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Turpentine: A Novel Paperback – September 10, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press, Black Cat; 1st edition (September 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802170366
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802170361
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,987,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This highly episodic picaresque manages to outlast a generic, disorganized plot to emerge as an entertaining romp through the American 1870s. For the most part, Warren's debut follows the youthful adventures of Edward Turrentine Bayard III, who has left his upper-class Connecticut family and headed to frontier Nebraska for his health. In short order, he becomes a buffalo skinner, learns to ride and shoot, and is smitten by the beautiful and poetic Lill Martine. She has other ideas, and Ned, crestfallen but undaunted in his devotion, takes a job offer from a paleontologist back East. There, he meets Phaegin, an attractive, streetwise dance hall girl, and more or less adopts a juvenile delinquent named Curly. Curly's mischief soon has the trio accused of anarchy, theft and murder, and they flee across the continent for their lives. A series of improbable coincidences and misadventures follow, involving wealthy entrepreneurs, Mormons, Indians and a variety of rustic frontier types. There's no shortage of sudden death and grim gore, all of which remains comically on the surface. Characters come and go, often violently. But astonishingly, the sweetness of the story keeps it afloat. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

This is the first novel by Warren, a painter and furniture maker. It is a sweeping saga of the western frontier in the 1870s, filled with colorful characters, stark and sometimes vibrant images, and violent but sometimes absurd situations. At the center of the narrative is Edward Turrentine Bayard III ("Turpentine"). As a young, tubercular easterner, he is sent to a Nebraska sanitarium to heal his lungs. Instead, through a series of mishaps and coincidences, he is launched on a cross-country odyssey. On his travels he encounters a cigar maker, a young coal miner, and lesser characters, some of whom seem derived from central casting. Turpentine is certainly an endearing literary creation, combining the wide-eyed innocence and crafty survivor's instincts of a Huck Finn. He and his companions witness labor strife, blood-and-guts buffalo hunts, and a host of travails and sometimes barely credible adventures. Although her story line occasionally gets jumbled and confusing, Warren knows how to spin a tale. There is considerable excitement, humor, and occasionally pathos in this enjoyable debut. Freeman, Jay

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
What a page turner!
Jonathan
The story is full of surprises, including unforgettable characters, surprising plot developments, and a heroic and entirely uncooperative horse.
A. G. Vanderbilt
I have not read a western since "Shane" in the 7th grade so I was nervous when my book club picked this book.
R. Silva

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ed Crumley on January 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
While browsing in a Barnes & Noble in Houston, the cover of this book caught my eye with its unusual title and buffalo head staring at a yellow plain. As one who reads and enjoys Westerns, I was intrigued enough to pick it up for a look and then a purchase on a gamble that it might be a good read.

As luck has it sometimes, my gamble paid off. Not only was it an excellent read, but Warren's tale of the tortured Easterner gone West never lets you rest for anticipation of what Edward Turrentine Bayard III might face hidden around the next corner or over the next hill.

Spring Warren's deep character development and relationships exceed many Westerns written from a man's point-of-view which tend to be heavier on the action side although the action in Turpentine is plenteous. Her descriptive ability with prose is poetic and lyrical and frames action with words and phrases not expected but dead on.

I highly recommend this gem, not just to readers of Westerns or history, but anyone who wants to be entertained with a gripping story which won't release its hold until the very end.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Summer Streeter on January 10, 2008
Format: Paperback
Turpentine is a novel that embodies many happy surprises: colorful characters, language so beautiful, shimmering and skillful that it seems almost water painted onto the canvas of the page, and a final chapter that not only concludes the story of Edward Turrentine Bayard, but somehow deepens it.

The unique characters Warren has developed and the outrageous circumstances that they find themselves in make this book a page-turner from start to finish. The reader cannot help but reflect through the hardships of Ned "Turpentine" the impacts that our choices emboss on our lives and on the lives of those we are entwined with. Even if the reader is not a fan of the Western genre, this is a novel that embodies the best of the Western while transcending it further to an exploration of the best and worst in the human condition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. G. Vanderbilt on March 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had to take a day off from work to finish this book, it was so captivating. As with a fine meal, sometimes one wants to slow down and savor it. I simply couldn't, and finished in a day and a half. Spring Warren captures the grand vision of the American West and the heartbreak of its unforgiving harshness. The novel's male hero is a pampered nerd, sent West for his health and abandoned there by his mother with no money and little hope. He survives, making money by skinning buffalo hides, and falls desperately in love with a remarkable woman. The story is full of surprises, including unforgettable characters, surprising plot developments, and a heroic and entirely uncooperative horse. Not the least surprising aspect of this wonderful, original western is that the author, Spring Warren, is a both a woman and a first-time author. What was the last successful western written by a woman? Quick, now, think!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary Reinert on January 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
Edward Turrentine Bayard III is one character that truly comes to life from the pages. For about the first 50 or so pages, I just enjoyed the humor of the story and the witty writing style. Then the book really started to set in. Behind the humor, the wild & interesting characters and circumstances, one begins to see a view of American history from a new angle. The trip down the coal mine, the "marriage" of Avelina and Tilfert, the stay in the Chicago slums, and the brutal time on the frontier provide a compelling panorama of this time in America's history. At times, I just had to shake my head with "this is just too over the top" -- but then it all seemed to fit.

And, I so agree with other reviewers that the last chapter pulls everything together in such a satisfying way. As someone who has heard many a story told by an elderly person, the author sums up memory perfectly: "Never is being so permanent as in yesteryear, when...soft memory solidifies into story, and in that solid form, rejects the anguish of reality..... If we exist at all after we are gone, it will be as a story."

Turpentine is funny, interesting, and just a wild ride that will make you smile and think.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul H Landes on April 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Funny and uproariously sad at times I absolutely loved this book. I tried to stay ahead of this author to see where she was going, but I obviously lack her talent and vision. The writing style is unique and creative in its very own way, which for me kept me perfectly in tune with the events of the time and kept me turning page after page. One of my all time favorites for sure.
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More About the Author

Spring Warren is a writer with a penchant for art, furniture-making and gardening. Her novel "Turpentine" came out with Grove Press. Her nonfiction book "The Quarter Acre Farm" was published by Seal. Spring resides in California but hails from Wyoming, where her family has lived since the 1870s. Visit her blog, The Quarter Acre Farm, at http://thequarteracrefarm.com/

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Turpentine: A Novel
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