Monday, 7 September 2009

The well and the mine (Phillips)

Virago books recently contacted me via Twitter and asked me if I'd be interested in receiving a review copy of The well and the mine, a book by Gin Phillips which is being published at the start of November. Of course the answer was "yes", and the book duly arrived. Finding myself all packed up but with nowhere to go until the next day, I decided to get my holiday reading underway early, and treat myself to this.

The book tells the story of 9 year old Tess Moore, who lives in a small town in Alabama during the 1930s depression. It starts with her hearing the splash of a baby falling into a well, and follows her as she tries to find out who would do such a thing. The story is told from the persepective of both Tess and the rest of her family members, father, mother, sister and brother, and builds up a picture of their life, the circumstances of the mining community within which they live, and her parents lives before they settled down. An impressive number of issues are covered by the story - having children and responsibility, growing up, poverty and working in the mines, and I found it an absorbing read where I learnt a lot about the period as well as being gripped by the story.

The writing itself is also extremely powerful, such as this passage where Albert the father reflects on his role as a miner: "Half my life was spent taking things out of the ground, the other half laying them in. Trying to dig my way into the dirt from up here, then praying I could get to the surface from down here"

I also loved this extract where Tess is describing tomatoes: " "They're happy vegetables aren't they Papa" asked Tess, chomping great chunks out of hers. "Cheerful and excited. Like lemons are pouty and peaches are flirts".

I thought this book was absolutely wonderful, and the story stayed with me right into my holiday. I'd really recommend getting your hands on this when it comes out, and I would not be at all surprised to see it on the Orange longlist next year.


  1. This sounds right up my street, I love books set in the Deep South. Lucky you getting a review copy! I will go and put it on my amazon wishlist now so as to be sure not to forget to order a copy in November.

  2. Just looked this up on amazon and an earlier edition (possibly the American one?) has the same barefoot girl looking wistful sitting on a fence photo as Eudora Welty's The Optimist's Daughter, AND my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Is there only one photo of a young Southern girl available to book publishers, I wonder?!

  3. That's interesting. I didn't post a picture cos my copy was just a proof copy.

  4. I'm definitely looking forward to reading my copy now!

    Rachel, I noticed the same thing when I looked up the book upon Virago offering it; how unusual (if I remember correctly it is actually a photograph of Eudora Welty but I may have imagined that).


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