Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m NOT Reading #1: 47 July 11, 2010

I don’t give up on books easily.  For me to cast a book aside takes a lot.  I’m always trying to find something redeeming in what I read.

I picked this up in the clearance section of Half Price Books.  That should have been my first clue.

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47 by Walter Mosley

Little, Brown and Company, 2005

b

Pretty standard cover fare. Not gripping, but it WAS on clearance.

b

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From School Library Journal

Grade 7-10–The intense, personal slave narrative of 14-year-old Forty-seven becomes allegorical when a mysterious runaway slave shows up at the Corinthian Plantation. Tall John, who believes there are no masters and no slaves, and who carries a yellow carpet bag of magical healing potions and futuristic devices, is both an inspiration and an enigma. He claims he has crossed galaxies and centuries and arrived by Sun Ship on Earth in 1832 to find the one chosen to continue the fight against the evil Calash. The brutal white overseer and the cruel slave owner are disguised Calash who must be defeated. Tall John inserts himself into Forty-seven’s daily life and gradually cedes to him immortality and the power, confidence, and courage to confront the Calash to break the chains of slavery. With confidence, determination, and craft, Tall John becomes Forty-seven’s alter ego, challenging him and inspiring him to see beyond slavery and fight for freedom. Time travel, shape-shifting, and intergalactic conflict add unusual, provocative elements to this story. And yet, well-drawn characters; lively dialogue filled with gritty, regional dialect; vivid descriptions; and poignant reflections ground it in harsh reality. Older readers will find the blend of realism, escapism, and science fiction intriguing.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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I just couldn’t do it.  I did try.  But I’d sit down to read, chew through a bunch of pages, and then realize I’d only read about 8 pages.

I couldn’t buy into this book.  Sorry, School Library Journal.  I just don’t agree.  I DON’T “find the blend of realism, escapism, and science fiction intriguing.”  And I am a fan of speculative fiction.  This was just too out there, too far-fetched.  I made it to the half-way point before I gave up; it didn’t show signs of improving.

Further, it felt like Mosley was just trying too hard to deliver his message about freedom.  I do not like feeling like I’m being preached at.  The way I see it, you can send your message, or you can smash it and grind the broken pieces into my hand.  I’m going to enjoy one method a lot more than the other.

Sometimes you just have to walk away.

 

What I’m Reading #6: Property January 27, 2010

This book showed up in my mailbox yesterday.  I finished it last night.  It pretty much derailed my reading of Megan Chance’s Susannah Morrow.

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Property by Valerie Martin

Vintage, 2004

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From Booklist

Set in Louisiana in 1828, Martin’s latest novel depicts the psychologically charged relationship between a wealthy white woman and the slave she detests. Manon Gaudet is bored and dissatisfied with her stifling marriage to a man she loathes. She takes much of her resentment out on her slave, Sarah, who is her husband’s unwilling mistress and the mother of his only two children. Manon hates the children, especially the eldest, Walter, who is allowed to run wild on their estate. Her husband (who is never given a name) tries to reach out to Manon, but she rejects his attempts with disdain and condescension. The claustrophobic estate only makes Manon resent her life more, and she is grateful when she is unable to conceive a child. When a group of runaway slaves descends upon Manon’s home, their attack brings the simmering tensions between Manon and Sarah to a head, resulting in a dramatic confrontation that only serves to heighten Manon’s obsession with subjugating Sarah. The book is taut and atmospheric and effectively chronicles an obsessive fixation. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Martin’s book is not for those looking for a light read.  Don’t let the length and straightforward narration fool you.

Strengths: Martin crafted a grotesquely bleak story–I was completely riveted and repelled, and completely unable to stop reading.  Manon is bitter and tormented by her own decisions as well as her husband’s transgressions.  Her despair is vividly portrayed, and her hatred for Sarah, her husband’s unwilling slave mistress, is so blatant it fairly screams.  It’s a reminder to me that even truly horrible plot events make for an excellent narrative.

Potential Flaws: The direction of the plot is, for those familiar with the history, perhaps a bit predictable.  We sense exactly where this is going to end.  This did not bother me, but for those who like the unexpected, it may be a bit disappointing.

My Rating:

Definitely worth the time–bleak yet skillfully written.