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The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden
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The Book of Harlan (edition 2016)

by Bernice L. McFadden (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
18122114,174 (4.08)2
Bernice L. McFadden has been named theGo On Girl! Book Club's 2018 Author of the Year WINNER of the2017 American Book Award WINNER of theNAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Fiction) 2017Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee (Fiction)! AWashington Post Notable Book of 2016 "McFadden uses the experiences of her own ancestors as loose inspiration for the life of Harlan, whom she portrays from his childhood in Harlem through imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp and his struggles afterward to put his life back together." --Library Journal "Simply miraculous...As her saga becomes ever more spellbinding, so does the reader's astonishment at the magic she creates. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry, intolerance and cruelty, and at the center ofThe Book of Harlan is the restorative force that is music." --Washington Post "Bernice L. McFadden took me on a melodious literary journey through time and place in her masterpiece,The Book of Harlan. It's complex, real, and raw...McFadden intricately and purposefully weaves history as a backdrop in her fiction.The Book of Harlan brilliantly explores questions about agency, purpose, freedom, and survival." --Literary Hub, one of Nicole Dennis-Benn's 26 Books From the Last Decade that More People Should Read "McFadden's writing breaks the heart--and then heals it again. The perspective of a black man in a concentration camp is unique and harrowing and this is a riveting, worthwhile read." --Toronto Star "The Book of Harlan is an incredible read. Bernice McFadden...has created an amazing novel that speaks to lesser known aspects of the African-American experience and illuminates the human heart and spirit. Her spare prose is rich in details that convey deep emotions and draw the reader in. This fictional narrative of Harlan Elliot's life is firmly grounded amidst real people and places--prime historical fiction, and the best book I have read this year." --Historical Novels Review, Editors' Choice "McFadden packs a powerful punch with tight prose and short chapters that bear witness to key events in early twentieth-century history: both World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Migration. Partly set in the Jim Crow South, the novel succeeds in showing the prevalence of racism all across the country--whether implemented through institutionalized mechanisms or otherwise. Playing with themes of divine justice and the suffering of the righteous, McFadden presents a remarkably crisp portrait of one average man's extraordinary bravery in the face of pure evil." --Booklist, Starred review The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan's parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre--affectionately referred to as "The Harlem of Paris" by black American musicians--Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizardto join him. But after the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald--the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany--irreparably changing the course of Harlan's life. Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden's mesmeric prose,The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden's familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.… (more)
Member:RobinDawson
Title:The Book of Harlan
Authors:Bernice L. McFadden (Author)
Info:Akashic Books (2016), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
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The Book of Harlan by Bernice L. McFadden

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I enjoyed reading this book very much. I loved it. There is so much to love in these pages, and so much attention to history. There is a loving attention to characters and their foibles that I found very endearing. I cared a lot about these people. The story resolved itself in an ending that, although completely implausible, was entirely satisfying. It was that kind of story--a story where I loved the characters and wanted good things to happen to them. The book is much more about heart than head, but I just let it in, and let it be what it was, and let Bernice McFadden tell me her story the way she wanted to tell it. I was richly rewarded.

The pace is breathless. I felt like Alice Through the Looking Glass getting pulled along by the Red Queen. Huge shifts in the story can take place in a sentence, or in half a sentence. Characters come and go and their stories are full of happenings and then they leave the stage. It's not a 'minimal' style so much as it is what I would call an "intensely compressed" style. This marriage of a simple semantic style with a global, historic, epic story was new to me. I thought it was a very effective way to tell this story, though, in which the history of the 20th century, in particular of African American social history, becomes the stage that these characters play across.

