Saturday, February 26, 2005

Review - The Snow Pit by Reuben Bercovitch

Set during World War II, The Snow Pit follows the lives of a graduating class of 1941 in rural Nebraska, while concentrating on the troubled romance between Ethan and Evelyn. The war touches each of the characters in different ways as they struggle to come to terms with the unexpected changes the world conflict brings. Themes such as racism, poverty and guilt are explored through the course of the story.

This is a hard book for me to review because, though I recognize a skillfully plotted narrative and well-drawn characters, the manner in which the story was told did not appeal to me. Not only was there at least one scene of, in my opinion, completely unnecessary violence, but the author included very detailed accounts of various battles that had me skipping pages at a time.

Nor did I find the main characters particularly sympathetic. Evelyn especially made some questionable choices in her relationship with Ethan that seemed selfish and went against the character development illustrated throughout the story. What really hurt the book for me, however, was the ending, but that is a matter of personal taste.

This being said, there is no doubt that Mr. Berkovitch is a skilled writer, one who creates interesting secondary characters who move in a completely believable and tangible world. Never did I doubt any of the period details or settings. Indeed there are times his prose is breathtakingly beautiful such as when he describes a new location or shows the impact of the war on those left behind.

My feeling is that men will find this book far more to their taste than most women, focussing as it does on the nitty-gritty details of military life and strategy. Recommended only for those who enjoy novels about the grim realities of war.

© Teresa Eckford, 2004

This review first appeared in the February 2005 issue of The Historical Novels Review

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