Posts Tagged With: 1950s

Bone by Bone by Bone by Tony Johnston

This novel is told through the eyes of David Church, a young boy (the novel covers four years, from when he is 9 to when he is 13), living in Tennessee in the 1950s.  David makes friends with a boy called Malcolm – but David is white and Malcolm is black, and it is a dangerous place and time for a white boy and a black boy to be friends. David’s father tells him that if Malcolm ever sets foot inside their house, he will shoot him.  His father expects David to obey him, but David finds himself questioning his father’s beliefs, and the events that he sees going on around him.

Set in a Southern state in the 1950s, and narrated by a child, comparisons with To Kill a Mockingbird are inevitable.  I personally don’t believe that this book is as good as TKAM (which is one of my all time favourite books) – but it is certainly a good read, aimed at younger readers.  Hopefully it would open up the subject for discussion.

As it is narrated by a child, a certain naivety is to be expected, and certain events are therefore somewhat simplified.  However, the book very ably portrays David’s distaste (and later disgust) with his father’s views.  The writing flows easily and the story moves on at a rapid pace, and I felt that the author did a good job of getting into the mindset of a young boy.

I did feel that Malcolm was not really explored as a person, although he is one of the main characters.  I would also like to have seen more of David’s Uncle Lucas, who does not share the father’s racist views; Lucas was one of the better fleshed out characters, despite being on the periphery of the story.  The one character who was most fully rounded was probably that of Franklin Church – David’s father.

The Ku Klux Klan also appear in the book, and indeed a couple of the scenes filled me with a genuine sense of unease.  There are a couple of genuinely upsetting parts of the story, which might be worth bearing in mind for younger readers.  Overall though, I would certainly recommend this book – as mentioned earlier, it’s aimed at young adults, but I think it’s a worthwhile read for adults of all ages.

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Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes

An unnamed male teenage narrator describes summer in London in 1958.  In the earlier parts, his main concerns are his love for ex-girlfriend Crepe Suzette, his misgivings about his family, and spending time with his various friends.  However, as the novel progresses, he describes the rising racial tensions of the time, which inevitably spill over into violence.

The narrator lives in a poorer part of London which he refers to as Napoli, and whose population is very multi-cultural, and also houses a lot of people on the fringes of society at the time, such as homosexuals and drug addicts.  A new youth culture is just emerging and so is the popularity of jazz music in Britain.

I enjoyed this book, on the whole, although I found the narrator hard to engage with, despite the fact that we were seeing events through his eyes.  He seems to have more acquaintances than actual friends, and many of those are fairly transient characters, who seem to serve as a sounding board for the narrator’s thoughts and beliefs.

Things do become more heated at the close of the book, and with it, the maturing narrator also starts to care about bigger issues.  However, although he has strong feelings about the events that take place, I found little emotion in his telling of such events.

I wasn’t around to experience the era or the location of the times described, but the telling of the story does seem to have an air of authenticity about it, and described London as a vibrant and exciting place to be, but with an air of underlying tension.

I usually prefer character driven books, but in this novel, the characters take second place to the city of London itself, which is really the biggest character of all.

Overall, an enjoyable read, and much better than the film adaptation!

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