just what you’d expect from John Grisham. So how does this book compare with his others? Has the change of direction been a wise move. In my opinion this has been one of Grisham’s best. Initially I was sceptical but the book is so involving and absorbing that it can be impossible to get started. John Grisham really proves himself as a master storyteller with ‘A painted House’, expertly weaving stories, anecdotes and observations together. In particular he shows a great talent for creating people, rather than characters, Grishams’s unknown depths are untapped in this book. Grisham has made a costly gamble in writing this book, a love letter to his childhood, though in my mind it has definitely paid off, finally showing Grisham’s true abilities.

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                            27.04.2001 18:24
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                            After Grisham's amazing success with legal thrillers, he has turned his hand to something very different and has produced a story allegedly based on his childhood. This has been published before in an American magazine, but it is the first time it has appeared in book form. It stars seven-year-old Luke Chandler, a farm boy working in the cotton fields with his parents. For six weeks, they are all picking the cotton and as the weeks pass, Luke sees and hears things that not only threaten the crops, but also will change the family's life forever. When I first heard about Grisham's new project, I was somewhat dubious, as I doubted that he could break out of his legal thriller mould. However, I am pleased to say that I was totally wrong. 'A Painted House' is very different, but is well written and a greatly interesting novel. Luke, the principal character, is made to seem human and has his weaknesses as well as his strength. I would say that Grisham seems to give him strengths that are beyond his years, and the language he uses is not always the language of a seven-year-old boy, but overall, he creates a convincing portrait of a character that may well be modelled on the author himself. The plot with its tangents and developments is interesting and for me, Grisham brought rural Arkansas alive and I could easily visualize the eponymous house. Grisham has written another successful novel, but I fear that many of his usual fans will not be fans of this work, as it is not linked at all with the legal thriller genre. However, for fans of general fiction, this is a well-written and interesting novel and it proves that the author can write books other than courtroom dramas.

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                              26.04.2001 12:47
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                              This is a wonderful book. I couldn't put it down. I passed it on to my sister and mother. We nicknamed it "The Book of Luke". We would love for John Grisham to write a sequel to this book. We need to find out what happened to Luke and his family. I guarantee you will love this book. This book will leave you wanting to know more and more about this family. I live in Arkansas and the geographical information is correct

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                                28.02.2001 04:18
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                                If John Grisham was an actor he would be more typecast than Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone or that guy who is in American Pie, Road Trip and Dude Where's My car? (You know the one!) It was because of this reason “A Painted House” was a massive surprise. With Grisham you can normally guarantee a good tense legal thriller but this book is anything but. “A Painted House” was serialised in the American magazine the Oxford American. It was not your usual serialisation where the best parts or even specific chapters are taken from the book. Grisham agreed to write a few chapters for each bi-monthly release of the magazine so that the whole story would be sold over the year. I am a huge fan of most of Grisham’s work so I thought about getting the magazine but I never quite got round to it. I think he did this to test the waters with a new topic. It got good reviews and the decision was made to make it the annual Grisham release. I was a little disappointed with this as I thought there may be 2 books by my favourite author this year but never mind, quality over quantity and all that. The story is of 7-year old Luke Chandler’s summer on a Cotton farm in Arkansas. Not exactly a riveting topic but it certainly holds the attention. The tale follows the cotton-picking season and the impact it has on the Chandler household, the Mexican labourers they employ and the “hill people” they hire for help. There are enough characters for sub plots and interaction without all of the main characters being involved. However the story is very slow paced (probably intentional given the subject) and at times you feel like skipping a few pages to the next “event”. This is my only criticism of the book but as I say it is probably intentional to get over Luke’s feelings and if so it works very well. This is not a book that has a huge deal happening in it. However, if like me, you enjoy Grisham&#
                                8217;s writing style you will probably find this to be an interesting change from his usual fare. Without wanting to give too much away I like the amount of things that are left unresolved in the book. It is like an actual account of a 7-year old’s life where you don’t understand a lot of things and there will be people you may never see again. This was my favourite thing in the whole book, the way Grisham seemed to get into the mind of a 7-year old (not sure I’d view that as a compliment right enough but never mind). This could be the first Grisham book to produce a sequel which I would definitely be interested in. There are endless possibilities with where to take the story and one thing would love to see would be for Grisham to do what Jeffrey Archer did with “Kane and Able” and “The Prodigal Daughter”. Where parts of the original story are told through a different character then events are taken on. I think this would work in this case and I’d be interested to see what others thought. Definitely not Grisham’s best but not his worst either.

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                                Tension and hardship on a 1952 Arkansas farm.