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The Maid's Version

Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction, 2014

ebook / ISBN-13: 9781444732863

Price: £9.99

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In 1929, an explosion in a Missouri dance hall killed forty-two people. Who was to blame? Mobsters from St Louis? Embittered gypsies? The preacher who cursed the waltzing couples for their sins? Or could it just have been a colossal accident?

Alma Dunahew, whose scandalous younger sister was among the dead, believes the answer lies in a dangerous love affair, but no one will listen to a maid from the wrong side of the tracks. It is only decades later that her grandson hears her version of events – and must decide if it is the right one.


Just 164 pages. But Woodrell can pack more story, truth and human emotion into that space than most writers can in three times the pages . . . The Maid's Version is a superbly textured novel . . . Readers will be reminded once again why critics so often compare him to William Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy.
Bruce DeSilva, Associated Press
Woodrell's distinctive qualities are his very puckish humour and the way he drapes extravagantly writerly prose on the bones of a ferociously exciting whodunit . . . In Daniel Woodrell's West Table, neighbours and hearts come as crooked as can be and are all the more fascinating - and yes, loveable - for that.
Sam Leith, Literary Review
Woodrell's evocative, lyrical ninth novel is deceptively brief and packs a shimmering, resonant, literary punch . . . From an economy of poetic prose springs forth an emotionally volcanic story of family, justice, and the everlasting power of the truth.
Publishers Weekly
Woodrell's majestic gifts create an unforgettable impression of one woman's life played out against a horrific crime that was never solved but remained to haunt all involved.
Irish Times
Woodrell's prose is breathlessly good. His sentences are pure music, with apocalyptic echoes, vividly descriptive but with a peculiarly archaic feel that marks them out as highly original . . . If a better novel is published this year then it will have to be something truly extraordinary.
Irish Examiner
[He has] a genius for compression. The much-lauded Woodrellian prose continues to dazzle . . . In its fealty to the Athenian conception of tragedy - that collision of the accidental and ordained - The Maid's Version is one more resplendent trophy on the shelf of an American master.
William Giraldi, The Daily Beast
I'd gladly sign a petition to see Mr. Woodrell included on any roll call of America's finest living writers
Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
The Maid's Version will sweep readers away . . . Woodrell knows how to command a reader's attention - not so much with plot twists, but with well-built sentences. They can sound almost biblical, if the Bible had been written in the Ozarks . . . Readers will simply fall into the story.
Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
In fewer than 200 pages, but with a richness of theme and character worthy of the weightiest Victorian novel, Woodrell brings West Table to life in the varied experiences of its sons and daughters . . . The Maid's Version affirms Daniel Woodrell's niche in American Literature.
Wendy Smith, Washington Post
Gorgeously gritty . . . Inspired by true events, Daniel Woodrell's probing, powerful tenth work of fiction confirms his status as one of our finest little-known writers.
Leigh Haber, O, The Oprah Magazine
Short chapters reveal only the most telling and scarce details of Woodrell's lineup of characters, lending the story a spare, bitter charm . . . No craftsman toiling away in a workshop ever fashioned his wares so carefully. A commanding fable about trespass and reconstruction from a titan of . . . fiction.
Kirkus (starred review)
Daniel Woodrell is the American writer we increasingly look to for the latest urgent news on the American soul. The Maid's Version is a beautiful engine of a novel, whose cogs were not entirely made by human agency, one might hazard to say. As regards the level of reading pleasure, the highest. As regards the level of literary achievement, the highest.
Sebastian Barry, author of On Canaan's Side
The Maid's Version is stunning. Daniel Woodrell writes flowing, cataclysmic prose with the irresistible aura of fate about it.
Sam Shepard
Under the grisly, seductive, colloquial tone is a very unusual thing - a communitarian novel: a novel concerned with how we live - and sometimes die - together, how we share experiences through the rituals of speaking and writing, because that is the fundamental spirit and purpose of language.
Sarah Hall, Guardian
Blends the folkloric with Southern gothic, historical recapitulation with fictional investigative journalism, all suffused in his matchless tenderness of feeling . . . In The Maid's Version, the oral and the poetic tangle and splice. Alma and Ruby are illiterate: the grandson's narration raises their tongue to occasional elegiac beauty.
Stevie Davies, Independent
Skilfully interweaving two narratives, he gradually reveals the truth about a love affair in 1920s Missouri and an explosion in a dance hall that killed dozens of people. Woodrell's unique prose - laconic and yet . . . possessed of an offbeat lyricism all its own - is well suited to a story reminiscent of a folk tale passed down through the generations.
Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times
Woodrell orchestrates a captivating, almost operatic narrative of how tragedy and grief can transform places and people . . . With an economical brilliance similar to that of Denis Johnson . . . Woodrell delivers a stunning story of one small town, and all of its profound complexities and opaque mysteries
New York Times Book Review