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The Bittlemores

de Jann Arden

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363687,254 (3.43)3
A heartfelt, comic, and deeply satisfying debut novel from the #1 bestselling author, singer-songwriter, member of Canada's Music Hall of Fame and star of her own hit TV sitcom. A little bit All Creatures Great and Small, a little bit Fargo and all Jann Arden! On mean Harp Bittlemore's blighted farm, hidden away in the Backhills, nothing has gone right for a very long time. Crops don't grow, the pigs and chickens stay skinny and the three aged dairy cows, Berle, Crilla and Dally, are so desperate they are plotting an escape. The one thing holding them back is the thought of abandoning young Willa, the single bright point in their life since her older sister, Margaret, ran away.      But Willa Bittlemore, just turning 14, is planning her own rebellion. Something doesn't add up in the story she's been told about her missing sister, and she's beginning to question if her horrible parents are even her parents at all. Just as things are really coming to a head, a bright young police officer starts investigating a cold case involving a baby stolen from a little rural hospital 28 years earlier, and Willa and the cows find out exactly how far the Bittlemores will go to protect a festering secret.      Written with Jann's trademark outrageous humour and full of her down-to-earth wisdom, The Bittlemores is a rural fairytale, a coming-of-age story and a prairie mystery all-in-one, saturated with her observations of the world she grew up in and her deep connection to the animals we exploit. This marvel of a first novel digs into how people come to be so cruel, but it also glories in the miracle of human kindness.… (mais)
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Exibindo 3 de 3
An imaginative, inventive novel and although rife with Arden’s outrageous humour this is no hilarity-filled romp. The OTT story is set on the Bittlemore’s ghastly farm, home to ill-treated children and animals. The mistreated animals plan a 1984-style protest, while Willa Bittlemore who is just turning 14 is attempting to discover her origins. Could she really be the daughter of this loathsome couple? If you can get past the animal and child abuse, the storytelling, which has more than a trace of verisimilitude, will horrify.

I’m a fan of Jann Arden but this didn’t hit the mark for me. ( )
  VivienneR | Jun 5, 2024 |
Wonderful,imaginative comic novel. ( )
  alans | Apr 17, 2024 |
The marketing blurb for Jann Arden’s debut novel reads:

On mean Harp Bittlemore’s blighted farm, hidden away in the Backhills, nothing has gone right for a very long time. Crops don’t grow, the pigs and chickens stay skinny and the three aged dairy cows, Berle, Crilla and Dally, are so desperate they are plotting an escape. The one thing holding them back is the thought of abandoning young Willa, the single bright point in their life since her older sister, Margaret, ran away.

But Willa Bittlemore, just turning 14, is planning her own rebellion. Something doesn’t add up in the story she’s been told about her missing sister, and she’s beginning to question if her horrible parents are even her parents at all. Just as things are really coming to a head, a bright young police officer starts investigating a cold case involving a baby stolen from a little rural hospital 28 years earlier, and Willa and the cows find out exactly how far the Bittlemores will go to protect a festering secret.

Written with Jann’s trademark outrageous humour and full of her down-to-earth wisdom, The Bittlemores is a rural fairytale, a coming-of-age story and a prairie mystery all-in-one, saturated with her observations of the world she grew up in and her deep connection to the animals we exploit. This marvel of a first novel digs into how people come to be so cruel, but it also glories in the miracle of human kindness.

I came to Arden’s novel through the recommendation of a dear friend with whom my literary tastes, as he puts it, often intersect. It would be disingenuous of me not to admit my first reaction was: Oh yeah? Another literary attempt by another celebrity. So it was with that unfair prejudice I flipped open the first pages of Arden’s absurdist tale fully prepared to begin huffing and skimming. That, however, didn’t happen at all.

Immediately I was drawn in by the spare but at times beautiful writing, the frankness of her prose, the honesty of the — albeit fantastical — story she spun. Now you have to understand there are talking cows in this tale. Even a cat. And perhaps the pigs come into the conversations, and maybe even the chickens. It’s all rather Animal Farm, but also not, and most definitely not a dark cautionary tale. And did I mention one cow can write? Just a little? In the dirt with a hoof? And those most definitely are cautionary messages.

