WINNER of the 2017 American Book Award
WINNER of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Fiction)
2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award Nominee (Fiction)!
A Washington Post Notable Book of 2016
"Simply miraculous...As her saga becomes ever more spellbinding, so does the reader's astonishment at the magic she creates. This is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry, intolerance and cruelty, and at the center of The Book of Harlan is the restorative force that is music."
"McFadden's writing breaks the heart--and then heals it again. The perspective of a black man in a concentration camp is unique and harrowing and this is a riveting, worthwhile read."
"The Book of Harlan is an incredible read. Bernice McFadden...has created an amazing novel that speaks to lesser known aspects of the African-American experience and illuminates the human heart and spirit. Her spare prose is rich in details that convey deep emotions and draw the reader in. This fictional narrative of Harlan Elliot's life is firmly grounded amidst real people and places--prime historical fiction, and the best book I have read this year."
--Historical Novels Review, Editors' Choice
"McFadden packs a powerful punch with tight prose and short chapters that bear witness to key events in early twentieth-century history: both World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Migration. Partly set in the Jim Crow South, the novel succeeds in showing the prevalence of racism all across the country--whether implemented through institutionalized mechanisms or otherwise. Playing with themes of divine justice and the suffering of the righteous, McFadden presents a remarkably crisp portrait of one average man's extraordinary bravery in the face of pure evil."
--Booklist, Starred review
"Through this character portrait of Harlan, McFadden has constructed a vivid, compelling narrative that makes historical fiction an accessible, literary window into the African-American past and some of the contemporary dilemmas of the present."
"McFadden's impressive achievement offers us a window into the often very difficult lives of African Americans from the Jim Crow era up to the present--and, unexpectedly, in wartime Germany. Highly recommended for showing us that however badly black citizens have historically been treated, black lives matter."
The Book of Harlan opens with the courtship of Harlan's parents and his 1917 birth in Macon, Georgia. After his prominent minister grandfather dies, Harlan and his parents move to Harlem, where he eventually becomes a professional musician. When Harlan and his best friend, trumpeter Lizard Robbins, are invited to perform at a popular cabaret in the Parisian enclave of Montmartre--affectionately referred to as "The Harlem of Paris" by black American musicians--Harlan jumps at the opportunity, convincing Lizard to join him.
But after the City of Light falls under Nazi occupation, Harlan and Lizard are thrown into Buchenwald--the notorious concentration camp in Weimar, Germany--irreparably changing the course of Harlan's life. Based on exhaustive research and told in McFadden's mesmeric prose, The Book of Harlan skillfully blends the stories of McFadden's familial ancestors with those of real and imagined characters.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Bernice L. McFadden is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including Sugar, Loving Donovan, Nowhere Is a Place, The Warmest December, Gathering of Waters (a New York Times Editors' Choice and one of the 100 Notable Books of 2012), and Glorious, which was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award. She is a three-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist, as well as the recipient of three awards from the BCALA. McFadden lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a story inspired by relatives of Ms. McFadden’s. It is beautifully written. Harlan started out as a promising musician. He had family that loved him and supported him. After his grandfather died, his parents moved from Macon, Georgia to Harlem. This is when Harlan’s career as a musician really took off. He made friends with a fellow musician called Lizard. The two of them became as close as brothers. Word got around about the talent these two men had, and soon they were on their way to Paris to perform at the “Harlem of Paris”. However while there Hitler’s armies moved into France. Harlan and Lizard end up in Buchenwald, a notorious concentration camp. McFadden writes of the infamous “witch of Buchenwald” and their encounters with her. Harlan returns a broken man who has to dig deep inside himself for the strength to get on with his life. While the story itself is that of a hard, cruel life, the writing is at times exquisite. The beginning softly beckons you in -- “No matter what you may have heard about Macon, Georgia – the majestic magnolias, gracious antebellum homes, the bright stars it produced that went on to dazzle the world – if you were Emma Robinson, bubbling with teenage angst and lucid dreaming about silver-winged sparrows gliding over a perfumed ocean, well then, Macon felt less like the promised land and more like a noose.” I couldn’t help liking Harlan, even as he swaggered from bar to bar, woman to woman. His life was like a rollercoaster with its extreme highs and the rush to the extreme lows. Harlan, despite his faults, was an honorable man. My heart was wrenched each time life slapped him in the face. And I so hoped he would be able each time to shake it off and try again. I wanted life to be gentle to him, but it was not to be. Another lovely offering -- “Surrendering to the lullaby and goodnight of autumn, the flowers threw down their petals and wilted. The trees, as if ashamed, waited till night before dropping their golden leaves.” Harlan’s story is that of many black men over the years. Sadly, too much has not really changed over the decades. Harlen’s life will resonate within me for some time.
