HOLLY by ALBERT FRENCH.
Holly is the story of a poor, white girl in 1944 North Carolina, whose lonely world is transformed by a handsome, educated black soldier from the war - and of the town's savage response to their romance.
- Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Chapter 1): There was a sign out on the blacktop highway that said WELCOME TO SUPPLY.
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 309): I lost more than just my arm over there. I lost what I was and wanted to be.
My first thought? How was I going to read this given that most of the novel was written with vernacular spellings that did not include the letter g on the ends of words? - With the use of Um instead of I'm, Ya instead of You, Ta instead of To etc, I confess that I found Holly hard reading at first but then my mind compensated and, to be honest, I read the rest of the book without really taking too much notice of this.
My second thought? Was it really necessary to use the 'n' word to describe a black person quite as often? OK so it was realistically used and I suppose to use any other word might not have been as true to the characters and the period in which the book was set (the 1934s)but, as always, my twenty-first century self winced at its use.
These aside I really, really enjoyed this book. A wonderfully observed novel of family, friendship, love, loyalty and grief, I found myself totally engrossed in Holly's world - a world, though set in North Carolina, USA, in the 1940's, that could have been set in much more modern times.
Many stranded, one of the story lines looked at Holly's elder brother, Bobby, who has recently returned from war badly injured(he was shot in the head) and having flashbacks which I thought was wonderfully written and quite timeless in that how many other young men have returned from more recent wars suffering in such a way? And on a lighter note - I loved the fact that Holly (19) and her friend, Elsie, seemed to be typical teenagers, wanting to party of an evening, lying in bed until mid-afternoon, worrying over their image and, of course, boys, - as I say quite timeless.