Book Review: “The Book Of Harlan” by Bernice L. McFadden

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The book that taught me a truth that I suspected but never knew for sure.

A time period that my mind is too young to fathom, because while growing up, war was a topic for the history books. Although nowadays, social media has made a willing or reluctant witness of every single individual owning a digitally connected device on the planet, enabling us all to watch the atrocities of the world with one click and rendering those events more difficult to hide. However for Harlan and many others in the 1940s and other past wars, the digital age was yet to manifest and many accounts remained hidden.

While I start my review with the bleak passage of the book, I have to point out that this is not what “The Book Of Harlan” is only about.

harlancoverBefore the Second World War, we are introduced to a young Harlan raised by his grandparents in Macon, Georgia, while his parents, in pursuit of a musical stardom settle in Harlem. The young boy who was Harlan is only re-introduced to a pair of stranger parents after his grandparents passing and the adjustment is less than smooth.

The author has depicted the character of Harlan to be one of a lazy drunken womanizer with a real talent for music.  The more he plays, the more he drinks and the less reliable he becomes. He declares his love for a young Gwendolyn Gill who immigrated from Barbados, but at the first opportunity leaves her with child and is off to get his next fix for bliss that he finds in the Parisian cabarets in France where he performs with his dearest friend Lizard Robbins, Jewish raised but of an African heart.

Unfortunately, the euphoric bliss that comes with their new lives in Paris is short lived. The capital fall to the Germans and Lizard and Harlan are captured and sent to concentration camps.

There is so much beauty in the words that Bernice L. McFadden wrote to deliver this story that I am in awe of her writing. Far from being an easy read and by that I am referring to the painful events depicted here, the author focuses on the other souls that the history books have yet to mention without diluting the pain that the Jews suffered throughout this atrocious time.

The author is never judging throughout her tale, but is merely attempting to remind us that it did happen to Blacks, Gays and any other person that did not fit into the Nazi ideal.

This is one read that will stay with me for a very long time, and I will never tire of recommending it to all.



Thanking Team @JacarandaBooks for providing me with copy of this title.


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