But what is truly remarkable throughout all this nonsensical, fantastical, weird and often disturbing tale is that not for a moment did I question the reality of these absurdities; that, in itself, speaks highly of Arden’s ability to suspend reader disbelief and ensnare you in her delicious, diabolical web.

What’s even more impressive, is that Arden employs an omniscient point of view, so that in any given page the reader is travelling from the thoughts of one character to another, all done seamlessly and with an innate ability to handle the unreliable narrator.

That being said, this is no gut-busting romp. Throughout I had to wonder how much of the character sketches and actions were autobiographical, because being a survivor of childhood abuse myself, there was a great deal of gravitas and truth in what Arden relates, and at times I found that familiar and disturbing. So, if you’re likely to spin off into panic or depression reading about that sort of thing, I would suggest you go into the story forewarned.

My one and only criticism is the happily-ever after ending, which Arden absolutely is allowed, given this is her story and her vision. But for myself, I found it too saccharine, and it was at that point my disbelief came into play. I suppose, however, given all the two main characters endured at the hands of the alcoholic and crazed Bittlemores, they’re allowed their happily-ever-after.

Should you read The Bittlemores? Sure. Why not? It’s a good story, well-told, with dastardly villains, downtrodden women, and downtrodden cows (one of whom is literate), and pigs, and chickens, and an orange cat. ( )
  fiverivers | Jan 9, 2024 |
Exibindo 3 de 3
In the two decades since Calgary singer-songwriter Jann Arden began writing her debut novel, The Bittlemores, she came up with various fates for the titular characters who make up the dark heart of the story.

That would be Harp Bittlemore and Mrs. Bittlemore, or Mrs. B. Arden didn’t think the latter was worthy of a first name. They are easily two of the most loathsome characters put to paper in recent memory. They are hate-filled, delusional, violent and selfish. Harp is particularly mean when hopped up on homemade booze, which is almost always. Their actions early in the novel destroy a family and ruin at least two childhoods. They are particularly cruel to the animals that suffer on their farm, which is presumably somewhere in rural Alberta although that is never made clear. But Arden is clear, she wants readers to “hate” these people.

Make no mistake about it, The Bittlemores is still dark. Arden’s take on poverty, alcoholism and the long-term impact of neglect, isolation and abuse occasionally recalls the work of Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor or New Brunswick’s David Adams Richards. On the other hand, it is also comical. It has an endearing coming-of-age story at its centre, told in snappy first-person narration by a wise-beyond-her-years 14-year-old girl named Willa. Because Arden is a bit fuzzy on time and place, it also often has a fable-like feel. This is strengthened by the introduction of the Bittlemores’ long-suffering dairy cows, virtuous and heroic beings who talk amongst themselves and plot their escape.
adicionado por VivienneR | editarCalgary Herald, Eric Volmers (Nov 17, 2023)
 
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A heartfelt, comic, and deeply satisfying debut novel from the #1 bestselling author, singer-songwriter, member of Canada's Music Hall of Fame and star of her own hit TV sitcom. A little bit All Creatures Great and Small, a little bit Fargo and all Jann Arden! On mean Harp Bittlemore's blighted farm, hidden away in the Backhills, nothing has gone right for a very long time. Crops don't grow, the pigs and chickens stay skinny and the three aged dairy cows, Berle, Crilla and Dally, are so desperate they are plotting an escape. The one thing holding them back is the thought of abandoning young Willa, the single bright point in their life since her older sister, Margaret, ran away.      But Willa Bittlemore, just turning 14, is planning her own rebellion. Something doesn't add up in the story she's been told about her missing sister, and she's beginning to question if her horrible parents are even her parents at all. Just as things are really coming to a head, a bright young police officer starts investigating a cold case involving a baby stolen from a little rural hospital 28 years earlier, and Willa and the cows find out exactly how far the Bittlemores will go to protect a festering secret.      Written with Jann's trademark outrageous humour and full of her down-to-earth wisdom, The Bittlemores is a rural fairytale, a coming-of-age story and a prairie mystery all-in-one, saturated with her observations of the world she grew up in and her deep connection to the animals we exploit. This marvel of a first novel digs into how people come to be so cruel, but it also glories in the miracle of human kindness.

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