Review: The Ninth Hour

Author: Alice McDermott
Published: September 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
NPR Concierge Staff Pick 2017
FLW Rating: 2/5

This book feels like a book from another age – like when you read an excerpt from an older book in a new nonfiction, and you have to reread the text a few times because the writing style feels so foreign. As much as most readers appreciate the philosophy of ‘show, don’t tell’ this book felt like it could use a little more telling.

The book opens with the suicide of a married man who was recently let go from his job, while his wife, Annie, is out at the shops. Several Sisters of the Poor, respond to the death and bring Annie, who is expecting their first child, in to the nunnery. The story thereafter is told second-hand by the couple’s grandchildren as they discover the history of their parents and grandparents.

The writing just didn’t work for me, and while the book was only 247 pages long, I felt like I was putting in a lot of extra effort to get through each page. Part of my distance may have been how unfamiliar I am with nunneries of the early 1900s, but I just felt constantly like I was missing the plot despite my best efforts to understand it.

I may still recommend the book so someone a bit older, with more of an interest in nunneries and the Catholic Church, but to me, the plot, the characters, and the writing all fell flat. If you’re someone who prefers fast pace literary fiction, this is one I’d skip.

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