Thursday, April 29, 2010
Easter Bartlett has just left her home in the South after a series of devastating events has struck her family. Traveling alone from town to town, Easter goes from working as a sideshow act in a traveling circus to becoming a schoolteacher in a one room school. Though she meets new acquaintances and falls in love, Easter is ever on the move whenever the difficulties of life threaten to trap her. When she meets up with an old friend from her home town, Easter decides to travel to New York and gets caught up in the Harlem Renaissance, becoming a contributor of short stories to various magazines. In New York, Easter runs into an old friend from the circus and meets a very rich white woman who will become her benefactor, never dreaming that one day this woman will betray her in the worst of ways and send her future spinning out of control. Though Easter has risen high, she ultimately falls to earth once again, her dreams and plans thrown by the wayside of her ever-changing life. Filled with heartache and wisdom, Bernice McFadden blends the tale of Easter Bartlett with the tale of the real life heroes of the Jim Crow south and the Harlem Renaissance.
Recently I had the distinct honor of meeting Bernice McFadden at a local book fair. She was an amazingly warm and friendly person and she was very enthusiastic about her praise for the blogging community. She took the time to answer some questions for me and really went out of her way to make me feel comfortable. It was such a pleasure to get the chance to talk to her and I am really pleased to have had the chance to review for her.
This book was a very quick read for me. The fact that the prose was so fluid, coupled with the fact that the story moved along with such a great clip made this a book that I was easily engrossed in and finished in one afternoon. Easter's story is one filled with frustration, heartbreak and pain. She made for a very likable protagonist and I relished the time spent with her. She had a great innocence about her and she saw the world in such an interesting way that it was impossible not to fall in love with her. Most of her reactions to her fate seemed genuine and well written but there were points that I felt that I would have loved to have read more about her internal thought process.
The story itself was very inspired. McFadden has a lot to say about the marginalization of the black community during the early century, and says it well. She brings to her reader the agonies and atrocities of lynching and the despicable aspects of segregation and prejudice in crystal clear prose, never overdoing it. Instead she paints a picture of the inequalities between the two races with intensity and a level of reality that I was really able to appreciate. Her characters, real and imagined, were truly a product of their times and they really opened my eyes to the vast gulf separating the races during that time period.
I think that one of the most interesting parts of the book revolved around the storyline of Easter's time at the circus. It was there that she met the flamboyantly sexual and intense dancer, Rain. Though the story alludes to the fact that Easter had bisexual leanings, it was never clearly picked as a subject to focus on in the narrative. Rain and Easter's relationship was interesting because it held the hallmarks of a mother/daughter relationship, as well as being a sisterly and lover-like relationship. When Easter flees the circus, it was easy to see that what she was really fleeing was the feelings that she had for Rain, feelings that were, unfortunately for her, not reciprocated. I was saddened that Easter had to leave with such sadness and bitterness in her heart but was very pleased when the two women's paths crossed again in New York. Though their relationship was very different the second time around, it was nice to see that their journey together would continue.
As the story winds towards its conclusion, Easter has been relegated to a sad fate. Many years have passed and due to the scandal that transpired after her betrayal, Easter is left living out her days far from the splendor in which she once lived. I liked the way McFadden chose to reveal those lost days of Easter's past through flashbacks and thought that it was fitting that she eventually was able to put the pain of her past to rest. Easter found a way to live with her lot after all, though the twists of her tale were full of the sadness of dreams left unfulfilled.
This book had an ever-winding and surprising story that I felt was written with genuine feeling and clarity. I think that those readers who have not yet tried any of McFadden's books would probably do well to start here, though I have also heard great things about another book of hers, called Sugar. If you are the type of reader who enjoys character driven dramas that deal with some of the darker parts of American history, I would definitely recommend this book to you. I think that although it's a shorter read, it carries an important message that should be passed down through the generations. A very thoughtful read. Recommended!
The very generous author of this book, Bernice McFadden has offered one signed copy of Glorious to my readers for a giveaway! If you would like the chance to win, please leave your e-mail address in the comments section of this post. A valid e-mail address must be left in order for you to be entered in this giveaway! I will draw a winner with the help of random,org on May 15th. Good luck to all entrants!
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.