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Saturday, March 26, 2016

THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead

 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD  by Colson Whitehead
My big problem with this book is: it doesn’t know what it is.  Is it historical fiction? Yes, and no. Is it science fiction? Yes, and no. Is it alternative universe/history? Yes, and no.  I had the uncomfortable feeling all while reading it that I was being played by the author. And that is not a comfortable -- or desirable -- feeling.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD tells the story of Cora, a plantation slave, and her desire for freedom.  In this book, the underground railroad is just that – underground.  Many interlocking tunnels with a variety of engines and baggage/passenger cars traverse this railroad. Apparently no one hears or notices these steam engines or the building of the tunnels.  The slavery portion of the story is purely antebellum south and rings true. The rest of the story – not so much. 
The first half of the book found me wondering why I kept reading. The last half, I just wanted to know how Cora fared in this awkward world. I can’t recommend this book.
2 of 5 stars

Monday, March 14, 2016

THE FORGOTTEN ROOM by Lincoln Child



THE FORGOTTEN ROOM  by Lincoln Child
Here you have it – an exciting thriller with no profanity, no hot and heavy sex and little violence. Well, there is some violence – several murders, a grisly suicide (or maybe not a suicide), a crazy person or two, a secret room with diabolical machines and, of course, the hapless scholar cum detective. 
The characters are decently drawn, the plot is clear, the tension is heart stopping.  It is easy to see why Child is a bestselling author.  If you like mysteries that slowly draw you in and then amp up the tension, this is the book for you.  One of the best of the genre.
5 of 5 stars

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

SISTER OF MINE by Sabra Waldfogel



SISTER OF MINE  by Sabra Waldfogel
Although this novel takes place during the years of the Civil War, it is more a novel of two sisters  – one white, one black --  and how they learn to not just tolerate, but love each other. Adelaide is the white daughter of the largest plantation owner in their small town.  Rachel is her half-sister, born of her father’s liaison with one of his slaves.  Rachel serves as her sister’s maid. 
The novel backtracks to cover the earlier life of the family. In flashbacks, the family dynamics, Adelaide’s family’s Jewishness, Adelaide’s social punishment for a broken engagement, her later marriage and the repercussions of failing to love her husband are explored.  The Civil War serves to bring the plot to its conclusion.
The novel explores Jews in the South, marriage in wealthy families, the plight of slaves, abolition and slave owners, social conventions in antebellum Southern states, and the dynamics of slaves bearing the master’s children. 
The characters are well drawn and act and speak in reasonable terms. Good research has been done.  The plot is creative and interesting.
4 of 5 stars