The hill people and the Mexicans arrived on the same day. It was a Wednesday, early in September 1952. The Cardinals were five games behind the Dodgers with two weeks to go, and the season looked hopeless. The cotton, however, was waist high to my father, almost over my head, and he and my grandfather could be heard before supper whispering words that were seldom heard. It could be a "good crop." Thus begins the new novel from John Grisham, a story inspired by his own childhood in rural Arkansas. The narrator is a farm boy named Luke Chandler, age seven, who lives in the cotton fields with his parents and grandparents in a little house that's never been painted. The Chandlers farm eighty acres that they rent, not own, and when the cotton is ready they hire a truckload of Mexicans and a family from the Ozarks to help harvest it. For six weeks they pick cotton, battling the heat, the rain, the fatigue, and sometimes, each other. As the weeks pass Luke sees and hears things no seven year old could possibly be prepared for, and finds himself keeping secrets that not only threaten the crop but will change the lives of the Chandlers forever. A Painted House is a moving story of one boy's journey from innocence to experience.
One day at the Dessoto County courthouse, John Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.
That might have put an end to Grisham's hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career - and spark one of publishing's greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.
Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction.
For once, there is not a lawyer or courtroom in sight in this engaging novel by John Grisham. The story opens in September 1952, in rural Arkansas. The cotton is ready for picking and seven-year-old Luke Chandler, the narrator, is preparing to help his family with the chore of harvest. From this simple setting there develops a strong narrative in which we see Luke growing up rapidly while recording many crises. His family and their hired band of Mexicans and hill people must struggle not only against the elements but also against the past. The writing is wonderfully evocative, silky smooth and with just the odd colloquialism to remind us that this tale is told by a small boy. There is a deep sense of warmth, of family life, of kinship and mutual respect for those of the clan. Outsiders, meanwhile, must prove their worth. Not all is bucolic and wholesome, however. Through Grisham's polished prose we see God-fearing, hard-working people living on the verge of poverty with all the attendant worries this involves. It is a thoroughly American story, set in the early 1950s but redolent of lingering Depression. The pace is deceptively easy, disguising a poignancy that gives the tale a tougher edge as young Luke discovers the farm's many secrets. The one flaw is Grisham's portrayal of Luke, some of whose observations and choices of words would be more appropriate to a 30-year-old than to a child. However, this is an absorbing story that will win Grisham many new fans. (Kirkus UK)
Published: December 2001
Dimensions (cm): 17.8 x 11.1 x 3.3
Weight (kg): 0.33