And Then There Were None


agatha.jpgThe world’s best-selling mystery, And Then There Were None was published on 6 November, 1939 and was commented as “the most baffling mystery that Agatha Christie has ever written” by The New York Times. In the novel, ten strangers are invited as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon, call the Indian Island. They all hold different occupations including a judge, a mistress, a soldier, a doctor, and a former inspector, but they are all lured into coming to the island for offers of employment, to spend their summer time, or to meet old friends. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, however, is nowhere to be found on the island. As each of the guests has been charged with a murder in the past, one by one becomes murdered eventually. After three days, all ten guests are found dead, and there are no one else on the Indian Island. So who killed them?

That’s the question that Christie makes us think about throughout the novel. The word “queer” is used more than 30 times in total since everything on the island indeed is very queer to the guests. They discover that no one actually knows the millionaire host, the Owens, and conclude that the name “U.N. Owen” is shorthand for “Unknown.” After dinner on the first night, a gramophone record is played, and an unknown voice reveals the wicked past of each guest and accuses each of a guilty secret, and soon one of the guests is dead. To make the whole thing of murdering more interesting, the murderer follows a nursery rhyme as closely as possible, and there are ten little soldier figures on the dinner table representing the ten prey. As soon as one victim dies, one china figure disappears too. It is intriguing to me as a reader that the rhythm gives a clue about what is going to happen to the next person, but I still found it completely puzzling and surprising when the next one dies. Same for the characters. Each time a murder happens, only the result of a death is shown in the text, but the process is never described or mentioned. Neither the other characters nor the readers have any ideas about how the victims are killed. The “ten little Indians” cannot fight their fate.

As there are ten characters thinking and acting in the story at the same time, it could be hard for the readers to distinguish between them clearly, but Christie does a wonderful. While reading, I was able to match the ten guests with their ten different jobs and their secret stories in the past. Each of the ten has a sub-plot for how the person directly or indirectly caused others’ death and what the person feels about it. Anthony Marston, a handsome but amoral and irresponsible young man, killed two young children while driving recklessly, for which he felt no guilt or personal responsibility at all, complaining only that his driving license was suspended as a result. Vera Claythorne, a young, efficient mistress, deliberately allowed the child she taught as a private teacher to swim out to sea and pretended to swim out too to “save” the boy but in fact let him drown. She did that with intentions that she believed good because her lover, the boy’s uncle, could become the family heir, inherit the estate and marry her. When the guests come together, for example for a meal, their thoughts inside are described in turn from a third-person omniscient point of view. After Christie writes that “six people, all outwardly self-possessed and normal. And within? Thoughts that ran round in a circle like squirrels in a cage…” she displayed their thoughts each in a short paragraph in italics. All the characters thus are portrayed very three-dimensional in their own ways.

And Then There Were None is not only widely considered as Agatha Christie’s masterpiece but also described by herself as the most difficult of her books to write. She said in her autobiography that “I had written the book… because it was so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me. Ten people had to die without it becoming ridiculous or the murderer being obvious. I wrote the book after a tremendous amount of planning, and I was pleased with what I had made of it.” She crafted the language with a really clear, straightforward, yet baffling style throughout the book. I found it easy-to-read, but I was still able to feel the intense and mysterious atmosphere and was captivated and stimulated every moment I read it. And Then There Were None is special because it’s a mystery without a detective — no Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple to make sense of things like they do in other Christie novels. She ingeniously includes a manuscript document recounted by the actual murderer after the epilogue. The murderer confides the crime processes and the true intent behind: to punish the guilty ones that are not convicted. It is said that “…there were many cases of a similar nature going on all the time—cases of deliberate murder—and all quite untouchable by the law,” which reveals the profound meaning underlying all the murders on the Indian Island. I was touched to see such a just mission that the murderer carried out.

If you are a mystery fan or simply intrigued by the plot thus far, And Then There Were None, an undoubtedly outstanding work by the Queen of Crime, is highly recommended. You should go read it; otherwise, you only “will find ten dead bodies and an unsolved problem on Indian Island.”

