INFANTICIDE. A black mother suffering human bondage for her lifetime says, “Not for this daughter, this Beloved, no life for her.” Sethe felt the last breath drain from her infant daughter. Her spirit returns.
Toni Morrison captures the depth of America’s Slave narrative in Beloved, her eleventh novel. So worthy of the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature. There are libraries filled with works on this subject but Belovedis complete, deep, emotional an overwhelming accomplishment by a brilliant storyteller. The book stands alone. Do you believe in ghosts, spirits? You will. Beloved is a careful, considered, committed read but the library of slavery is not complete without these emotionally crafted pages by Morrison. The author, who also wrote The Bluest Eye died in 2019 at the age of eighty eight. I almost feel that an apology is necessary for not having read Morrison sooner in my personal quest for understanding the depth of slavery.
Hear the words that rang out for years after the Emancipation Proclamation. “They had a single piece of paper directing them to a preacher on DeVore Street. The war had been over four or five years then, but nobody white or black seemed to know it.”
” Eighteen seventy-four and whitefolks were still on the loose. Whole towns wiped clean of Negroes, eighty-seven lynchings in one year alone in Kentucky, four colored schools burned to the ground, men whipped like children, children whipped like adults, black women raped by the crew.”
If you think you have read enough of this story. You have not. Beloved has much to say. Read on.
It is amazing to me that HORSE by Geraldine Brooks is not high on the New York Times Best Seller List! I place it among the two best novels I have read this year and yes the Boston Globe, ( Brooks lives in Massachusetts), lists it as number #1.
HORSE, weaves its central characters across two centuries. By definition Horse is a novel but the storytelling is so well researched for me it falls into the historical novel category.
You will be enthralled with a story set in both the 19th and 21st centuries. Brookes ties her characters and the story line across generations and social issues of the time. Lexington, the greatest thoroughbred that ever lived. The Black Slave horse groom Jarret, generations of bondage, racism, wealthy southern dandies, the Civil War, Quantrell, Jim Crow, 21st century police violence against Black men, the world of equine art and a love story between a Smithsonian scientist from Australia and a Nigerian American art historian. The storyline blend is simply perfect. Indeed a page turner in every good sense of the term.
Whether or not you love horses this novel tells a story wherein every word, scent, event, every social issue and injustice could very well be non-fiction.
And yes, with all of the wonderful major roles in HORSE, watch for Clancy. You’ll see.
I think there is much of Geraldine Brooks in this book.
Also by Geraldine Brooks The Secret Chord and Caleb’s Crossing. ( Search gordonsgoodreads.com)
Another great addition by Colson Whitehead. HARLEM Shuffle by the author of Pulitzer and American Book Award winners THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and THE NICKEL BOYS, is a great add to Colson’s collection.
This work by Whitehead reminds me of the of the people and places of New York written by the great Pete Hamill. This entertaining novel is a trip through the topography and Harlem Society of the 1960s. Shuffle is a crime story and so much more because like Hamill’s writing of Downtown in Shuffle you see and smell the vivid sights of the city. ” No new frontier stretched before him, endless and beautiful-that was for white folks-but this new land was a few blocks at least and in Harlem a few blocks was everything. A few blocks was the difference between strivers and crooks, between opportunity and hard scrabble. ” In Colson’s book some characters often merged into a fixating combination.
Shuffle is well worth the trip. Great humor and a crime story fit for Carl Hiaasen’s library. Lucky You comes to mind. Summer isn’t over. Shuffle is a good fun read by one of America’s great writers.
The historical novel genre trumps non-fiction in Honoree Fanonne Jeffers‘ incredible work, THE LOVE SONGS of W.E.B. DuBOIS.
From slave ship to the 20th Century, a family story that evokes memories of Alex Haley’s ROOTS. However, the impeccably researched detail, characters and story telling in LOVE SONGS goes beyond that classic work.
In reading LOVE SONGS I was called to events reported in iconoclastic The 1619 Project. However in LOVE SONGS, storyteller Jeffers is supreme. Like ROOTS, the events are personified and the story line captures the reader not just through the extraordinary events but for generations. Jeffers does not miss a single important issue that has faced African Americans both within society and individual familial generations. Her protagonists carry indelible images of the individuality within her race. Sub-themes tell stories of differing shades of black skin, and there is a strong feminist substance throughout her work that is deeply personal and often explicit. The W.E.B. Dubois connection will unfold but reading his The Soul of Black Folks will add great depth.