This book takes you on an adventure from the deep south to New York and Germany. You get engulfed in the character so much you feel like you are there, at the books end you find yourself wanting to research and learn more about concentration camps back in the 40's.
The Book of Harlan was an amazing journey through recent history. It showed the hardships that African Americans had to endure in the South as well as in New York and internationally. This is a wonderful story with many twists and surprises. It definitely leaves the reader wanting to know more.
This book is absolutely amazing from start to finish ! !!
Bernice L. McFadden NEVER disappoints. The Book of Harlan spans several decades and moments in history. For a moment in time, the reader is immersed in the rich & varied experiences and life of Harlan.. I love how the author weaves all of the different characters together and their impact whether large or small on Harlan's life. His experiences are many and in many ways quite monumental. This novel transports you back in time but still touches on issues that are prevalent today in our society. I could not put this book down to be honest. I started reading it on 5/9/16 and finished on 5/9/16. This is an absolute must-read.
The Book of Harlan follows the story of not only Harlan Elliot, but the many people connected to his life. Beginning with his mother in Macon, GA, the talented pianist of a prominent pastor who yearns for new and different experiences after seeing the changes in her best friend, Lucille, after life as an artist, away from home. Her journey brings her to motherhood, marriage and the birth of her son, Harlan, who begins life with his grandparents & later comes to live with his parents & embarks on a journey into music, women, weed & tragedy. After being taken prisoner in Buchenwald during WWII, Harlan's life is forever changed, as is the lives of those around him. McFadden has an amazing way of taking a story and making it accessible & relatable. Steeped in historical facts eased so well into fiction, makes it an enjoyable read, even with it's tragic elements & shifty characters. This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and I was not disappointed!! This is nothing short of amazingly crafted & authentically delivered historical fiction!
Bernice L. McFadden weaves fact and fiction with such a delicate stroke of her pen that it’s impossible to determine fact from fiction; what actually occurred and what did not. Weaving a tale that stretches for decades, Ms. McFadden executes it with such style and skill, you barely feel the years go by. It’s actual moments in history that remind you of the length of the story of a man named Harlan, born to parents who loved him, but life made that deep parental love nil. Like finding the perfect honeysuckle in summer, pinching off the tip, and slowly drawing down the stem, “The Book of Harlan” is rich with anticipation and sweet promise. And though you may think you know how perfect that drop of nectar (the books ending) will be, it comes in a most surprising and unexpected way. You root for Harlan, chide him. Long to pop him up side his head. You want to shake him, pray for him. Give him a much needed hug. At times you feel his life is a loop of hopelessness and you simply want to grab him by the hand and drag him towards his ‘better day.” You yearn for re-connections that never come and swallow the bitter cup that is often his life. But you never stop hoping, never stop wishing, never stop wanting that turn for the better. Why? Because Ms. McFadden created him in such a remarkable way, you have no choice but to care. With clean, purposeful prose, it is easy to settle back and enjoy the ride that is “The Book of Harlan,” witnessing the sultry summer days of Macon, Georgia, the energetic optimistic times of turn-of-the-Century Harlem and the horrific brutalizing winters of a Nazi death camp. It’s all here, told with deftness and skill, leaving you wondering of Harlan’s life after the last page has been read and definitely wanting to know more… Bernice L. McFadden proves once again that she is a master storyteller. Bravo Ms. McFadden. Bravo!