This is my first novel by McFadden and I'm very glad to have many more left to read. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
It is between a 3 and a 4 for me, so I rounded. Parts seemed rushed but an interesting book. Glad I read it. ( )
  gayjeg | Apr 25, 2019 |
During World War II, two African American musicians, Harlan and Lizard, are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at Buchenwald concentration camp which changes the course of Harlan's life.- HARD
  JRCornell | Jan 29, 2019 |
Yesssss! Historical fiction done right. This novel introduced me to numerous historical events that I am now planning to research. If you've never read a Bernice McFadden novel, make this one your first. This novel chronicles the life of Harlan and his family living in Harlem pre and post World War II. She even takes us on an adventure as a black in the Holocaust. As Bernice McFadden is known for her gifted storytelling this novel proves no different as she intricately weaves fact and fiction resulting in spellbinding, captivating read. At times, I couldn't see where the novel was going but when she took me there, it was there! I don't want to say too much and give away the novel. Just read it. ( )
  1forthebooks | May 29, 2018 |
I went into this novel blindly. I avoided reading the synopsis of McFadden's 10th novel because I knew it would hold my attention regardless of the subject matter.
It did!

I knew the story was mingled with her familiar ancestors (in which I knew from her blog: firstborngirl.blogspot.com) fictional and some non-fictional characters.

McFadden fulfilled my expectations in writing a riveting, engaging and somewhat dark story. The picture of the man on the cover is an intro into the depths of the main character "Harlan". I wanted to see Harlan triumph and come out on the other side a winner in some form or fashion. He was in prison twice, watched loved ones die, fathered twins that he didn't know existed and dealt with internal demons.

McFadden wrote with prose and descriptive scenes that puts you in the midst of the story and next to the characters.

I rank this high on my must read list. I can't wait to read her next novel "Praise Song for the Butterflies " publication date: 8/28/18. ( )
  altima313 | Mar 22, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
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I am the man, I suffered, I was there. - Walt Whitman
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For the Ancestors
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No matter what you may have heard about Macon, Georgia - the majestic magnolias, gracious antebellum homes, the bright stars it produced that went on to dazzle the world - if you were Emma Robinson, bubbling with teenage angst and lucid dreaming about silver-winged sparrows gliding over a perfumed ocean, well then, Macon felt less like the promised land and more like a noose.
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Bernice L. McFadden has been named theGo On Girl! Book Club's 2018 Author of the Year WINNER of the2017 American Book Award WINNER of theNAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Fiction) 2017Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee (Fiction)! AWashington Post Notable Book of 2016 "McFadden uses the experiences of her own ancestors as loose inspiration for the life of Harlan, whom she portrays from his childhood in Harlem through imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp and his struggles afterward to put his life back together." --Library Journal "Simply miraculous...As her saga becomes ever more spellbinding, so does the reader's astonishment at the magic she creates. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry, intolerance and cruelty, and at the center ofThe Book of Harlan is the restorative force that is music." --Washington Post "Bernice L. McFadden took me on a melodious literary journey through time and place in her masterpiece,The Book of Harlan. It's complex, real, and raw...McFadden intricately and purposefully weaves history as a backdrop in her fiction.The Book of Harlan brilliantly explores questions about agency, purpose, freedom, and survival." --Literary Hub, one of Nicole Dennis-Benn's 26 Books From the Last Decade that More People Should Read "McFadden's writing breaks the heart--and then heals it again. The perspective of a black man in a concentration camp is unique and harrowing and this is a riveting, worthwhile read." --Toronto Star "The Book of Harlan is an incredible read. Bernice McFadden...has created an amazing novel that speaks to lesser known aspects of the African-American experience and illuminates the human heart and spirit. Her spare prose is rich in details that convey deep emotions and draw the reader in. This fictional narrative of Harlan Elliot's life is firmly grounded amidst real people and places--prime historical fiction, and the best book I have read this year." --Historical Novels Review, Editors' Choice "McFadden packs a powerful punch with tight prose and short chapters that bear witness to key events in early twentieth-century history: both World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Migration. Partly set in the Jim Crow South, the novel succeeds in showing the prevalence of racism all across the country--whether implemented through institutionalized mechanisms or otherwise. Playing with themes of divine justice and the suffering of the righteous, McFadden presents a remarkably crisp portrait of one average man's extraordinary bravery in the face of pure evil." --Booklist, Starred review The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan's parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre--affectionately referred to as "The Harlem of Paris" by black American musicians--Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizardto join him. But after the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald--the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany--irreparably changing the course of Harlan's life. Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden's mesmeric prose,The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden's familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.

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