Friday, January 31, 2014


The Waters of Kronos, Conrad Richter, Alfred A Knopf, 1960, 176 pp

Conrad Richter was a well respected mid-century writer whose series about a midwestern pioneer family, The Trees (1940), The Fields (1946), and The Town (1950), were his most popular books. I read The Town because it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1951 and enjoyed it for the good story telling and the history of the midwest.

The Waters of Kronos is a whole different type of novel. I would say it was experimental for its time though not as far out there as his contemporaries Wright Morris or John Barth.

John Donner is an aging man in ill heath when he goes back to his home town, seeking answers in the past. Unionville lies somewhere amongst the mountains of the northeastern United States and has been underwater for years due to a large hydroelectric dam on the River Kronos.

Donner talks his way past a guard at the gates of the fenced lake and before long finds himself in the Unionville of the past, in the years of his childhood. Richter uses a cross between time travel and symbolism as he has Donner roam the town where no one, even members of his own family, recognizes him.

Page after page of description, of memories and nostalgia, do not reveal much about Donner's childhood, except that he feared his father, adored his mother, and left home as a young man. He works through a Freudian/Jungian hatred of his father but finally still longs for the mother's love and acceptance.

Richter won the National Book Award for The Waters of Kronos, wrote one more novel and passed away in 1968 at the age of 78.

(The Waters of Kronos is available in a university paperback reprint by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. I found a copy at my local library.)

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