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The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise…

The Master Butchers Singing Club (original 2003; edition 2005)

by Louise Erdrich

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1,839513,776 (4.05)136
Title:The Master Butchers Singing Club
Authors:Louise Erdrich
Info:Harper Perennial (2005), Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Murder, small town butcher shop, german people, loyalty, devotion

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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 (49)  German (1)  French (1)  All languages (51)
Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
The Master Butchers Singing Club – Louise Erdrich
5 stars
If there is a single complex, messy, deeply felt human emotion that this book doesn’t touch, I don’t know what it is. The Master Butchers Singing Club is a beautifully told saga of a small mid-western town and the lives of its people. The story begins in Germany with Fidelis Waldvogel at the end of the first world war. It follows his transition from expert sniper in the German Army to immigrant American butcher and shop owner. Fidelis is only one of the significant people in the life of Delphine Watzka. The actual focus of the book is Delphine’s story. Erdrich writes believable characters in all their complexity and draws a picture of their lives through major and minor crisis. Her language is layered with meaning and lyrically beautiful. At first, I read it quickly, completely engaged in the lives of the characters. I’m sure I will read it again to fully appreciate the structure of the story and the depth of the language. It’s well worth multiple readings and that may be what defines it as American Literature.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Four people are introduced in the first two chapters of this historical romance. Four people whose story will comprise the rest of the novel: Fidelis and Eva, and Cyprian and Delphine. Yet, the true center of the novel will be Delphine Watzka for it is her story that will intertwine with all the rest and it is her character that you as the reader will come to love and admire.

We meet Fidelis Waldvogel, a German sniper, at the end of World War I as he returns to his hometown in Germany. Fidelis seeks out Eva Kalb, the pregnant fiancée of his dear friend, Johannes, and after informing her that her fiancé has died in the war he shares his promise to Johannes that he would marry and take care of her. Fidelis, a butcher by trade, leaves Germany by himself to emigrate to the United States in order to escape the immense poverty brought on by the war. His limited funds and sausages take him as far as Argus, North Dakota. Working for the local butcher and then setting up his own butcher shop in Argus he is able to send for his wife, Eva, and her child, Franz.

Delphine Watzka is the daughter of Roy Watzka, the town drunk, who grew up in Argus, North Dakota. Delphine never met her mother and leaves the town to become a vaudeville performer soon meeting Cyprian, a World War I veteran, with whom she enters a unique relationship. The two make money from an act where Delphine performs as a table upon which Cyprian balances. After accidentally observing Cyprian engaging in sex with another man their relationship changes, but the two remain together, posing as a married couple. They eventually return to Argus and settle there. From this point on Delphine's life becomes intertwined with that of Eva and the family she is raising with Fidelis.

Louise Erdrich enriches the story with family mysteries and the inevitable observations of small town Midwestern life. As someone who grew up in a small Midwestern community in the 1950s I felt at home with the people of Argus. Delphine ultimately takes a job in Fidelis' Butcher Shop which demands hard work from Fidelis and Delphine as well. Delphine learns domestic skills from Eva and this proves useful as Eva contracts a cancer and in spite of treatments and help from her sister-in-law, Tante, she dies. Tante and Cyprian both leave Argus. Tante returns to Germany with Erich and Emil. Cyprian returns to the life of the traveling performer. Both departures pave the way for a romance between Delphine and Fidelis, which eventually results in marriage.

These and other developments in the community leave Delphine and Fidelis together and eventually they marry, cementing a relationship that develops slowly with Delphine first becoming a replacement mother for Fidelis' four boys. Their story and the impact on their lives of the Second World War lead to a heartwarming denouement as the family enters the decade of the fifties.

The author demonstrates superlative story-telling skills in this sage of four decades in the lives of the four people we met at the beginning of the novel. Her character development and understanding of the psychology of relationships makes this a wonderful book. It was my introduction to the writing of Louise Erdrich and I only regret that I had not discovered the charms of Fidelis, the Master Butcher, and his Singing Club sooner. ( )
  jwhenderson | Mar 31, 2016 |
I had not read Louise Erdrich before when my book club decided to have a "reader's choice" featuring this author. The book was newly released, so that's the one I chose.

Delphine, Fidelis, Cyprian, Ray, Step-n-a-half, Markus and Evan are the characters who populate Argus ND just after WW I. We follow them to about 1950. Not much happens, and yet, a lot happens. This is not so much a plot-driven work as a character-driven one. And I got caught up in the stories of their lives. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 9, 2016 |
Absolutely adored this book - it had been sitting on my shelf for several years. Why did it take me so long? ( )
  olduvai | Jan 19, 2016 |
''The Master Butchers Singing Club,'' details the the fortunes of a fictional German immigrant named Fidelis Waldvogel, who settles in Argus, raises four sons with his German wife and eventually marries a local Argus girl of mysterious parentage. Fidelis was a German sniper who watched his best friend die in the last days of the Great War. He returns home to tell his friend's fiancee, Eva, of his death, discovers she is pregnant and proposes marriage. After seeing a slice of American bread Fidelis begins to dream of beginning a new life in America. He sets off with only a suitcase of his father's famous sausages and his family's butcher knives, first by ship and then by train to the West Coast. By the time he has sold all his sausages and exhausted all of his funds on train fare, he finds himself in the town of Argus, North Dakota where he will open a butcher shop and make a home for Eva and his sons. Eva soon becomes best friends with a young woman named Delphine, who has come to work in the butcher shop. The daughter of the local drunk, Delphine is smart, restless and melancholy beyond her years.

Before long a strange series of events affect the characters in this story and what characters they are. This novel probably has one of the most outstanding sets of secondary characters I've ever read. Everyone has a unique identity and unique emotions. They all have stories and secrets. The characters are richly developed and the plot is complex and unpredictable. This story is a series of separate yet simultaneously occurring stories woven into one. The mood is somber and discouraging and filled with human brutality and tragedy as all of the characters attempt to cope with numerous hardships and complicated emotions. I found it to be a great story with amazing characters and story lines, mysterious twists and turns, and a spectrum of human emotion. It was my first Louise Erdrich novel but I can't imagine it being my last.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 49 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:02 -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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