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VINE VOICEon October 7, 2002
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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on March 5, 2012
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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on November 12, 1999
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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on January 18, 2001
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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on November 22, 2000
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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on January 13, 2004
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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on July 12, 1999
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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on June 15, 1999
This is a gutsy and soulful tale, with characters (most) who have grit, dignity, and passion. If you like your entertainment light, pretty, and not too dangerous; if strong feelings about the nature of loyalty, love, and personal conviction in the face of human failings disturb you, then you may not like this book. The excellent descriptive powers of Jim Harrison's writing will appeal most to those who are students of human nature, and who tend to feel intensely about life, it's beauty, and it's heartache... Familiarity with rural living is a plus, as is an appreciation of nature.
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on October 27, 1998
Anyone with a soul will like this book. Those who want to climax too quickly (*snicker*) or suffer from ADD should avoid it. Multiple stories (mainstream fiction, historical fiction and even romance) are all twisted together here into a moving, witty, and complex story. Jim Harrison's novels are like a hike in a beautiful landscape - enjoy them for the journey, for the little joys along the way. Jim Harrison writes like no one else and leaves me in awe with every page. He drew a sunshine in my copy of Dalva in Seattle. The book is my prized possession.
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on June 8, 2015
As far as I'm concerned the best novels are the ones where I can feel a visceral connection with at least one of the principal characters and in "Dalva" as in almost all of Jim Harrison's books, I'm connected form page one. What is of special appeal in"Dalva" is that the principal character,Dalva, is a woman. I wonder how many women who read "Dalva" will be able to identify with the protagonist, "feel her pain" and understand what makes her tick. I truly enjoyed almost all of the book - I skipped very little. I'mreading another of Harrison's books now. I don't think I'll ever get tired of his prose
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