In the aftermath of the American Civil War, a penniless soldier sells a small boy called Jonathan, who may or may not be his own son, to Kansas farmer, Alvah Stoke, in search of some cheap and malleable labour The irony is that, just after America has been torn apart in the cause of abolishing black slavery, a white boy is effectively made a slave, as it appears was actually the case for the author s own grandfather whose life inspired this novel.
Deprived of love and affection, not merely education but even decent living conditions and food, Jonathan is soon the butt of bullying from Alvah s son George, jealous of his intelligence, practical ingenuity, good looks and natural grace So he is inexorably transformed from a sweet, inquisitive chatterbox into a wary and embittered youth, eventually able to make his escape on one of the new steam trains which capture his imagination Despite his ability not merely to survive but to succeed against the odds, Jonathan s psyche is poisoned by his very understandable fury over the years of abuse, and the desire for revenge focussed on George Moving between scenes from Jonathan s life to that of his granddaughter as she pieces together his life story from his coded diary and the ramblings of his son, alcoholic doctor Atlas, Joan Brady shows how the destructive effects of slavery can blight a family for three generations.
This original, quirky novel drips with cynicism and venom which happens to be the title of another of Brady s novels and includes some at times gratuitously unpleasant scenes, one of which almost caused me to give up Yet despite this, and the extreme mental or physical ills which seem to beset many of the main characters, this book is a page turner Apart from being a good yarn , with dazzling verbal pyrotechnics and some telling observations, it brings alive a sense of the landscape and pioneering spirit of the States, as railroads are forged west to California, new towns are formed, only to die in a few years, as in the brilliant descriptions of the town of Mogul, ferried out in the desert for the purpose of mining stignite Mogul was growing up with America, no sewers, no trees, no street lights, no running water a full blown boom town geared to the quick sale of everything, alive or dead, worldly or divine Walls of saloon and Methodist chapel alike advertised whiskey, shaving cream, dried beef and without so much as a change of paint colour or script style God Himself and the virtues of cleanliness and so on for page after page of wry, sparkling prose Despite the perhaps over laboured attempt to apply theories of warfare to Jonathan s battle with George, regardless of the recurring message that life has no meaning, much as we may wish that it did, that truth s a convention,a fashion it changes every year , being alive is miraculous and wonderful.
It is a pity that this deservedly award winning novelist, whose own life seems quite intriguing, has not written and is not better known in this country.
Great book What a sad situation, a white 4yr old boy sold as a slave after the Civil War for 15 dollars That slave life scarred him so that no one who came near him afterwards could escape from the effects of it Makes you think and meditate A very powerful story, it s hard to understand the feeling of being a slave It applies to the past and future of any generation Some may not get to live it in a life time, some may experience the feeling at first hand.
I read this book at the recommendation of Ryan Holiday s reading list email, otherwise it wouldn t have come across my path I m glad it did.
This book is odd The story, structure and style all felt foreign in a bizarrely enticing way Jonathan, the protagonist, is as human as a character can be You love him always, pity him most of the time and know you should loathe him occasionally, but you find yourself extending grace to him that you wouldn t give to yourself I like protagonists of this sort, the kind you re perplexed by, but in the same kind of way that you re perplexed by your own humanity.
Brilliant and painful to the bone Winner of the Whitbread award years ago, this book found me ,in a free pile at a second hand book shop.
The story of the generations of suffering induced by one small white boy being sold into bound service,ie slavery,is proof that karma exists The novel is apparently based on a true story The prose is knife sharp One of the modern day hostages.
held in Lebanon,wrote That The life of a hostage IS a kind of quarter life A hostage, like any prisoner,is a species of slave The mind forming and informing itself in patterns of maniacal exuberance and mind wrenching despair the hostage is a convoluted man,a man pushed so far and so deep into himself that he can Do little but experience a kind of mental narcosis,like a diver in rarerified air Then comes release the sudden freedom,the multiplicity of it,the dazzling,dizzying disorder of it.
And when the maelstrom settles a little,when There is time to draw in a breath,the ex hostage finds himself left with what others who delve too deep are left with this pretty but brittle surface of ours,cheap,artificial, irrelevant What once fit What once was life itself no longer fit,could never be made to fit again.
Normality becomes another kind of bondage.
for ita reject from Croydon library that figures.
in the mid 90s it has lain on the top of a wardrobe since then It is one of the finest American novels I have read I ve read over two hundred fifty of those guys in every paragraph it seems to tell a truth of the human quest for self knowledgein so many different forms Joan Brady deserves a wider readership than me you should read this too.
Wow Amazing book raw, profound, compelling from the first chapter the senator was still growing power as his main crop, manuring it well with money and years of patronage to the end if you re going to get through life at all, your faith s got to start somewhere Some parallels to Angle of Repose by Stegner, with a physically disabled protagonist narrator researching family history in the Midwest and western states, exposing darkness, strength, changing fortunes and inherited weaknesses.
A Vivid Historical Novel Part Poignant Biographical Fiction, Part Raw Frontier Epic TIMETaking Flight From An Extraordinary Real Life Family History, Here Is A Riveting Novel Of How The Past Lives On, Generation After Generation Theory of War Is The Richly Imagined Story Of One Woman S Journey Into What A Distant Relation Might Have Experienced And How Echoes Of His Suffering Haunt His Descendents To This Day From The Trade Paperback Edition Finally one of those 99p book deals that was great I ve read a few that have been fine, but this one I really liked It s the story of a young, white boy sold into slavery aka indentured labour after the end of the civil war in the US The book is based on real life data points of the authors grandfather but re imagined as biographical fiction Most of the characters are damaged and not particularly likeable but their pain and struggles and complications are believable and compelling.