Both leading characters in this novel, the historical figure John Brown the abolitionist and his fictitious sidekick the story's narrator Onion or rather Henrietta or should I say Henry Shackleford, bring significant amounts of comic and sarcastic quality to this retelling of Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and the events leading up to it. McBride cleverly brings this tragic historical story and time period to life by using humor and southern black vernacular language with its colloquialisms and idioms.
Find an excellent full review of the book at apogeejournal.org.
"The Good Lord Bird will be most deeply resonant with those with some connection to the legacy of slavery, either personal or intellectual. If you have studied and read about the institution widely, especially works that depict its violence and dehumanization–Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Robert Hayden’s Middle Passage, Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography, Alex Haley’s Roots–the full force of McBride’s wit and withering commentary will not be lost on you. "
I think I learned something about slavery. I'd never heard of John Brown but my husband knew who he was, and now I know ,too.
McBride falsely presents Frederick Douglass as a child molester.
A refreshingly humorous piece of historical fiction here.
I highly recommend this book! It is a fascinating read with insight into aspects of our history, areas of the country, sexism, race interactions and just plain zaniness of life as imaged by the author. It clearly told a story that sets the stage for the civil war.
The dialect was a bit slow and tedious early on for me, but (as usual) it became common sense in no time.
This is a great read. The dialogue is refreshing compared to most new fiction. On a deeper level it's fascinating to watch how various African American characters treat one another and interact with one another.
I wasn't sure how I felt about this book in the beginning. It seemed wordy and a bit repetitive, but I developed a respect for the story and the author as the book continued. This was a crazy and incredible time in history and the legendary John Brown was quite a character. I think the author did a good job capturing the essence of the time and the man. The lingo was very well done.
The Good Lord Bird is a deliciously subversive perspective on the story of abolitionist John Brown, in the tradition of Mark Twain and yes, filmmaker Mel Brooks! This book is no respecter of halos, even when attached to iconic figures like Frederick Douglass (who sports a 'busted' halo in McBride's retelling). John Brown is an obsessive renegade and bible quoting fundamentalist, yet there is an otherworldly honesty in his red hot mission to destroy slavery. Mcbride has created real, flawed human beings, not caricatures. The result is a very funny, very moving story with a touch of the sublime.
"He was like everybody in war. He believed God was on his side. Everybody got God on their side in war. Problem is, God ain't telling nobody who He's for."
James McBride's National Book Award winning novel tells the story of John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry from the perspective of a young, freed slave who is mistaken for a girl and spends much of the novel dressed as one. Told from his perspective, it is simultaneously comic and brutal, with echoes of "Huck Finn" and "Little Big Man." McBride masterfully conjures up the violent past while touching on issues (race, identity, fanaticism) that are still with us. Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Jeb Stuart all make appearances. Two other novels about Brown worth checking out: Russell Banks's "Cloudsplitter" and G.M. Fraser's "Flashman and the Angel of Light."
2014 Inaugural Ross and Marianna Beach Author Series selection. See the NY Times review. Be patient with the narrator's (freed slave) dialect. It is a worthy award winner! Similar historical fiction: Not without laughter by Langston Hughes and Madam: a novel of New Orleans by Cari Lynn and Kellie Martin.
"I was born a colored man and don't you forget it. But I lived as a colored woman for seventeen years."
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