Review – The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips

“AFTER SHE THREW THE BABY IN, NOBODY BELIEVED ME for the longest time.  But I kept hearing that splash”

What a fabulous opening to this debut novel!  Nine year old Tess Moore and her older sister Virgie strive to discover the identity of the strange woman who threw a baby into their well in 1931.  However, the more important story which comes to the fore is how the community of Carbon Hill,  Alabama cope with the hardships which accompany the Depression. 

The story is told from multiple points of view in the first person from the five different members of the Moore family.  Sometimes this can be very distracting in novels as the reader strains to remember plot details but it works very well here as the prose is simple and strong and the story is related in a relaxed manner which matches the lazy hot Summer during which events take place.  This is a very subtle, gentle tale very much focussed on the characters rather than a complicated plotline – I was reminded at times of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with A Pearl Earring, not thematically but it shares the same langourous ambiance as Chevalier’s novel. 

Whilst the story is low key, the themes are significant – racial tensions, family relationships, moral values.  Poverty is colourblind but there is still a hierarchy and social order to be observed and Tess’s father Albert is very naive to think he can readily challenge long established segregation. 

This is a wonderful debut novel written in a very understated way which is reminiscent of Fannie Flagg’s novels.  I will certainly be on the lookout for more novels by this writer.

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  1. Verity says:

    I’ve just found your blog via your comment on FarmlaneBooks and have added it too my reader! I wanted to say how much I loved this book. Look forward to reading more of your posts!

  2. admin says:

    Thank you Verity. As I mentioned on Farmlane, this is all very new to me but it’s lovely to be amongst like minded folk!

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