Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2014 book 61

Jane Nickerson's The Mirk and Midnight Hour
I'm gonna say this right off--I have major problems with a book set in Mississippi during the Civil War where the only slaves we see considering themselves to be "friends" with their masters. How am I supposed to take anything else that happens seriously when that is so disgusting and historically inaccurate? I get that Nickerson wants her protagonist to be sympathetic, but this is not the way to do it. (Having the protagonist be too stupid/naive to notice several failed murder plots against a relative doesn't help, either.) Anyway, about halfway through this basically turns into a Civil War version of Summer of My German Soldier, only without the pathos of that book, and with a predictable romance instead. (Apparently this is supposed to be a retelling of Tam Lin, but I'm not familiar enough with that story to have picked up on it.) (It's also a companion to Strands of Bronze and Gold, which I liked more.) There's also a whole thing with hoodoo that I'm more than a little uncomfortable with, especially once it gets rapey. Ugh. I just can't get behind a book that presents all its slaves as content, if only they had a paycheck. It's gross, and irresponsible to write a book that way. Slavery was BAD, you can't have a story that's like, look at all these nice and happy slaves who love their masters! Plus the end is completely ridiculous. C.


Anonymous said...

Slavery was bad. We all get that. But it is NOT historically accurate to represent all slave/master relationships as the big plantation big boss cruel master trope. I actually liked this story more than the companion book (STRANDS) because it gave a different look into slavery. The fact that some people treated their slaves well does not imply that slavery is a good thing.

Alicia K. said...

My complaint was mostly with the depiction of the SLAVES and their stated opinions, not the owners. Portraying ANY slaves as happy/content/BFFS with the master seems pretty racist/improper to me, even if their owners were nice to them. And in what world would a slave child be allowed to run free with the owners' children? I'd love to see some historical evidence of /that/.

Alicia K. said...

Let me clarify here. ALL slavery is bad, even if the owner is nice! Your "a different look into slavery" = the classic paternalistic viewpoint, where whites are nice and have slaves for the slaves' own good. Slaves love their masters b/c they take such good care of them! SO RACIST!

Why do you want to see a "different look into slavery" in a novel? Why are you commenting about slavery anonymously on my blog? Why do you enjoy seeing slaves and masters be friends? Do you secretly think slavery is ok if the whites are nice?

Anonymous said...

Of course all slavery is bad.

I believe that's what I said with my last post.

And yes, I do enjoy reading of slaves and masters who are friends because it is a historically accurate portrayal. It did happen. I have read many many slave narratives and the slave/master relationships, like all relationships, came in all kinds and in all ranges of complexity.

This is a novel not a sunday school lesson. Fiction is supposed to present all kinds of things good and bad.

No. Slavery is not okay if the whites are nice. Even if the nice whites are the slaves rather than the masters, it still isn't okay. Slavery is a special kind of evil that harms everybody involved. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it in fiction. Literature is not about propriety, it is about truth.