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The Master Butchers Singing Club (P.S.) by…
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The Master Butchers Singing Club (P.S.) (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Louise Erdrich

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1,748444,053 (4.04)115
Member:karen_o
Title:The Master Butchers Singing Club (P.S.)
Authors:Louise Erdrich
Info:Harper Perennial (2005), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library, Historical Fiction
Rating:****
Tags:BCC, historical fiction, WWII

Work details

The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (2003)

  1. 10
    The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Helget (zinschj)
    zinschj: Both are stories of post-World War I immigrants struggling with their new lives in America.
  2. 00
    Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (ainsleytewce)
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English (42)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Fidelis Waldvogel manages to survive the horrors of World War I, then returns to his German village and marries Eva – the pregnant widow of his best friend who was killed in action. The newly married couple set out for America and end up in Argus, North Dakota, where Fidelis opens his butcher business.

Delphine Watzka returns home to Argus, North Dakota with her boyfriend, Cyprian after years of performing as a traveling act. There she discovers her alcoholic father and the bodies of a man, woman and child in his basement.

The lives of these two characters merge when Delphine and Eva meet. The two forge an instant friendship and become inseparable.

Louise Erdrich’s rich novel about a German immigrant and his family is tender, thoughtful, funny, and deeply emotional. As with all Erdrich novels, there are many sharply developed, often quirky, characters. Erdrich never rushes the tempo of her story, carefully setting her scenes and building the relationships between the characters.

Fidelis is a complex man with simple needs. Delphine mourns the mother she has never known and longs for a deeper relationship with a man. Both characters take center stage without diminishing the impact of the other, more secondary characters.

This book is, at its heart, a family saga with a bit of a mystery at its center. Erdrich is exceptionally talented and able to make all the pieces fit, integrating the characters into the community they inhabit and providing a deep understanding of life in twentieth century, small town America.

I have yet to read an Erdrich novel I have not loved and The Master Butcher’s Singing Club is no exception. Erdrich writes with a mix of poignancy and humor, meticulous detail, and vivid imagery. I did not want this book to ever end.

Readers who love historical family sagas and literary novels will embrace this book.

Highly recommended. ( )
  writestuff | May 28, 2015 |
At the close of the Great War, young German butcher Fidelis Waldvogel marries his dead friend's fiancee, Eva, and emigrates to the United States. Fidelis eventually owns his own butcher shop in small town Argus, North Dakota. Meanwhile, Delphine Watzka, daughter of the town drunk, returns home with her partner from a traveling acrobatic show. When Delphine meets Eva in the butcher shop, she sees in Eva the mother she's been longing for all her life. Their relationship is cut short by tragedy, but Delphine continues to be drawn into the Waldvogel's family circle.

I loved the experience of reading this book, and I didn't want it to end. Now that I reflect on it, I'm not sure I understand what Erdrich was trying to do with this book. Death is a recurring theme; burial even more so. The dead are buried. The living are buried alive. Bones are buried. Emotions are buried. Secrets are buried. The things that are buried don't always stay buried. I liked this book more than The Plague of Doves, but I think Erdrich can do better than this. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Apr 9, 2015 |
A great book about a family ( )
  PaulaCheg | Aug 15, 2014 |
Although a bit quirky, I loved this book. The Master Butcher is Fidelis Valdvogel, who fights for Germany in World War I, marries Eva, the pregnant fiancee of his best friend who was killed in action. Fidelis comes to America in 1922 and sells sausages to try to get to Seattle - but can only get as far as Argus, North Dakota. So he sets up a butcher shop there and brings Eva and her son over, and they have three more sons.

Meanwhile, Delphine Watzka has returned to Argus and her ever-drunk father Roy with her vaudeville balancing act performing companion, the French-Ojibwe Cyprian Lazarre.

Thus begins a novel with unusual happenings - a butchers' rivalry involving a dog and the formation of the singing group, the discovery of three sets of human bones in Roy's cellar, a rescue from a collapsing mound of dirt, and a murder, among others.

What makes it all work for me are the colorful characters. Delphine is really the protagonist of the book, but nearly all of those she encounters - Cyprian, Roy, Fidelis, Eva, their sons Franz and Marcus, Franz' girlfriend Mazarine, Fidelis' sister Tante, the town's Sheriff Hock, Delphine's friend Clarisse, the town's undertaker, even Step-and-a-Half, the town's bag lady - have intriguing stories.

The book also provides some insight into what life was like in small-town North Dakota in that era - 1922 to 1954. Prohibition, the Great Depression, and World War II all play a part in the book. I don't think author Louise Erdrich (who is of German, French, and Ojibwe descent) intended it to be historical fiction, though, she was just telling a good story. She does say in her acknowledgments at the end of the book that:

"The picture of the young butcher on the cover of this book is of my grandfather Ludwig Erdrich. He fought in the trenches on the German side in World War I. His sons served on the American side in World War II. This book is fiction except for snout salad [page 83], the bull's pizzle [pages 143-144], and my grandmother's short stint as a human table in a vaudeville act."

Erdrich reads this audiobook. Although she is not a professional audiobook narrator, and her reading is therefore not polished, she is effective.

© Amanda Pape - 2014

[The audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my local public library and my university library respectively. This review also appears on Bookin' It.] ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Jul 27, 2014 |
2008 One Book South Dakota selection.
  yellerreads | Jul 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Amazon.com Review
Louise Erdrich's The Master Butchers Singing Club is a powerfully told story of love, death, redemption, and resurrection. After German soldier Fidelis Waldvogel returns home from World War I to marry his best friend's pregnant widow, he packs up his father's butcher knives and sets sail for America. ....
added by eigram | editAmazon.com, Gisele Toueg (Jul 24, 2009)
 
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To my father, who sang to me.
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Fidelis walked home from the great war in twelve days and slept thirty-eight hours once he crawled into his childhood bed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060837055, Paperback)

Louise Erdrich's The Master Butchers Singing Club is a powerfully told story of love, death, redemption, and resurrection. After German soldier Fidelis Waldvogel returns home from World War I to marry his best friend's pregnant widow, he packs up his father's butcher knives and sets sail for America. He settles in Argus, North Dakota, where he sets up a meat shop with his wife Eva, who quickly befriends the struggling yet resourceful Delphine Watzka. Delphine, who runs a vaudeville show with her balancing partner Cyprian Lazarre, has returned home to Argus to care for her alcoholic father. While most of this emotionally rich novel focuses on the changing landscape of small-town life as seen through Delphine and Fidelis's eyes, Erdrich does a masterful job of illuminating hidden dramas through her secondary characters. Erdrich's portrayal of these various townsfolk, including members of the Master Butchers Singing Club, truly shows off her storytelling talent. Her ability to infuse each character with a distinct and multifaceted personality makes this novel an intimate and thought-provoking adventure. --Gisele Toueg

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:50 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

"What happens when a trained killer discovers, in the aftermath of war, that his true vocation is love? Having survived the killing fields of World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns home to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend who was killed in action." "With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher's precious set of knives, Fidelis sets out for America, getting as far as Argus, North Dakota, where he settles. Over the years he works hard, building a business, a home for his family - which now includes Eva and four sons - and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. The group embraces everyone, from the local banker to the town drunk, the sheriff, the other butcher in Argus, and an elusive drifter, part Ojibwe, part French, whose balancing act is a wonder to behold." "What happens when the Old World meets the New - in the person of Delphine Watzka, a daughter of Argus whose origins are a mystery even to her - turns out to be one of the great adventures of Fidelis's life. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted; she meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine's life, and the trajectory of this novel by Louise Erdrich."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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