Reviewed by Nina X ’18



Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

aldousIn “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley constructs a futuristic dystopia where every human is born, or grown to be exact, on assembly lines, conditioned and ranked, from tall and intelligent Alphas who run everything to midget and foolish Epsilons who clean up. Others, Betas, Gammas and Deltas, take their places in between. Despite their differences, all World State’s citizens are taught to be content with their roles through hypnopedia, have complete sexual freedom without the constraints of monogamy and grow up in the absence of books, arts, individual freedom and human connections. The World State’s motto is stated loud and clear on the first page, “Community. Identity. Stability.”

In the World State, the government exerts totalitarian control through genetic engineering and prenatal conditioning. Bernard Marx is an Alpha whose blood surrogate was contaminated with alcohol, a process used to hinder the physical growth of the lower castes, causing him to be much smaller than a typical Alpha. He has a strong resentment for the system because his un-Alpha-like stature makes him an outcast in the society. Somehow, Bernard manages to convince Lenina, an attractive Beta Minus, to visit the Savage Reservation, where people who still breed naturally live, with him. Here he met and brought John, aka the Savage, back to the World State. The rest of the novel tells the journey of the Savage in a world where “Everyone belongs to everyone else.”

John is most troubled by the World State’s residents’ dependence on soma, a drug used by the government to maintain social order and to help its users escape from any negative human emotions such as sadness, pain, anger, jealousy and discomfort; it is described as “Christianity without tears.” Later in the novel John meets with Mustapha Mond, one of the ten World Controllers, and through their discussion, Huxley reveals his criticism for the exorbitant consumerism and pleasure-seeking lifestyle of the 1920s.

“‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.’

‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’
‘All right then,” said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’ ‘Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis

and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.’”

The people use soma whenever they experience feelings or encounter problems they were not conditioned to deal with. By getting rid of all diseases and negative human emotions, the World Controllers also rid its residents of many of the human connections, pleasures and passions in life. They believe they’re happy all the time, but is there really pleasure without pain?

Huxley did not construct a totally unrealistic dystopia. He takes the most gruesome aspects of our society, exaggerates them and creates the World State. After finishing the book, I am left with perplexing questions rather than definite conclusions. Stability and equality clearly depend on an unequal distribution of labor and intelligence, “even Epsilons perform indispensable services;” doesn’t that go directly against our democratic ideal that all men are created equal? After all, the dissident Bernard Marx and the philosopher Karl Marx don’t happen to have the same last name for no reason.

Reviewed by Nghi ’18

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

rayRay Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 tells the story of a middle age man in a 24th century dystopian society. The main protagonist, Guy Montag, is first found working as a firefighter, burning the illegally owned books as well as their owner’s houses, where he seems to glorify his profession in the flames of destruction until he meets seventeen year old girl called Clarisse McClellan. He finds her optimistic and unusual way of thinking intriguing and she comments that his attention to her is different from how other people view her. From then on, they meet regularly and have various conversations about society and the past, which make Guy question the rules of society and why they are afraid of letting certain books be exposed to the public.

In order to find out what the authorities want gone, Guy begins to steal books from the houses he is sent to burn. He later meets a man called, Faber a retired professor, who discusses with Guy the importance of sharing ideas through books. However, his wife discovers the stash of books along with her husband’s unusual behavior, resulting in their house being burned down after she reports to the other firefighters. Guy decides to flee to Faber with his scavenged books that he hid in his backyard in hopes of creating more copies of books and sharing them with society at a safer time.

Reviewed by Intisar K ’18

Amerika by Franz Kafka

franzWhen somebody thinks of Franz Kafka, their mind immediately goes to “Metamorphosis” or “The Judgment” while “America”, or “The Man Who Disappeared” is often overlooked. The novel differentiates itself from others, as it gives a new perspective on Kafka and his style. His description of America is based purely on what he read and learned through the books, lectures, and conversations with immigrants, as he never had a chance to visit. Kafka creates a new imaginary country, very different from the real world. Its first impressions on both the main character and the reader can be seen from the very beginning of the book.

