Archives for American history

Book review: Darktown

Darktown by Thomas Mullen is a gripping book. A combination of the social history of black Americans in post-war pre-civil rights USA, and crime story, it tells the story of the first black policemen in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1948 and the physical, emotional and moral challenges they faced. Page after page, and they turned quickly, I was astonished by what happened and the knowledge that similar events really took place. It is a commentary on racial divides in the USA that the summer (2016) this novel about white police brutality was published, white policemen are still shooting and mistreating black citizens. Politics aside, I read so quickly because the story of Officer Lucius Boggs and the case of the murdered Jane Doe grabbed me and made me resent the moments I wasn’t with them on the page. Twined together are the stories of Boggs and Police Officer Denny Rakestraw; one black cop, one white cop, both dissatisfied with the rules they must police and with the way black people, cops and citizens, are denigrated, both disturbed that the dead Jane Doe has been ignored. Boggs and Rake investigate alone and off-duty, risking suspension plus hatred and injury at the hands
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Golden Age

When I go on holiday I see a lot of people around the pool reading ‘family sagas’, usually a historical setting, based on one or two families, with characters that lock you in. That’s what the ‘Last Hundred Years’ trilogy by Jane Smiley is like. In the first book, Some Luck, I studied the family tree at the front. It started with the two key figures, Walter and Rosanna Langdon. The names in the future generations, stretching to the bottom of the page meant nothing. I was interested in Walter and Rosanna’s story. In Golden Age, the final instalment, I became locked into the story of those names at the bottom of the family tree, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Langdons. The story opens with an arrival, a newcomer to the family introducing himself. No-one can see forsee at that time what role will be played by Charlie Wickett and how his appearance reverberates through the Langdon generations. The story is a fascinating journey through American history including Richie becoming a congressman, his twin brother Michael, the Machiavellian one of the family, makes his fortune and loses it again on Wall Street. Walter’s great-grandson Guthrie fights in Iraq and
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: At the Edge of the Orchard

Tracy Chevalier is a ‘must buy’ author for me and At the Edge of the Orchard does not disappoint. It is a story about roots – of family and trees – about the pioneers who populated built America’s mid-west and west coast, battling swamp and mountains. Most importantly it is about apples. The scent of the fruit imbues every page. But this is not a romantic story. The Goodenough family live an at-times brutal life as they try to establish an apple orchard in Ohio’s Black Swamp in 1838. Love them or hate them, the apples affect the direction of their lives. The story started slowly for me as we hear the family’s daily life told by mother Sadie and father James. The two are so antagonistic that you wonder how they ever married. They battle the elements, each other and Sadie’s need for applejack, to put food in the mouths of their surviving children. In winter they wade through mud, in summer they battle swamp fever. Sadie is an almost completely unsympathetic character, hiding in a bottle while her husband hides with his apples. The children, if they survive, are adults before their time. The story really took off for me
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Categories: Book Love.