I read this book at the same time as I was listening to The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I’ll write a review for that next week. Anyway, I listened to a pretty intense scene in that audiobook on the same day that I read a really terrible scene in Glorious. For a moment I thought I was going to have to quit one of them because there was no way I was going to be able to emotionally handle both books at once. Well, I made it through and I’m glad I did. They were both excellent.
Today I’m going to talk about Glorious by Bernice L. McFadden. This is the first book that I’ve read by her. I have Gathering Waters on my TBR list because someone recommended it to me, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I joined a book club this year and Glorious is what they’re reading this month. I wanted to write this review before the club meeting tomorrow so I can organize my thoughts.
Glorious follows the ups and downs in the life of a writer named Easter Bartlett. Easter runs away from the brutality of the southern town she was born in to New York City during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. There she begins to get some acclaim for her writing and has short stories published in a few magazines and anthologies. She attends parties with people like Langston Hughes and meets Zora Neale Hurston. Eventually, she meets a wealthy white benefactor who convinces her to quit her job to write full time with her support. Let’s just say that things begin to go downhill from there. I can’t really tell you more than that without giving away the plot.
You know I don’t tell you about a book unless I highly recommend it. McFadden does an excellent job at weaving fact and fiction together. The main character, Easter, interacts with some real people in very real circumstances and I enjoy the way the story is grounded in a particular point in history in a very definite place.
The characters are full and round and spring to life on the page. I feel like I really know Easter’s eccentric friend, Rain, her benefactor, Meredith, her husband, Colin, and many of the other characters. Those are only the ones that spring to mind.
The story takes some detours to examine the lives of some of these side characters. These detours are part of want makes them so compelling. There were just enough detours to paint a complete picture of them in my mind without becoming tedious or confusing.
There is only one thing I would change about this novel: the cover. I think it is just dreadful. It’s easy to ignore that minor fault.
Overall, Glorious is a compelling and tragic story about a woman’s struggle to leave the hateful brutality of the South behind her and follow her dreams. If you haven’t read it already I recommend you do.
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