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Dalva (Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)) Paperback – January 1, 1991


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A cast of fascinating characters populates the Nebraska farmland where Harrison's fine new novel is set. First among these is Dalva Northridge, a passionate and unconventional woman who, at 45, begins searching for the illegitimate son she bore 30 years earlier. While flashbacks explore Dalva's teenage romance with her son's father, a half-Sioux youth, the story is carried forward through Dalva's current relationships with her wealthy family and with Michael, a history professor. The middle portion of the book, narrated by the alcoholic and debauched Michael, brings a shift in mood. Michael, who is living at the Northridge family ranch while researching journals left by Dalva's great-grandfather, proceeds toward his own incapacitation at a Rabelaisian pitch. Woven through Michael's narrative are excerpts from the journals, which have a great relevance to the history of Nebraska's Native Americans. Harrison (Sundog) offers almost an embarrassment of riches here. Digressing stories of a large number of characterswhile they add to the rich texture of the novelsometimes deflect attention from Dalva herself. That is a small caveat, however, about this lyrical and atmospheric book, which is entertaining, moving and memorable.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Dalva has traveled the world doing a variety of jobs, alternately haunted and driven by men: a half-breed Sioux, her half-brother, whose child she bore, and gave up for adoption, at 16; an obsessed great-grandfather, who came to Nebraska as a missionary; an alcoholic college professor who uses her as a crutch as he blunders toward tenure. The reconciliation of the various elements in her life is precipitated by a return to her Midwestern roots, where she acknowledges her family's eccentricities and her own wasted years. In the process a vivid panorama of Nebraska history is revealed through her own poignant memories and the tormented journals of her great-grandfather. A compelling novel, essential for fiction collections.Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press)
  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671740679
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671740672
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,327 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on October 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
A writer friend recommended Jim Harrison's books to me, Dalva in particular, and I think I must now send my friend a substantial gift.
Dalva is not only a remarkably authentic portrait of a most unique woman (along with her equally unique mother and sister), it is also a book that offers insights into ranching life (Nebraska), the slaughter of the Native American population (the Sioux, in this instance) and a family history that is absolutely fascinating.
The one section (relatively brief) I found not particularly compelling is the one narrated by Michael, the alcoholic professor friend and sometime lover of Dalva who has been given permission to write a chronicle of the Northridge family--incorporating the journals kept by Dalva's great grandfather that begin inside the infamous Andersonville prison. Michael's manic self-indulgence and lack of restraint are, without doubt, faithful to alcoholic behavior but this segment of the book lacks the drive and fascination that are inherent through the rest of the novel. Drunks, even gifted ones, get terribly tedious very quickly.
Altogether this is a sweeping novel that contains not only intriguing personal histories but also offers visions of the land--be it Nebraska or the Dakotas or Arizona--that are so complete as to feel tangible.
Highly recommended.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Someone Else TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
There are several male authors who are generally regarded as having a great ability to write from the perspective of a female character. When I read these authors I disagree with the assessment, most notably because they fail to capture the true complexity that is the essence of being a woman. Jim Harrison is an exception. With the character of Dalva, he explores all the layers of conflict and identity that are part of growing up female in a patriarchal society.

Dalva, at the age of 45, leaves California and returns to her native Nebraska. There she confronts all of her ghosts and finally recognizes that she has defined her entire life by the males she has loved and lost: her grandfather, father, first love, and then the son she was made to give up for adoption. As the book comes to an end, there's a glimmer of hope that she'll put the past to rest and start living for the present.

The subplot deals with Dalva's Sioux heritage. She's only one-eighth Indian, but her white great-grandfather was a great friend of the Sioux and left many journals. The secrets are slowly revealed as a Stanford scholar works his way through the journals.

This novel contains some excellent writing with uniquely expressed wisdom about society and life in general. I could not give it a higher rating because its construction is rather laborious and convoluted, making the reader work too hard to unearth the treasures. [3.5 stars]
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Will on November 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
It's a few months since I read Dalva, but it has stuck with me. This story is romantic & touching with lots of sympathetic characters who grow and change during the book. The way the different timelines are woven together, and the way the core "problem" of the story is slowly & carefully revealed bespeak great skill by the author. I agree with those who say Dalva is not a realistic portrait of a woman. She is in many ways the fantasy ideal of a lot of men: strong, honest, loyal, self-assured, rich, sexually free. I suspect Harrison is in love with her, and for plenty of good reasons. Harrison is one of my favorite authors, and this is the best of his that I've read.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By mary salmon on January 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
I can only approach this book with utter reverance. Read at a transitional time in my life, as a new wife, a new skydiver and on the brink of middle age there can be no objectiveism. Jim Harrison understands middle aged women, both our sense of freedom and of alienation, a second coming of age. I did not read the review guidelines. Dalva wouldn't.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "audiogrrl" on November 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
i just wanted to weigh in against the all-girl gangs of jim harrison haters. this is a lovely, funny, deeply moving novel, and, like some of the other women reviewers who have posted here, i find harrison's female characters (not just dalva) completely believeable and quite admirable. if you enjoy this book, i would heartily recommend your listening to the unabridged audiobook version available from recorded books, inc.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HORAK on January 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Living on the coast of California, Dalva hears the deep silence of the Nebraska plains where she was born and longs for the son she had to give up for adoption when she was only sixteen. At forty-five, she has lead a life of many adventures, has had many lovers. Dalva is beautiful, fearless and tormented. Then Dalva starts a journey that will take her back to the origins of her family, to the lover of her youth, Duane, a half-Sioux, and to her pioneering great-grandfather whose diaries relate the violent annihilation of the Plains Indians. This novels tells the story of a remarkable modern woman's search for her son. She is depicted by Jim Harrison as a sensual woman, a woman who always subtly does the seducing of her lovers. I certainly was seduced by her!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
In contrast to the all-female book club that unanimously hated this book, I find Jim Harrison's female characters to be terrific. I don't expect my fictional characters to act exactly like real life people. Dalva is a romantic heroine for women of the 90s, despite her saddness. Read Dalva, then read the Road Home,Harrison's follow-up.
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Dalva (Contemporary Classics (Washington Square Press))
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