The main character, Karl Rossmann, is a sixteen-year-old boy, who gets sent to America to avoid a huge scandal concerning the main character and a maid who got pregnant after she has “seduced” him. Only later, from Rossmann’s description, do we find out it was a rape. “…pressed her naked belly against his body…in such a revolting manner that Karl shook his head and throat out from under the quilts…”. Such imagery very clearly shows that the experience has now become a very unpleasant memory for Karl. This event sets the way the main character acts throughout the rest of the story—in a helpless state, he then lets everyone use him.

Upon his arrival to America, Karl, while searching for his forgotten possessions, meets a stocker and learns his story, which leads to both of them going to the captain to fight for justice for Karl’s new friend. During this event, the main character accidentally meets his rich uncle Jacob, who decides to take the young boy under his wing. At first, everything is perfect. Karl enjoys his newfound privileges, like the opportunity to learn English with a teacher, or play the piano, or ride a horse. However, one night changes everything. One of uncle Jacob’s dearest friends, Mr. Pollunder, invites Karl to spend some time at his house. Although the main character asks for permission, his uncle is displeased, and at midnight the very next day he informs Rossmann through a letter that he cannot tolerate such behavior and asks to never contact him again.

This event marks a new part of Karl’s life. He immediately leaves Mr. Pollunder’s house and heads to the nearest hotel, where he meets Robinson and Delamarche, two very poor men headed to Butterford in search of a job. Karl feels obligated to them, as they invite him to join them on their journey, and allows them to mistreat him. It can be seen how uncomfortable the main character is as he experiences bullying and a robbery from his new “comrades”. One of the very first incidents happens with salami that Karl brought from home. His new friends quickly find out about the treasured possession and demand to share. The main character does, but it turns into an unpleasant event, as he does not get a single piece “It seemed silly to beg for a piece, but he began to feel bitter.”. Similar situations keep happening, but Karl, in fear of being left alone, does not say a thing.

Soon, a new opportunity rises. After yet another fight with Robinson and Delamarche, Karl decides to end his journey with them and leaves for a hotel nearby. There, a Manageress, a nice lady in her fifties, suggests a job, which the main character happily takes. For some time, Karl’s life is busy with work, and newfound friends, especially the Manageress and Therese, an eighteen-year-old typist, whom he tries to visit as often as possible. However, his happiness does not last long as soon as Robinson visits him in the hotel and persuades him to come and visit him and Delamarche, as they now live with Brunelda, a singer. After his old friend’s visit at the hotel, Karl loses his job over something he did not do. He goes to his old comrades, and Brunelda, their host, makes Rossmann her server. However, this job does not last long, as Karl leaves again and, finally, finds himself a job in the Theater of Oklahoma, where he decides to go under a new name—Negro.

The book leaves us with a beautiful description of the view outside of the train cart “Masses of blue-black rock rose in sheer wedges to the railway line; even craning one’s neck out of the window, one could not see their summits; narrow, gloomy, jagged valleys opened out…”. Left with expectations and questions, the reader is left to wonder what happened to Karl, if he finds the strength to stand up for himself and change, or does he remain the same and soon flee the theater company.

“Amerika” intertwines the gravity of the described situation with the humorous notes that often can be found in Kafka’s works. While having many comic moments, the books manages to address serious issues, such as the reality of the lives of immigrants, the hardships of lives of commoners, and other Kafkaesque themes that are traced through all of his works.

The author started working on the novel in 1912, however, it was only published in 1927, three years after his death.

Reviewed by Yulia ’18

The World According to Garp by John Irving


garpMost expect the life of a writer to be quite ordinary, but this is not the case with T.S. Garp. Named after a father who was a WWII veteran and born to a single-mother who happened to be an extreme feminist, Garp’s life was set to be far from anything but ordinary. Flipping through the pages of this book by John Irving, the reader will be able to feel the delightful, sometimes painful experiences Garp faces throughout his lifetime.