At seven hundred ninety pages LOVE SONGS is no quick read but Jeffers’ story telling, dialogue and imagery flows beautifully through every turn of the page. If I had a vote LOVE SONGS would warrant a Pulitzer and an American Book Award.
I loved Towle’s A Gentleman In Moscow and Rules of Civility, ( Search Gordon’s Good Reads) but his new novel THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY dropped me by the side of the road. Based on its ranking on the NYT’s best seller list, I may be in the minority. The character development and the structure of the book left me wanting for that clear story-telling that I have come to like from Towles. Your take may be the opposite but of the three books, this is surely a departure.
I recommend another very good “HAMILTON” read in addition to Ron Chernow’s popular biography. MY DEAR HAMILTON, A NOVEL OF ELIZA SCHUYLER HAMILTON by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie is an excellent work of well researched historical fiction. If you have not seen either the Broadway production or the movie HAMILTON read this novel first as a guide through the nuances of the story line. Additionally, it is an excellent stand alone summer read offering insight not only insight into Eliza’s and Hamilton’s relationship and the Revolutionary War but also the life style of 18th century New York City and the wealthy Dutch plantations along the Hudson.
The entire cast is in the book: Eliza, Hamilton, Angelica, Washington, Burr, Lafayette, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Lauren’s, Jefferson, King George, the Schuyler sisters and Hamilton children. A painless, enjoyable lesson in American History.
Dray and Kamoie also authored America’s First Daughter.
Another excellent Hamilton biography is ALEXANDER HAMILTON, A LIFEby Willard Sterne Randall.
Novelist Isabel Allende in her new book A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA takes her readers on a journey beginning with the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and ending in her native Chile.
Refugees from Franco’s takeover of Spain crowd over the French Border seeking asylum somewhere, anywhere. Poet-diplomat Pablo Neruda becomes a non-fiction co-narrator of the novel as the ship Winnipeg transports the disposed across the globe to his native Chile.
“Life is how we tell it” and so begins the story of lives lived and lost, loves of convenience and passion, glimpses of ruling classes, military juntas, Allende, Pinochet, escape to Venezuela and a return to the petal of the sea.
I have enjoyed Allende’s Daughter of Fortune, Island Beneath the Sea and The Japanese Lover. A LONG PETEL OF THE SEA is no exception. (Search this blog.) Wherever you may find yourself this summer, Allende’s new book or any of the aforementioned will be good company.
A look behind the closed door…many doors….many lives….all intertwined in Crosby, Maine, as small as a Maine fishing community gets. Olive Kitteridge is story of the young and foolish and of the crusty and stubborn. A novel of worn out love dying the death of boredom but then flushed with moments of unthinkable, improbable excitement in the dwindling daylight of Maine’s long winters . Elizabeth Strout offers a full menu of characters afflicted by nearly all of modern life’s life’s travails. The novel was deemed worthy of Pulitzer following its 2008 Publication.
Also by Elizabeth StroutAbide With Me and Amy and Isabelle.
Tommy Orange’s debut novel There There starkly reminds the reader of the certain truth, there is no going back. For American Indians “There” is no longer. Some try to make the best of circumstances, many do not.
Orange’s thirteen Native American characters who have been born into or transported themselves to city life creates a poignant and melancholy reality. Visions of their heritage, a There There, are intertwined with harsh reality. This creative story teller brings a voice from over the centuries delivering a stark message for contemporary America.
Orvil Red Feather stands in front of Opal’s bedroom mirror with his regalia on all wrong—he moved in front of the mirror and his feathers shake—-he worries suddenly that Opal might come into her room—Opal had been against any of them doing anything Indian—she treated it like it was all something they could decide for themselves when they were old enough—Indianing.
Readers of this blog know that there is much emphasis on biography and non-fiction here. When I was given a copy of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING BY DELIA OWENS my response was immediate. ” Thanks, I am overdue for a good novel.”
Little wonder this book has been on The NYT Best Seller list for over a year. Although a late comer for me, this novel done so, is a most pleasurable page turning read. If you haven’t already go for it. The book will not disappoint.