The living

by Annie Dillard

Hardcover, 1992




New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c1992.


This New York Times bestselling novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard is a mesmerizing evocation of life in the Pacific Northwest during the last decades of the 19th century.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ksmyth
I've been told that this is not Annie Dillard's best work. Nevertheless, there are things about it that I really like, and some things I find less appealing.

First, I love the atmospherics in the book. Her description of Western Washington in the 1850's, when the book begins are right on, and give
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a great period flavor. The dark, dripping forest, the damp days, make the setting feel almost primeval.

Unfortunately, I'm less fond of the plot--particularly at the end of the book, when it sort of degenerates into a big whodunit. Who cares.

I liked this book but you have to take the good with the bad.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Dillard's prose is wonderfully descriptive and delightfully crafted; this is a fabulous work.
LibraryThing member rachelellen
This is not a book through which you race along. It took me a full month to read it, I think. It's very dense, very solid, full of similes that make you think, and situations that make you cringe or cry or laugh or shudder. There's not much of a plot, which in this instance is OK, because the focus
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of the story is on the people and on the place in which they live and on the nature of life there. You get a definite sense in the first half of the book of the apparent randomness of death on the 19th-century Northwestern U.S. frontier, and the second half goes more into life in a boom town and the way the ups and downs of that kind of existence affect the characters. I'm making it sound very dull, but it's not; the writing is lyrical and thoughtful and very, very good.
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LibraryThing member humanart
I love Annie Dillard's books for their intensity and for her character studies. This book is almost too intense. You'll understand the title a few different ways by the time you finish the book
LibraryThing member Cygnus555
I purchased this book shortly after I moved to Bellingham Washington... It was a really great novel that made me really understand how difficult the early settlers had it. I was shocked and dismayed by the huge numbers of people who died horrible deaths in this book.
LibraryThing member witchyrichy
Slow, like a Pacific Northwest winter, but I found myself caught up in the story of these pioneers and their families who faced hardship and death. The prose was amazing, full of literary devices that often caused me to stop for a moment and generally made me read slower than I usually do.
LibraryThing member Gwendydd
I think the biggest reason that I enjoyed this book is that I live in Seattle, so I am familiar with the areas in which it takes place, and can appreciate how much this area has changed in the past 150 years. The book really made me think about the first white settlers who came out here, and how
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hard their lives were, yet how rewarding the landscape could be for them, as it is for me.

On the downside, the book is at time gruesome and depressing - life was hard for these people, and Dillard doesn't spare us any of the grief or gore. Sometimes I didn't really understand the characters and their feelings. The plot line doesn't really follow a conflict-resolution trajectory: it is just a continuing saga of a few generations of Puget Sound's first settlers, and as such the plot wasn't very satisfying. Closer to real life, perhaps, but there was never a sense of resolution. Dillard's writing is very rewarding.
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LibraryThing member katefear
don't get too attached to any characters in this book...
LibraryThing member EthanYarbrough
An epic story covering 40 years in the history of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, starting in 1855. Many interesting characters and details of how the early pioneers to the region lived, survived and developed the land into the cities that now thrive -- Seattle, Tacoma, and Bellingham,
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WA, which is the primary focus of the book. Because I live in these cities, I found the history fascinating and Dillard's descriptions of the place precise and accurate. I did find myself wondering if the book would hold the interest of people not familiar with the place. For that to happen, the narrative must be compelling and if this book falls short in any part, it may be that. Though the times that are the focus of the book required much in the way of physical effort from the people, Dillard's narrative spends a majority of the time inside the minds of the characters as they ruminate on life and what seems to be ever-present death in this difficult environment. But there are enough moments in which characters we have come to know are cast onto the rocks of fate in heart-wrenching ways that, overall, you do find yourself rooting for these characters and I found myself wanting to spend more time with them just to make sure they'd all be alright in the end. There is a sense of realness to the characters and I was left missing them, both because the story was over and because they all live more than a hundred years ago and so as vibrant as they are in the pages of the book, they are long gone and buried by time.
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LibraryThing member busterrll
Great Book Best author I have come across since Robertson Davies passed away
LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
"The Living" is a deft novel and as driven as I was to finish reading I didn't find the overall narrative to be too compelling. Dillard holds a weighty and biblical tone through most of the book as it chronicles life of pioneers in Whatcom County. Reading about life during this time was detailed
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and if you've ever visited the Puget Sound area the perspective of awe and wonder Dillard captures in the setting is well crafted indeed. It is a great skill to be able to capture the lives of particular people in a particular place but I finished the book thinking "so what?" as the sound of the wind through douglas fir rattled in my head.
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LibraryThing member kslade
Good historical novel in the early pioneer days of the Pacific Northwest.



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