The plot unfolds with the life of Jenny, Garp’s mother in her young years. Contrary to her parents’ expectations, she does not take an interest in college education and strives to become a successful nurse. Furthermore, her head is set to never marry or “tie herself down” to a man for any form of support. However, she still admires and strives for the idea of motherhood. Thus, when Jenny finds herself with the opportunity to conceive a child, she does not hesitate to do so. Nursing a WWII veteran who is unable to properly communicate, but only with the one word “garp,” she takes the chance to have his child. Whether the man wants to or not, the readers are left untold.

After about 40 weeks, T.S. Garp, named after his father’s “garp” is born. Faced with judgement from her unforgiving parents, Jenny takes up a job offer as a nurse at a school, brining Garp with her. Thus, Garp’s first 18 years of life unfold at Steering, an all boys prep school in New England. At Steering, he becomes one of the “boys,” a part of the brotherhood, despite his illegitimate background. When he becomes the age of adolescence, he begins to take interest in girls. One of the girls, Helen, develops to be a constant, yet subtle partner throughout Garp’s life. Despite her understated presence, she plays a significant role as she shapes Garp’s passion to become a writer. Garp’s affection for Helen becomes his drive to become a great writer, which is a career path Helen mentions would be ideal for her future husband. Irving quotes, “If I marry anybody, I’ll marry a writer…Garp had been trying to joke; Helen’s seriousness made him nervous.”

To become a great writer, one needs to explore the world as much as one can. Post-graduation, Garp and Jenny decide to move to Europe, as suggested by Garp’s English teacher. This travel is the first time Garp experiences places outside of Steering, which truly allows him to sharpen his critical perspective of the world around him. His first steps in becoming a professional writer are both care-free and heart-wrenching. Despite living in one of the best environments for writing, he is faced with the challenges that many writers face. Irving explains, “What Garp was savoring was the beginning of a writer’s long-sought trance, wherein the world falls under one embracing ton of voice.” This quote critically defines one of the most difficult obstacles of a novice writer: finding one’s voice. Garp’s search to find his voice is what leads him to find himself yearning for affection and home, which is reflected through his constant mentions of America and Steering.

John Irving is the author of other famous novels such as The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany. Similar in many ways to the character Garp from The World According to Garp, Irving was both a writer and a wrestler. Other works on a similar theme include Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides and Hard Times by Charles Dickens, which both are driven by themes of A Slice of Life and Satire. As a devoted fan of Charles Dickens, I prefer reading books with eloquent and detailed descriptions when looking for a classic novel. However, unlike Dickens, Irving’s style is more modern, because it was written much later. Thus, I would suggest Irving’s work is the best choice for new classic readers. Furthermore, a thread that I most enjoyed about this novel is that it encompasses the way in which a young writer stumbles through life to become a better writer. As a developing writer, myself, I was able to understand and relate to the main character, Garp, throughout his entire journey.

Reviewed by Susie Y ’18

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

breath            When Breath Becomes Air, in its most simplistic form is a book about death: you find out Paul has died on the very first page. The novel is written as an autobiography of a young, vibrant, soon to be doctors life. You will spend countless pages reading about his successes: his multiple degrees from the World’s best universities, his engagement to his beautiful wife Lucy, and his mastery of neurosurgery. However, while reading about Paul’s life, it is absolutely impossible to forget the fact that this incredible young man is dead. Slowly, as you begin to turn more and more pages, the true story starts to unfold: the aches and pains, the fights with his wife, and eventually, the PET scan which decided his fate.

