4.9 8
by Albert French

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A talented writer makes his debut in this stark, harrowing novel of a young black boy's death. Forcefully told, though sometimes veering into melodrama, the story vivifies the consequences of racial hatred. In 1937, in the small town of Banes, Miss., 10-year-old Billy Lee Turner lives with his mother in one of the miserable shanties of the black ghetto called the Patch. Headstrong Billy convinces another youngster to enter the white area of town, where they are attacked by teenaged cousins who are enraged to see black boys in ``their'' pond. Seeking to escape, Billy impulsively stabs one of the girls; she dies, and the white community works itself into a paroxysm of rage and violence. Though Billy is too young to comprehend what he has done, he is sentenced to the electric chair. The insistent voice of the narrator--convincingly rural, unlettered, and lower class--propels the narrative at a frantic pace, and the characters are delineated through vernacular dialogue that reproduces the unvarnished racism of most of the white community and the routinely profane interchanges of the uneducated blacks. Though nearly every scene is rendered with high-glare intensity, the closing episodes set in the Death House are especially searing. If in his need to sustain a feverish atmosphere French scants subtleties, the novel pulses with its unnerving vision of inhumanity legalized under the name of justice. (Nov.)
Library Journal
This debut novel chronicles the life of ten-year-old Billy Lee, who is executed for murdering a white girl in the town of Banes, Mississippi, in 1937. The story is related objectively in a regional dialect by a narrator who takes us into our country's recent past to witness the appalling effects of racism. This masterful style portrays a brutal and, at times, pitiful small town caught in the grip of segregation. French's stirring focus on details affords an empathic perception of events and characters, especially of Sheriff Tom and Billy's mother, Cinder. The short scene when Billy is captured is a skillful example of French's fine detail and dazzling style. The harrowing prison scenes, the absurd complications experienced by the guards when they strap Billy's small body into the high-backed electric chair, and the riveting description of the execution will leave readers numb. Highly recommended for all libraries.-- David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Billy 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book is so good. I read it many times, I like the way A. French explains every detail. He is just amazing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Once I started reading Billy I was unable to stop.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the most powerful books that I've read. You will cry for Billy long after you have finished the last page. Albert French produced a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i was given this book back in 1995 and read it in one night. it shows the beauty and harshness of life within its pages. from cover to cover you feel like you're right there. Billy sucks you in and makes you want to read further and further.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the only book that ever made me cry. This is truely a great and realistic novel about racism in the 30ies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
a very hard book to read. somewhat a little unbelievable at times (would they have really sent a 10 year old to the electric chair!) but very well written depicturing that period perfectly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Billy' was an excellent book. I enjoyed it so much. by looking at it's cover I would've never picked it up except that I had to write a brief thesis on it. The book was excellent. After I read one page I couldn't wait to get to the next. Every word is so compelling that the book actually pulls you into it. It's heartbreaking and the ending is beyond expectations. Overall, it's one of the best books I've ever read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You can taste the south in this extraordinarily moving first novel from Albert French. An astonishing debut, this first book is French's best. It will affect your life in a way that few books do. You will never forget Billy, which in some way is a very good reason to keep well clear of this book! It is so affecting, and so compelling, and you will cry at the end, like everyone else who reads it. And yes, it is a very good read. Don't miss it!