FridayNope! is an idea that was created by MeetTheBookWorld.com with the intention of using it to warn other readers of books that they hated; when I saw the first post of this series (which can be found here) I just knew this was something I wanted to get involved in as I’ve found myself giving up on more & more books recently. MeetTheBookWorld.com has set their posts up so that they focus on particular issues (e.g. “Bi-Erasure & Other Fails”) but I’m going to do each of my posts on a particular book instead. For my first post I’m going to talk about a book I gave up on very recently; All Things Bright & Strange by James Markert.
This post will include discussions of racism.
In the wake of World War I in the small, Southern town of Bellhaven, South Carolina, the town folk believe they’ve found a little slice of heaven in a mysterious chapel in the woods. But they soon realize that evil can come in the most beautiful of forms.
The people of Bellhaven have always looked to Ellsworth Newberry for guidance, but after losing his wife and his future as a professional pitcher, he is moments away from testing his mortality once and for all. Until he finally takes notice of the changes in his town . . . and the cardinals that have returned.
Upon the discovery of a small chapel deep in the Bellhaven woods, healing seems to fall upon the townspeople, bringing peace after several years of mourning. But as they visit the “healing floor” more frequently, the people begin to turn on one another, and the unusually tolerant town becomes anything but.
The cracks between the natural and supernatural begin to widen, and tensions rise. Before the town crumbles, Ellsworth must pull himself from the brink of suicide, overcome his demons, and face the truth of who he was born to be by leading the town into the woods to face the evil threatening Bellhaven.
I initially requested this book on NetGalley for a few of reasons; the first being that it’s set in the time between World War 1 & World War 2, the second being the supernatural element to the story & the third being that main character Ellsworth is suffering from mental health issues. All three of these things are themes that would usually attract me to a book so of course I was going to want to read it!
Before I start to say why I didn’t like the book, I want to point out that in the first 36% of All Things Bright & Strange, Markert did do a good job of writing a character with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)… main character Ellsworth suffers profusely from nightmares & flashbacks of his time in World War 1 & these scenes were written with a lot of care & knowledge. Additionally, Ellsworth is extremely suicidal, with there actually being a scene included in the book where he’s about to take his own life. Again, I felt that this issue was handled well & was written with care. Ellsworth also lost a leg during World War 1 & Markert did do a good job of presenting this disability as well.
So, if Markert did a good job at presenting Ellsworth’s ailments, why didn’t I like the book? Well, the main reason I gave up on the book was that it was taking a very long time for anything to happen – I moved the book onto my DNF pile at 36% but it honestly felt like I’d been reading the book for ages. But, the main reason that I ended up not enjoying the book was because of the racism included within it – for example, Markert has included a black character called Omar Blackman……………………
You see the problem there, right? It’s almost as bad as J. K. Rowling’s Cho Chang. On top of this the word “negro” was used, which I know was a word used in the time period of the story, but with the inclusion of Mr. Blackman it felt offensive rather than historically accurate. Additionally, Markert also used a phrase that really wound me up; at one point Omar is talking to Ellsworth & within Ellsworth’s thoughts we’re presented with the phrase “Jamaican gobbledygook” – need I say more? And, as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, there were also Native American slurs used.
It may not seem like a lot, but these things were enough for me to give up on the book – & these things only occurred in the first 36% so I dread to think of how much worse it could get in the following 64%!
Other trigger warnings I want to mention for anyone who wishes to read the book are; discussions of a stillbirth, graphic war descriptions, suicidal thoughts & actions as well as the inclusion of characters in the KKK, who carry out an attack on the village at the centre of the story.
So, that’s it for my first FridayNope! post – I don’t think I’ll do one of these posts every Friday but this definitely won’t be the only one I do. Make sure you head over to MeetTheBookWorld.com‘s page for their FridayNope! posts, which you can find here. Finally, I’d just like to say that the FridayNope! logo is not mine & has been pasted from MeetTheBookWorld.com!