Nearly every cancer novel has a twist. Either the protagonist finds love in the chemo ward or is on his deathbed when it is miraculously discovered that he is cured. When Breath becomes Air breaks every one of these stereotypes. The novel is raw and honest. Paul documented every moment of his life: his hopes, his fears, his times or despair, and his bursts of energy. Paul found a way to make light of such a depressing topic. When Paul wrote to his close friend to share the news of his terminal cancer, he said, “The good news is I’ve already outlived two Brontës, Keats, and Stephen Crane. The bad news is that I haven’t written anything.” His writing style is so simplistic yet so meaningful that as a reader, you will feel as if you are living every moment of his life with him. Caution, however, this will most likely lead to tears at his death.

I chose this book this book because I have had quite a few run ins with cancer in my family, most recently, with my brother. I know the frantic feeling of being in a hospital which Paul Kalanithi conveys so well in this passage – “At moments, the weight of it all became palpable. It was in the air, the stress and misery. Normally, you breathed it in, without noticing it. But some days, like a humid muggy day, it had a suffocating weight of its own. Some days, this is how it felt when I was in the hospital: trapped in an endless jungle summer, wet with sweat, the rain of tears of the families of the dying pouring down.” I highly recommend this book, especially if you enjoy hospital reads.

Reviewed by Emma W ’18


My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

sister“Grief is a curious thing when it happens unexpectedly. It is a Band-Aid being ripped away, taking the top layer off a family. And the underbelly of a household is never pretty, ours no exception” No family is perfect, the Fitzgerald’s are no exception. Sarah a mother of three, who has a coping mechanism of online shopping for elaborate ball gowns never to be worn outside the four walls of her bedroom. Brian who would rather stay at work to fight fires and save lives than confront the real fight that waits for him when he goes home. Jesse the pyromaniac who lashes out in order to be seen by his family, by anyone. Kate the child who has never lived her own life for herself who dreams of a life as a prima donna. And Anna, the youngest who is the unseen foundation that holds the house together and is forgotten until she is needed.

What would you do when confronted with a dying family member who you knew you could save? Would you, without a second thought, give blood, a bone marrow transfusion, or even one of your kidneys? Would it make difference if you did not have a say in the decision, if you were expected to give away bits and bits of yourself from the day you were born? This is what’s expected from Anna Fitzgerald who was genetically modified in order to be the perfect donor match to her dying sister, Kate, with Leukemia who isn’t expected to live past 5.

Throughout her novel, Jodi Picoult, uses each chapter to express the perspective of a different individual character within the story. If you pay attention you can tell that the font changes from character to character, from chapter to chapter. This subtle choice by Picoult is a compelling touch in the delivery of conveying each character’s personality. Anna’s font looks like it was handwritten in a journal with fancy details on her capital A’s as if to remind the reader of her youth and innocence during this mature time. Jesse has a crisp, bold typed font in hopes to convey his harsh outer appearance that he uses to hide his insecurities from the world. This is a technique that I have seldom seen in books, but it adds a compelling element that helps the reader to feel more connected to and to be able to identify with the characters.

“ Imagine what it would be like if you were a squirrel living in the elephant cage in the zoo. Does anyone ever go there and say, Hey, check out that squirrel? No, because there’s something so much bigger you notice first.” Anna has lived her life in the shadow of her dying sister Kate. When told that she must give away one of her kidneys Anna reaches her limit. She decides that it is no longer in her best interest medically to keep prolonging her sister’s life by false hopes of providing temporary solutions to an unavoidable end. The doctors say if Anna does not give Kate her kidney she will die. Expected to be the rock keeping her family together, Anna learns to speak for herself and make her own choices as she sues her family for the rights to her own body in order to no longer be forced to be her sister’s donor.

We see the individual nature of each character and their own inner dialog of the events transpiring around them throughout the novel except for Kate’s. We only get to see Kate’s insight during the novel’s epilogue. Her font is a mix of cursive and print that looks delicate, soft and full of emotion just like Kate herself. Picoult’s choice to leave out Kate’s thoughts and opinions in the body of her novel is an interesting and bold move. The story literally revolves around Kate and her life, but we do not get an insight into Kate’s mind until after the events of the novel transpire. We see people saying that they know what’s best for her, but we do not get to see what Kate thinks of as the best option for herself or what she wants.

