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There are not many giants featured in the general fiction section of the library. They tend to be confined either to the childrens section or perhaps fantasy. They are usually blood thirsty, cruel monsters (well apart from the Big Friendly Giant). There is an exception James Sweatt in the Giants House is a normal teenage boy except that he is eight feet tall.
The giants House by Elizabeth McCracken is a novel set in 1950s small-town America. Peggy Cort is the towns librarian who becomes emotionally attached to James Sweatt, the giant of the tittle. At first it is a general interest as James is barely out of childhood. As time goes by and James grows into a young man Peggy begins to see James in a different light and falls in love with him.
Its a funny (as in strange rather than funny ha ha) little book. I was attracted to it as I was attracted to the character of Peggy Cort. I tend to shy away from characters who are actresses, hot shot lawyers, ditzy blondes but a librarian sounded slightly different. Peggy is the narrator and tells her story in first person narrative. On first impressions she is the stereotype of a librarian being a spinster who has never been truly in love before and dedicated to her job. It is only as I started reading the book I found that Peggy was not a dried up spinster with ten cats but a young woman in her 20s barely out of graduate school , as she seems older than she acually is. I did like her character as she is quite sharp and makes interesting observations about library patrons, oral history and tourists. I did find her obsession and dedication to James almost too much as she seems to live her life around him
The book seems to be about lonely people perhaps on the margins of society. Peggy certainly falls into this category, as does James. I really feel sorry for him. His life reads like a country song as his father left him and his mother when he was young. As a consequence of this his mother is a tragic, unhappy figure who is addicted to alcohol and sleeping pills. An abnormal functioning pituitary gland leading to gigantisms causes Jamess unusual height. The book treats this subject very sensitively and shows the problems that James has to go through whilst coping with being a teenager. You really feel sorry for him as he grows and realises he will never dance as his bones are weekender due to the pressure of the abnormal growth and he will never find a dance partner as he is three feet taller than his female peers. The health problems he has to endure are described quite graphically in the book. He realises he can not live a normal life and work in a normal career. He is resigned to being the tallest boy in the worlds; a freak for tourists that frequent his coastal hometown of Brewersville can ogle and take pictures of. Despite this James is portrayed humanely as a normal teenage boy trapped in a body that keeps growing.
The Giants House is 256 pages long and I found it quite easy to read. It is not a holiday book for reading on the beach as I found it was quite slow and often very depressing. However it does h have its tender poignant moments. Its not a life changing book and certainly not one of my favourite books. I am not sure I could even recommend you rush out and buy it. Instead I suggest you pick it up if you come across it in a charity shop, second hand bookstore or library, as it is a nice little tale of relationship between two slightly isolated people.
Set in a small town on Cape Cod in 1950, this tells of the relationship between Peggy Cort, a 28-year-old librarian, and James Carlson Sweatt, an over-tall 11-year-old. They are odd candidates for friendship, but they still find their lives entwined in ways that neither one could have predicted.