Book Review Challenge – A review from Francis

Today we have a review from Book Review Challenger Francis.

Rosie's Book Review Challengers 1

Francis chose to read ” Red Clay and Roses” by S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses - S.K. Nicholls

Red Clay and Roses – S.K. Nicholls

Here is her review.

Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Nicholls’ novel is a story of real life events overlaid with a façade of fiction. Knowing this gives the stories an emotional impact that might not otherwise be present if one thought the author had simply ‘made it all up’. There is immediacy to the writing – as if one were turning the pages of someone’s diary.

A book, written in the way Nicholls has written Red Clay and Roses, breaks many of the conventions that readers expect when reading a novel – not necessarily a bad thing. We can all do with a shake-up now and then.

The story weaves together the life events of a small town doctor and his wife, a black family who work for them and a young woman determined to break through some barriers of oppression (opening her own business) but not others (being involved with a coloured man) – all of these stories come, in one way or another, through the voice or intervention of nurse Hannah.

The stories are overwhelmingly ones of unfilled dreams or dreams snuffed out only as they are about to be fully realized. The reader has a sense of pulling over to the side of the road to peer into a car wreck – the tragedy is quite real.

The Southern location leaps off the pages with artfully done descriptions of places and settings. Small details, like the way in which Hannah stops to wipe the red clay from her shoes onto the grass, sparkle with realism. The author has done an excellent job of conveying the type of racism that is ingrained in people’s thoughts and behaviours to such a degree that their actions appear, to them at least, to be the natural order of things.

This book does present challenges. The author admits to not taking a stand on a controversial topic that is central to the work. The result seems to be that none of the characters take a stand either and that makes the retelling less believable than it could have been.

Take the ‘good’ doctor, as he is constantly called. The man is a pivotal character in the story, yet he remains a shadow figure – the reader rarely hears his name. His actions are at times saintly, underhanded, criminal, racist, or down-right cruel. Women emerge from his at-home clinic either laughing in relief or suffering a botched procedure. Yet, Sybil, a character who has many personal experiences with the man, never expresses an opinion. Moses, the black man who has spent years in servitude to the ‘good’ doctor might come closest to actually taking a stand, though his is one of a forbearance born of oppression. Perhaps the author is hoping to convey the fact that people simply have no choice so what would be the use of getting all worked up. If so, I salute her efforts. And maybe the ‘good’ doctor must remain a shadowy figure as he operates in a world where there are no easy answers – right or wrong.

The writing of a local dialect, be it geographical or time-based (always hard to do) works in some cases – when the old black man, Moses, tells his story the atmosphere is palpable. It runs out of steam in other cases. The way in which colloquial expressions of the ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s are used to the point of being somewhat comic and at times indecipherable to an audience unfamiliar with the times or place.

The book begins with nurse Hannah, the character who will bring the stories to the reader. But we lose sight of her as the book progresses and it becomes almost jarring when she pops back in to make a cameo appearance. When she re-emerges at the end of the book for a longish section of tying all the story threads together, the reader does not know her well enough to enter fully into the details provided about her work life.

Overall, a worthwhile read for the immediacy and powerful sense the book conveys of the racial oppression of black people in the South through a defining period of American history. A lesser but just as important theme is the way in which control of women was exercised through the denial of birth control and appropriate access to safe and affordable abortion services. These themes come together in the extreme suffering of the black women in the story.

Find a copy here from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

All profits from the book sales are now going to The Russell Home for Atypical Children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter R on The A to Z April Challenge 2014

Today’s letter on the April A to Z Challenge is R. My Book is Red Clay and Roses by S. K. Nicholls. Genre: Historical, Life & Relationships.

Red Clay and Roses

Red Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

Book description-

A fictionalized true story of life in the Deep South during the time of Jim Crow Law, and before Roe vs. Wade. Women were supposed to keep quiet and serve, abortion was illegal, adoption difficult, and racism rampant. The discovery of an old ledger opens a window into the dynamics of the 1950s-60s. Unspoken secrets are shared between Beatrice, The Good Doctor’s wife, and Moses Grier, their black handyman. The Grier’s daughter, Althea, suffers a tragedy that leaves her family silent and mournful. Her brother, Nathan, a medical student, looks for answers from a community that is deaf, blind, and dumb. A summer romance between Nathan and Sybil, an independent, high-spirited, white woman, leaves more unresolved. Nathan is thrust into the centre of the Civil Rights Movement. Sybil is torn between living the mundane life of her peers, or a life that involves fastening herself to a taboo relationship. Witness social progress through the eyes of those who lived it!

You can read my review of the book here http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-4Ge and find out more about the author from her guest post. http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-4Hp

Find a copy of this book here;

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Find out more about S.K. Nicholls here;

S. K. Nicholls

Blog: http://redclayandroses1.wordpress.com/

Facebook author site:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/SK-Nicholls/352131918230990

Here are some links to other bloggers who are taking up the A to Z Challenge, please find the time to visit them too.

http://authorsusankoenig.wordpress.com/

http://alex-hurst.com/

http://www.claredavidson.com/blog/

During the challenge we are asking people to leave as many comments as possible on blogs, and supportive comments are much appreciated, thank you.

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Guest Author S.K. Nicholls

Today our guest is S.K. Nicholls, author of yesterday’s book “Red Clay and Roses”. You can check out my review of the book here. http://wp.me/p2Eu3u-4Ge

S. K. Nicholls

Let’s find out more about Susan and her writing.

