Book Review: The Maid’s Version, Daniel Woodrell

“A wolf will always look to the woods, no matter what you feed it.” (page 127)

At last, we have a new novel by Daniel Woodrell. His last published work and that’s not counting anything reprinted, was Winter’s Bone in 2006.  I’ve read three full novels from him and consider myself a fan. The Maid’s Version (2013) is a historical novel about a small town tragedy that took place during the late 1920’s. The Maid’s Version is a personal book for the author because it’s based on a real event: the dance hall explosion that took place in his hometown in 1929. His grandmother (loosely depicted in the novel) recounts the events, rumors, speculations and what have you, to her grandson, set in the little town of West Table, Missouri.

 Cover shows a burning dance hall building Woodrell is good at telling stories. He’s especially good at conveying the misery and frustration of people living in poverty. This book had some sad moments. The novel is short at 142 pages. It is made up of short stories. The writing is evocative, giving us glimpses of townspeople and their life before the explosion adversely affected it. The novel spans many generations marked by certain events burned in people’s memories like The Great Depression, Pearl Harbor and for the people in the Ozarks, the Arbor Dance Hall explosion that killed half the town. Thirty years later people still no closer to the truth. Was it an accident? no one knows for sure.

I love stories  set in small towns. I guess because every town has its deeply buried secrets and their own code of silence. In this one, there’s an underlying tone of class division and social injustice among other things. The characters are vivid thanks to the first person narrator. There are abbreviated moments of calm and violence. I’ve read that Daniel Woodrell is a modern-day William Faulkner. I’ve never read Faulkner (plan to rectify this!) but for those who have, that should give you some idea (maybe) of the kind of fiction Daniel Woodrell writes: dense, beautiful prose that moves at a leisurely pace and that could be read over again to catch meanings or themes that were missed the first time around. My letter grade is an A. This was an excellent novel about class, tragedy and generational poverty among other themes.

About Keishon

Romance reader now mystery reader. I enjoy all types of fiction but for the past 5 years I've enjoyed reading crime fiction. Please email me with recommendations or gush about your favorite writer! I love to hear from readers!
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12 Responses to Book Review: The Maid’s Version, Daniel Woodrell

  1. TracyK says:

    Keishon, I have heard much about this novel and Woodrell. So I was glad to see your review which was very helpful. The subject sounds interesting and I will be interested to see how he handles in such a short book. I really like books that tell the story well and quickly, not dragging it out.


  2. Keishon – Oh, I’m so glad you liked this. I’ve been hearing from a lot of places that it’s a very good read. Nice to see that confirmed here. And I love the setting and context – just right for a novel of suspense.


  3. Keishon, thanks for the review. I’m not familiar with Daniel Woodrell but I like reading historical fiction, especially US Civil War and WWII. I didn’t know about the dance hall explosion and its tragic aftermath. The cover of the book is striking.


    • Keishon says:

      Hi Prashant, looks like we have similar interests. After reading le Carre I am interested in reading more Cold War novels and novels set during the Civil War sound interesting as well. I don’t know if I have any set during the latter, will check to see. Woodrell is known for telling stories set in the Ozarks and he uses the fictional town to relay stories from where he grew up. Hope you will give him a try and see how you like him.


  4. I have WINTER’S BONE lined up to read but am not quite in the mood for deep sadness right now so am saving that one – I want to do the book justice. You make a compelling argument for trying this author though

    Nice to see you back too:)


  5. Col says:

    Another one for the Keane library soon I think, I’ll add it to the Outlaw Album on the must buy list!


  6. Pingback: Monthly Wrap Up: September 2013 | Yet Another Crime Fiction Blog

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