Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hill Towns by Anne Rivers Siddons

This novel is a book sale find from several years ago. I finished reading it yesterday and still cannot really make up my mind about it.

My main problem with it is that I didn't like one single character in the book. The protagonist, Catherine (Cat) Compton Gaillard, lives on a mountain in Tennessee near famed Trinity College. Her father is a teacher there and her mother is from a poor family, and they are killed in a grotesque accident on a bridge down off the mountain. Five-year-old Cat is sleeping in their car near the bridge so she is unhurt. From that moment she believes she is only safe on the mountain, and refuses to leave, even to live with her wealthy Compton grandparents. She instead insists on staying with her mad maternal grandmother and her grandfather who is a janitor at Trinity.

She marries Joe, a teacher, and they have one child, a daughter who is born blind. Cat's entire life revolves around her home and the mountain. Finally she seeks counseling, and when Joe's protege and his girlfriend decide to get married in Rome, Joe and Cat accept their invitation to go to Rome for the wedding and then accompany the newlyweds on their honeymoon through Tuscany.

It ends up with a group of seven people traveling together and the discord the journey evokes. They drink so much I felt half drunk throughout. One of the women keeps going off after a man, any man, so mostly they are three couples, but three more different couples you couldn't find.

All this time Cat has occasional panic attacks, but stubbornly continues to wander off alone. I just couldn't understand her, so most of the time I felt like shaking her silly.

At the same time, the story seems to be leading up to an event and I couldn't stop reading because I needed to find out how the trip eventually ended. So I must admit it was quite a story even though it drove me crazy more than once. The characterizations are masterful, the description of the places they all go is enough to make me want to pack a bag and go, now. Siddons is an astonishing writer, but I do wish I had been able to like at least one character.


  1. Delighted that you read this so now I know not to! :--)

  2. I use to love this author and then about 3 years I read one book that disappointed me and I never read another.

  3. Jill and Diane, I think it takes someone with a wealth of patience like I have to read this book. It reminded me of Anita Shreve's books in that so much of it takes place in the main character's mind, and her mind isn't terribly reliable. I do think I'll try another. Started to read one of her novels years ago but mistakenly left it in a motel. Someone had grabbed it by the time I called them. Or maybe that was fate saving me from finishing it?

  4. Siddons is hit or miss for me. I can enjoy a book without liking the characters, but the story has to be really compelling for me to do so.

  5. I understand what you are feeling. A book has to contain people I like spending time with, at least one. I'll skip this one.