“ I don’t want her to die, but I know she doesn’t want to live like this, and I’m the only one who can give her what she wants.” I sympathized with Anna throughout this novel, coming from a family with a sibling diagnosed with cancer who had a slim chance of reaching remission. While my sister has reached remission, I could still put myself in Anna’s shoes and identify with her difficult moral dilemma. Would you want to fight for every chance that comes along in order to keep them alive or do you accept the harsh reality that is ultimately waited just down the way? Do you watch them from the sidelines suffering to make it day by day or do you want to help them go while you still have a chance to say your goodbyes to the person you know and love. Within her Novel, Picoult wrestles with this frightening choice that would not just affect Anna, but her whole family.

Reviewed by Elizabeth L ’18

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards


memoryThe Memory Keeper’s Daughter is the compelling story of the unfolding of one man’s burdening secret and the lives of two ignorant children. A split-second decision at the hospital alters the lives of everyone involved, forever. Connections are lost, families torn apart, and secrets used as an invisible shield between loved ones.

The story begins in 1964, when David, an orthopedic surgeon, and Norah, his wife, are awaiting the birth of their first child. There is a forceful blizzard developing outside when Norah goes into labor and the doctor cannot make it to the hospital in time, so David is forced to deliver his own child. A successful delivery brings a healthy boy, Paul, but when his daughter is born, he is immediately struck with the reality that she has Down’s Syndrome. The norms in those days mandated that a child with Down’s Syndrome would be a burden and would inevitably die after living a short, worthless life. He turns to the nurse, Caroline, who has helped him deliver the babies, and demands that she take the baby and deliver her to a facility for people affected by Down’s Syndrome. David rationalizes his decision to give her away as a need to protect Norah and her future. When his wife regains consciousness from the sedatives, he reveals the news that their daughter, Phoebe, has passed away due to complications during delivery. The surprise that Norah had carried twins and the news that Phoebe had passed turns the day from being euphoric to being somber. Caroline, having been urgently handed this infant, makes the conscious choice to move away and raise the child herself, after seeing the dreadful conditions of the facility David demanded Phoebe be brought to. Now commences the bittersweet story of how two families grow up and apart, leading two separate, happy lives, completely ignorant of each other. As for Norah, David, and Paul, the grief of Phoebe’s death weighs heavily on their marriage and Paul grows up in a household that is burdened with mourning and bursting with tension. Phoebe transforms from a lost cause to an animated young woman whose mother, Caroline, loves her passionately, as if she was her own.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is stunningly crafted story which embodies the fears and hopes of every parent for their child. It articulates the burden of bearing a secret that, if unveiled, would change the lives of everyone involved. The language used is easy to read and follow, and the content is deeply moving. You are left to speculate about the revelation of the secret until the last chapter which makes the book even more captivating to read. I would recommend this bittersweet novel to anyone looking for a story filled with unexpected turns, embedded secrets, and inevitable heartache.

Reviewed by Charlotte K ’18

Big City, Bright Lights by Jay McInerney

jayYoung and thinking he’s way too smart to be where he is, the unnamed narrator, guides you through the story of quarter life crisis in New York City. His 1980’s drug-fueled adventures begin in a nightclub and end at the crack of dawn waking up in rooms he doesn’t recognize, next to women he doesn’t remember buying drinks for and left with no more “Bolivian marching powder”. Each night he goes out you feel his urge for the cocaine he seeks in the dark corners of the loud nightclubs, “your brain at this moment is composed of brigades of tiny Bolivian soldiers. They are tired and muddy from their long march through the night. There are holes in their boots and they are hungry. They need to be fed. The need the Bolivian Marching Powder.”

The novel takes several turns with deaths, a divorce and being discharge from his job. He absolutely detests his job in the Department of Factual Verification at The Manhattan, a magazine, which is thought to parallel the New Yorker. His dreams of becoming a fiction writer move slowly due to his cocaine habit, and break up his marriage to his model wife Amanda causing him to hit rock bottom. Anyone who is hitting or has hit a low in their life will be able to see themselves in him, “you have friends who actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.”

