Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fiction: On Account of Conspicuous Women by Dawn Shamp

Deep into On Account of Conspicuous Women (St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne) a young man muses on the superior nature and attributes of the woman who has made him “twinkle.”
And the way she wore her hair without a lot of fussing, all natural with soft ripples and curls. Even the times he’d seen her perspire, it stayed fluffy and sanitary. It had the fragrance of a thousand flowers and it glowed like the sunset. Why, it was downright electrical.
A few minutes later, his father’s voice cuts through his thoughts and it’s as though that man has read his son’s mind, even while bringing us the title of the book:
“Why, Son, that kind of woman’s a blessing if you ask me. She’s what you might call conspicuous. Special. Like a wood duck during breeding season. And every conspicuous woman needs a considerate man behind her.”
It’s a charming moment, one of many in a book that is never cloying, but still manages to be as bracing and comforting as sweet tea. Dawn Shamp’s debut effort takes place in Roxboro, North Carolina mostly in the early 1920s. It focuses on the lives of four young conspicuous women who are moving from girl to womanhood at a time of great change. And so we see the first time American women may vote, we see racial strife and inequity as well as the introduction or increasing acceptance of inventions that will change the world -- telephones, motion pictures, automobiles -- all from the safe vantage of the eyes of these four young women who really have much more important things on their minds.

On Account of Conspicuous Women
is the exact opposite of an epic novel. It is quiet, unassuming, even gentle yet ever so worthwhile. In one way, it is more like a tool for time travel than almost any book I’ve ever read, offering up a simple -- and, yes, sweet -- peek into the lives of four conspicuous women in a very different time.



Post a Comment

<< Home