1)  Where is your home town?

I was born in LaGrange, Georgia, USA, and lived in the surrounding area while bringing up my own children.

2)  How long have you been writing?

I first had a short story published when I was seventeen and in high school. I put writing aside while focused on my nursing career. Upon retirement in 2011, I picked it up again. A visit to my father in 2012 stirred up an old story from my youth that I still wanted to tell. So I set myself to writing it down.

3)  What key element inspired this book?

Based on a true story, it was finding the ledger in 1992 that truly propelled the development of the story, but there is something more. So many have this image of the Deep South as one of little old white ladies sitting on the front porch swing sipping mint juleps. Life and reality was more harsh than that for most people, especially the African Americans. I have mixed race grandchildren. I presented the world historically as it truly was for many. There was hardship, dilemma, and many secrets kept. We are more open and accepting now. I don’t want to see us go back there. We learn from history how to move forward.

4)  Did you have to do a lot of research or did you interview people too?

The octogenarians were interviewed, and my father who is seventy five. An enormous amount of research went into the book to assure its historical accuracy. All of the events and setting locations are very real, and had to be researched.

5)  I’m not sure what “Jim Crow Law” was, can you tell us more?

The Jim Crow laws were racial segregation laws enacted between 1876 and 1965 in the United States at the state and local level. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy, with, starting in 1890, a separate but equal status for African Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions for African Americans that tended to be inferior to those provided for white Americans systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages, and leading to prejudice and severe racism. Even though these laws were declared unconstitutional in 1965, many communities continued the segregation long into the seventies.

South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina were the Confederate states, and Kentucky was provisional.

Some examples of Jim Crow laws were; the segregation of public schools, public places (swimming pools, doctors and dentists offices), and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, clothing stores, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. The U.S. military was also segregated.

“Jump Jim Crow” was a song-and-dance caricature of blacks performed by white actors painted in blackface. That is believed to be where the name Jim Crow law for this collection of state laws came from.

6) Nathan took part in several campaigns for Civil Rights, can you tell the readers about some of them.

The Freedom Rides were a campaign for blacks to assert themselves in avoiding discrimination practices. The black men would ride in the whites only passenger cars on trains. Other black men would ride in the black cars in case there was trouble, which there often was, as the white passengers rebelled and fought. Many blacks were arrested and beaten for their actions.

The Sit-Ins were started by black university students who would sit down in whites only dining establishments for the same reasons and with the same outcomes.

There were many protests, marches and demonstrations, like Bloody Sunday, some peaceful and some not so, where blacks were joined by liberal minded whites who championed the causes of Civil Right.

7) Sybil faced her own demons when she became pregnant, but she dealt with the situation as best she could. Do you think she made the right decision?

For her, it was right, but I did feel she should have been honest with Nathan, to at least let him know about the pregnancy, yet I can understand why she didn’t. Althea, Bonnie Jean and Sybil all found different ways to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Who am I to decide what was best or right for any of them?

8) When Trent was sent to prison, Sybil faced several hardships, which was worst do you think?

I think the difficulties she ran into with trying to manage her business were the hardest for her, because she had put so much of herself into its success.

9) Which part of the book was your favourite and why?

I don’t know if I have a favourite part. I liked different parts for different reasons. I liked how Ms. Bea’s character developed. I liked Moses’ stories and his character…but then, these were real people I had met in my own life. The entire story demonstrated the sacrifices that real people made in order to attempt to achieve social progress. These were common ordinary people, who were deeply affected by politics on a micro-level. The very end, in the conclusion, has special meaning to me personally as it conveys a hope for future generations. Sybil and her family are my family.

10) I would describe your book as a window in history for readers to enjoy rather than a book with a massively pleasing commercial content, am I correct?

I did not write Red Clay and Roses with marketing in mind. I wrote the story passionately from my heart based on real life events. I did not deviate from what actually occurred in order to make a more sellable story. It is a fictionalized true story. Outside the realm of genre fiction, it is a niche read.

Red Clay and Roses

Find a copy on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Thank you Susan for being our guest today.

Red Clay and Roses by S.K.Nicholls

Red Clay and RosesRed Clay and Roses by S.K. Nicholls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Red Clay and Roses steps back in history to Georgia and the deep south at a time where people struggled to survive and where changes to segregation and inequality faced fierce resistance.

The stories within are written around an old accounting ledger, found many years later, after it was hidden away. Hannah Schmidt pieces together the events and lives of the characters who were associated with The Good Doctor. She interviews relatives and follows leads from which she tells the reader of the everyday lives of a group of people whose destinies became entangled. There is passion, love, fear and survival written over several decades during which the American nation was forced to change laws and move into a new direction.

We meet the Good Doctor who ran a double accounting system and provided a much needed, but illegal, abortion service. Mrs Bea, his wife, who was left alone after he died to face her own guilt about what the doctor did. Moses and his family are the black help who live in a shack on the Good Doctors land. The Good Doctor goes on to sponsor Nathan, Moses’ son, through school and sets him up to train as a doctor. Then there is Sybil, a young, independent white women who wants to start her own business running a salon in town.

The lives of the characters show some great hardships. There was such prejudice and fear of stepping over the acceptable line. This book is like a window in time which lets us peek at history in the making.

Find a copy on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

View all my reviews on Goodreads

S.K.Nicholls will be our guest on the blog tomorrow, do come back and read more about her and her book.