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The Whistling Season [Kindle Edition]

Ivan Doig
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Can't cook but doesn't bite." So begins the newspaper ad offering the services of an "A-1 housekeeper, sound morals, exceptional disposition" that draws the hungry attention of widower Oliver Milliron in the fall of 1909. And so begins the unforgettable season that deposits the noncooking, nonbiting, ever-whistling Rose Llewellyn and her font-of-knowledge brother, Morris Morgan, in Marias Coulee along with a stampede of homesteaders drawn by the promise of the Big Ditch-a gargantuan irrigation project intended to make the Montana prairie bloom. When the schoolmarm runs off with an itinerant preacher, Morris is pressed into service, setting the stage for the "several kinds of education"-none of them of the textbook variety-Morris and Rose will bring to Oliver, his three sons, and the rambunctious students in the region's one-room schoolhouse. A paean to a vanished way of life and the eccentric individuals and idiosyncratic institutions that made it fertile, The Whistling Season is Ivan Doig at his evocative best.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by Rick BassAny writer's work should be judged solely on its own merits, yet in this fine novel by Ivan Doig, one may be forgiven for marveling at the creation of such a work at an advanced stage of this writer's illustrious career. (Wallace Stegner—to whom, as with Doig, landscape was character and event in any story, and particularly Western landscapes—comes to mind with his classic Crossing to Safety.)Like many of Doig's earlier novels, The Whistling Season is set in the past in rural eastern Montana—and addresses that time and place in distinct, uncluttered prose that carries the full enthusiasm of affection and even love—for the landscape, the characters, and the events of the story—without being sentimental or elegiac. The novel is narrated by an aging Montana state superintendent of schools, Paul Milliron, who is charged with deciding the fate of the state's last scattered rural schools, and who, in the hours preceding his meeting to determine those schools' fate, recalls the autumn of 1909, when he was 13 and attending his own one-room school in Marias Coulee.Recently widowed, Paul's father, overwhelmed by the child-rearing duties presented by his three sons, in addition to his challenging farming duties, hires a housekeeper, sight unseen, from a newspaper ad. The housekeeper, Rose, proclaims that she "can't cook but doesn't bite." She turns out to be a beguiling character, and she brings with her a surprise guest—her brother, the scholarly Morris, who, though one of the most bookish characters in recent times, also carries brass knuckles and—not to give away too much plot—somehow knows how to use them.The schoolteacher in Marias Coulee runs away to get married, leaving Morris to step up and take over her job. The verve and inspiration that he, an utter novice to the West, to children and to teaching children, brings to the task is told brilliantly and passionately, and is the core of the book's narrative, with its themes of all the different ways of knowing and learning, at any age.Doig's strengths in this novel are character and language—the latter manifesting itself at a level of old-fashioned high-octane grandeur not seen previously in Doig's novels, and few others': the sheer joy of word choices, phrases, sentences, situations, and character bubbling up and out, as fecund and nurturing as the dryland farmscape the story inhabits is sere and arid. The Whistling Season is a book to pass on to your favorite readers: a story of lives of active choice, lived actively. (June)Rick Bass is the Pushcart and O. Henry award-winning author of more than 20 fiction and nonfiction books. His second novel, The Diezmo, will be published in June.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Ivan Doig, along with Wallace Stegner and A. B. Guthrie, may be the quintessential Western writer. In 10 books of fiction and nonfiction, he has masterfully explored human communities set against a beautiful, if harsh, Montana landscape. The Whistling Season, a coming-of-age story told in flashbacks, thoughtfully evokes a lost time and place. Almost all aspects of this novel impressed the critics—the colorful characters, the emotional resonance, the rich period details, the eloquent prose, and even Morris's lessons on astronomy and ancient history. Only the Oregonian felt this was good, not great, Doig—which still says a lot.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • File Size: 559 KB
  • Print Length: 345 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003JH8GAC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,107 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
158 of 160 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, poignant and beautifully written! January 10, 2007
Format:Hardcover
The Whistling Season is an homage to a lost way of life, the homesteading prairie farmers and their children who attended a one-room schoolhouse. This story is told from the perspective of Paul, the eldest and most intellectually gifted son of a recently widowed dry-farmer in Montana. Paul is fortunate to have a father who is well-read and supports the life of the mind. Unfortunately Paul is haunted by dreams and nightmares that leave him perpetually exhausted.

Paul's father, Oliver, and his two brothers are devasted by the death of Paul's mother and struggle to keep the household together with the loss of the essential skills of the homemaker. Hiring a housekeeper, Rose, brings not only cleanliness and harmony to the home, but a new schoolteacher to the community. The school teacher is Rose's brother, Morris. Morris' love of learning and theatrical style inspire the children in the tiny schoolhouse. Ultimately the story turns on how these newcomers fit into and transform this little community.

The strengths of this novel are in its vivid portrayal of prairie life, elegant language and poignant plot. Definitely a novel that leaves me wanting to read more of this author!
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77 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warmth in Montana September 5, 2006
Format:Hardcover
This novel is about a motherless family of three boys and a widower in a very small Montana town in 1910. A housekeeper is hired and her brother tags along from Minneapolis to the frontier. There the story begins.

The best way to describe the book may be to tell what it is not. It is not hokey or a father falling-in-love chic romance. Although the narrator is a teenage boy, it is not a coming of age novel. Although there is shadowing of mystery from the beginning, it is not mystery.