I chose this novel because I was interested in Jay McInerney style of writing in the second person. His style helps you relate to the story and picture yourself in this book even if it is the farthest thing from your reality. He was able to put me in the narrator’s shoes walking down narrow New York streets at two am after spending way too much money on hip cocktails at a club he didn’t want to be at. Not many novels are written in the second person, but I think everybody should read one at some point to experience how it pulls you into a life that is so different from your own, the protagonist’s, yet feels so normal. Although it was strange to read something addressing me at first, it added a sense of personalisation to the story and allowed me to connect and sympathise with the narrator.

Like the main character, Jay McInerney (January 13, 1955 ) also worked as a fact checker for the magazine the New Yorker. Published in 1984, this was his first novel; he later on went to write Ransom , Bright, Precious Days and many short stories. If you think you will enjoy this novel, consider reading The Story of My Life which is also written by Jay McInerney. Similarly, it is based in New York City in the 1980’s but in a woman’s perspective.

Reviewed by Yasmine A ’18

Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates

coates           Inspired by James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me tackles the American racial crisis and sentiments of the necessity of securing one’s black body. Through his own personal narrative, Coates writes to his 15 year-old son, Samori, to explicitly portray many of the inevitable hardships that his son will face throughout his lifetime and that America’s dark past is to blame for the “black body’s destruction.” Coates’ novel is not so much that of a call to action, but instead an explication of America’s lack of progress regarding racial injustice and also touches on the prevalence of the unconscious belief of superiority that is ingrained in the minds of white people.

Coates tells of various impactful moments in his life which span from his childhood through late adulthood. Many of these events were momentous in confirming the nearly complete lack of accountability concerning police brutality and many also served to illustrate the societal standard of being “twice as good,” which Coates asserted that black people are universally expected to meet. Coates relates the outcome of his experiences to the America’s history of the exploitation of “black bodies” and attempts to utilize these personal experiences as a platform to answer questions of racial injustice for his son. A powerful and poignant story that Coates tells is of his schoolmate Prince Jones. Although they were only acquaintances as Howard University, Coates describes that he always had a special affinity and appreciation for Prince. Many years after their college career had ended, Coates recalls the day that he heard a report on the news of a black man who was murdered at the hands of a police officer. The victim had driven to visit his fiance in northern Virginia, when he was suddenly shot down by a county police officer. There were no witnesses and when the police officer was interrogated, he claimed that the victim had attempted to run him down with his Jeep. Unbeknown to Coates at the time of the report, this black man was none other than his old companion, Prince Jones. Through this anecdote, Coates’ position seems to be that due to America’s horrid past, it is nearly impossible for black people to escape the looming danger of being disproportionately discriminated against, whether that be a threat, prison sentence, or more drastically, a victim of murder.

Coates captivates us by poetically illustrating the horrors of America’s past and that the idea of “race” is detrimental to everyone, but most prominently to black men and women. In his confrontation of today’s societal climate, Coates reminds us of only a handful of the victims of police brutality: Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown to name a few. He uses these victims not only as a sad reminder of the entrenched belief of police officers, that they have the power to obliterate a life, but to also emphasize the fragility of the “black body” to his son. In a more direct address to his son, Coates asserts that black people love their children with a certain “obsession” due to the prospect of the “black body” being broken down instantaneously by this society. He surmises that black parents would like to kill their children themselves rather than seeing them “killed by the streets that America made.” In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, we see a similar ideology when Sethe attempts to kill her children before the slave catchers arrive at her home. Coates effectively conveys the gravity of America’s racial crisis and solemnly describes his fears and reasoning for them. Between the World and Me is a compelling book that is thought provoking, moving, and powerful. I highly recommend this book and hope that the reader is able to consider the inherent injustices of America.

Reviewed by Sharde J ’18