Edition cover

  • ISBN10: 0141185228
  • ISBN13: 9780141185224
  • Paperback
  • 352 pages
  • Penguin Classics

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Carson McCullers

Reviewed by deargreenplace

Rating: 5 out of 5

  • Posted 11 years ago
  • Viewed 750 times, 0 comments
  • Average user rating: (5/5)

A moving study of loneliness

This is a wonderfully subtle and affecting story made all the more impressive by knowing that McCullers was only 23 years-old when she wrote it.

She tells the story of John Singer, a deaf-mute who lives in a small Southern town populated by an array of well-rounded characters (Mick was my favourite, and the author's too, I suspect).

Singer initially lives with another deaf-mute friend - Antonapoulos - but when his friend becomes ill, he finds himself alone.

In attempting to combat his loneliness, Singer starts taking meals at the New York Cafe, where he meets wannabe revolutionary (and drunk) Jake Blount. He is befriended by a tomboyish and ambitious young girl named Mick and a serious-minded black doctor.

I loved this book because although it is set in the segregated South at a post-Depression time of great poverty, it is not about any of these issues, per se. McCullers writes about her characters and their lives in such detail and so vividly and evocatively, that you become emotionally invested in them rather than looking clinically at the political and social aspects of that time, which have an impact for sure, but the book doesn't come across as being about "issues" in the way that something like To Kill A Mockingbird does.

Politics are simmering away in the lives of Blount and Doctor Copeland most certainly, both of whom have their own causes to promote. Mick is desperate to escape small-town life and dreams of a bigger future for herself, but she is tethered to the poverty of her large family.

Singer becomes a confidant to them all and is perceived as a wise and educated man. He has time and hospitality for each of them, but his attempts to get them to befriend each other are unsuccessful, and of course they fail to see that he is desperately lonely.

I was surprised that I hadn't heard more praise for this book. The characters are so closely observed, and the struggles of their lives so subtly portrayed, that I'd recommend it to all to be read at as early an age as possible. It really was that significant to me.

Buffy: (to Giles) See, this is a school, and we have students, and they check out books, and then they learn things. Giles: I was beginning to suspect that was a myth.

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