Vintage reads: The heart is a lonely hunter

SARAH CORBET
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014

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The heart is a lonely hunter by Carson McCullers

I've always known that I am a bit of an old romantic, the old-fashioned kind who believes that with  all great love there comes great loss.

So therefore, the title of this book does not suggest  mere heartbreak over a glass of chardonnay a la Bridget Jones, but of a deeper, relentless struggle for  understanding and companionship that only years of wandering in the wasteland can bring.

Phew!  But this is not a depressing book. Nor is it cynical in its approach to the human need to feel  wanted and valued.

Instead it paints a beautiful picture of life in small town America during the  1930s and its inhabitants: A young girl growing up fast, an old doctor fighting for the pride of his  race, a pugilistic union man and, at their centre, a deaf mute called Singer. 

Unable to communicate  to the world their hopes and dreams alone, each character is drawn to Singer, where they find his  silence offers nonjudgmental solace and the possibility of answers. 

Published in 1940, this remarkable book is still able to evoke feelings of great love and, yes, loss in  its readers, with its quietly spoken voice and heartfelt glimpses into the everyday worlds of ordinary  people. What is perhaps more remarkable is that not only was it written when McCullers was just 23 and the world was on the brink of self-destruction, but that it is able to speak so  truthfully.   

For (lonely) lovers everywhere of To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple and all other classic dusty Americana.

Sarah Corbet, of Hamilton City Libraries.

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- Waikato Times

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