So what is it? It is an ode to the single room school house and education. It is a frank telling of a family's year on the Montana frontier. There are relationships explored between the boy and his family, the teacher, the housekeeper and his school mates - friend and foe.

Paul, the narrator, has to face adversity (beyond the death of his mother) in several different ways while maintaining his place in his small and insular world. His most difficult task, however, is to decide what to do with a secret he learns.

The writing is terrific, although the book got off to a slow start. After the first 70 pages, which seemed choppy, I was worried I had picked a dud. From there on the book was captivating. Paul, and almost all of the characters, were extremely likeable with all their foibles and weaknesses exposed. The one pure "bad" guy was tangential and truly wicked.

This is a great read once it started to get going. Both the story(ies) and the characters (especially Morrie, the reluctant teacher) will stay with the reader. It is entertaining and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
"Whistling Season" by Ivan Doig is a deeply affecting coming-of-age novel set in the dry Montana prairie of 1910. The story is told through the memories of Paul Milliron looking back to one important year in his childhood, when he was 13. The book begins in 1950 when Paul, now Montana State Superintendent of Public Instruction, travels to his hometown of Marias Coulee with the unpleasant task of closing its one and only one-room schoolhouse. He gazes up at the night sky watching Sputnik blink across the stars and knows that a new era has arrived. He is heartbroken because this new era will wipe out all that has come before. There will be no going back.

Doig knows this territory well--it is his own ancestral roots. He has researched it thoroughly and published other successful fiction and nonfiction books set in this period and place. While reading this book, I felt transported back in time--the landscape, the people, the very dust that covered everything--came alive on the page. So do the characters--the singular, bizarre, and clarion-clear characters of the Old West--Doig is, indeed, a master at creating wonderfully authentic people that you really care about.

The story is poignant. Young Paul and his two younger brothers are experiencing the first year of grief following the death of their mother. Oliver Milliron, their father, is understandably overwhelmed with the task of being father, mother, and homesteader. Through the distant Minneapolis newspaper, he sees an ad by a housekeeper. In this manner, the ever-whistling, beautiful Rose Llewellyn comes into their life. She arrives unexpectedly with her brother, Morris Morgan, an eccentric, walking encyclopedia. Events unfold that push Morris toward becoming the town's schoolmaster.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I didn't want it to end! May 30, 2006
Format:Hardcover
The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig is a beautiful novel, with rich and delicious prose, and characters that are detailed, complex and fully developed. I dreaded reaching the final page, wanting to spend more time with Paul Milliron, his family, Rose, Morris, and the community.

Paul Milliron is the Montana state superintendent of schools in the 1950s. It is his job to determine the fate of the few rural schools that are still in use. As he returns to his home, he reminisces about the year 1909, when he was thirteen and attended a one-room school in Marias Coulee.

In 1909 Paul's father, recently widowed and caring for his three sons, hires a housekeeper from Minnesota. The housekeeper's ad in the Westwater Gazette read, Can't Cook But Doesn't Bite.

The housekeeper, Rose Llewellyn, arrives in Montana with her brother, Morris. She's already received several months advance on her salary and immediately begins to organize the Milliron's home and quietly insert herself in their lives. But as she said in her ad, she doesn't cook.

When the local schoolteacher leaves to marry an evangelist, Morris accepts, for the rest of the school year, her job. His arrival impacts the Milliron children and their schoolmate's education in ways no one expected.

I expected Rose to be the focal point of the novel, but in many ways, Morris' personality took center stage. His relationship with Paul continually broadened the young man's life and education. There are several interesting twists and turns that were unexpected and contributed to the charm of Doig's novel.

Armchair Interviews says: The Whistling Season is a wonderful and satisfying read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Typos a problem
This edition, 2006 copywrite, HMH Co, has a great number of typographical errors. It was disappointing and confusing at times to read. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Denise Marion
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a book I loved
I have been searching for something that was not drivel or fantasy . Something with intelligence and substance as well as entertainment. Read more
Published 7 days ago by PattyM
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful story from Doig
The story of a gifted young man growing up in rural Montana ,in a one room school house, where colourful characters abound. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Linda Headley
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
good story telling
Published 22 days ago by mary jo harrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Product of a similar rural school
Ivan Doug's use of vocabulary & description is superior to most contemporary writers. As a retired teacher; commercial fisherman & farmer,( with a rural upbringing ) I totally... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Jerry Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Love how Doig weaves a tale
Rich with detail, you felt you were in the story. Love how Doig weaves a tale. His books feel like reading history, but with all the personal detail of a novel.
Published 27 days ago by Darlene M. Geyer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb writing - brings the past to life. Very enjoyable reading experience.
Published 1 month ago by Harold Baker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Arrived in good shape and always enjoy this author's writings.
Published 1 month ago by Rkellerhouse
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy reading
A fun novel about small town western Montana. A very nice story about rural education.
Published 1 month ago by Grandon
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very meaningful, especially if you were living during one-room schools.
Published 1 month ago by Leanne
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More About the Author

Ivan Doig is the author of ten previous books. Seven are novels, including English Creek and Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and three are nonfiction, including the highly acclaimed memoir This House of Sky, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A former ranch hand, newspaperman, and magazine editor, Doig holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle.

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