Prairie Nocturne is the story of three people connected to Montana in the 1920s. One of them is Black cowboy, son of a post-Civil War US Cavalry sergeant. One is a woman who abandoned her nascent career as a professional singer to return to family in Montana. The third is a scion of a very successful ranching family in Montana.
The rancher sends his employee with an impressive, untrained singing voice to the rancher's mistress for voice training. His motive seems to be a desire to see this cowboy make something more of himself. It also offers opportunities for him to see the voice teacher -- although the rancher's family is firmly ensconced in New York society and never spends time in Montana.
Interesting characters, but I never felt they were complete. Interesting story for most of the book, but not much more. Those things probably account for my surprise at the ending. There weren't enough hints for me to suspect what was coming.
I think that Doig also assumed that his readers were more familiar with early 20th century Montana than I am. But I doubt that many non-Montanans are. Nor are many Montanans. That limits the audience who can really understand the book.
The authors most read by Doig's readers (according to the Literature Map below) are Gretel Erlich, Clyde Edgerton, and Annie Proux. I've never read anything by any of them. And I don't know whether this is a recommendation of them or Doig.
Has someone else read any of Doig's books? Your thoughts?
- Ivan Doig's web site
- A Literature Map showing other authors read by Doig's readers
- Roberta Silman's more favorable review in the Boston Globe
(Makes me feel like a rather unobservant reader.)