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Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
June 13, 2018

okay - it is time to write a proper review for this book, particularly since i have been recommending it like crazy over the past few days, and since it is out of print, i should at least make the effort to try to explain why you should make the effort, yeah?

but damned if i know where to start. cover-blurbs compare it to james baldwin and faulkner. is that a start? i haven't read baldwin, and i haven't liked the one faulkner i did read, so let me dig a little deeper...

it is a luminous example of the lyricism of the afro-canadian literary tradition. yeah, that's true, but what a chunkily pompous sentence to describe this whirlwind of a book that sweeps you away with its bluesy prose and brutal and violent episodes. but not gratuitously violent. see what i mean?? i'm all thumbs and redundancies and backtracking when it comes to trying to make you read this.

all i can tell you is how he makes me feel. he destroys me. just punches my heart over and over and then rubs it all over with whiskey poetry. if you want examples of his writing, i have "reviewed" about 5 books of his poetry, where i basically just typed out his poems because he is a much better writer than me, and he can sell himself. he just needs to be back in print to do so. read him read him read him.

kathy, alan, and bill have written more relevant reviews of this that should be read, and i am so glad they listened to me and took a chance and wrote good reviews about this secret gem of a book, because i am too in love with it to even begin to tell you why.

hardly a "proper" review after all, but i am hopelessly inept.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Eh?Eh!.
373 reviews4 followers
January 18, 2010
The cover jumps up and down and screams "read me!" in a very annoying way. I would never have bought this on my own. Thank goodness for goodreads and goodreaders with good taste who recommend great books. From Canada!

This is an imagining of the story behind a real murder. I learned a touch of history about a place other than the USA, about how a group of African descendants came to Nova Scotia. The author is a distant relative of two brothers who were hanged and this fictionalization seems to be an explanation, a personal exploration, a purging of the injustice, poverty, and hatefulness that led to the crime.

I started and finished this quickly, thanks to a bout of indigestion (note to self, getting old and can't eat ice cream late at night anymore without consequences...sigh). I got a little tripped up at first by what's described on the back as "a 'blackened English' argot minted for this book" (which mean he sometime write something like this, full-on flow sometime no stops for punctuation and sometime ignore grammar...but much more beautifully than that crappy attempt at an example); but as I kept reading it became the perfect voice in my head for this story. I wish I was religious enough to call upon a deity (Good God! Holy Mother Mary! The grace of Allah! By the Castle of Grayskull!) because only 10 pages in I was amazed. The description of the early days of Cynthy and Asa's marriage, nothing really explicit, just colors and impressions of images like softly fuzzy black&white freeze-frames...I felt flushed. Ahem. This was one of the few not-unhappy parts, since the crime was horrific and the childhood and circumstances of their shaping was even more horrific.

I have a tin eye but I believe this was poetry in paragraph form, the racing pace and beautiful words making gorgeous imagery of the most sordid of scenes.

I have a habit of noting passages about food and after a couple of these, I started marking them intending to type them out. They ended up being too many and too long (and not too much a part of the story other than contrasting their desires for good food compared to what they had) but I just want to note, this author did justice to the glory of food.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,117 reviews1,875 followers
November 10, 2011
This is the 200th book I've read this year. It's a milestone for my lack of having much of a life outside of going to work and going on aifaf on Sundays.

So, for my 200th book I thought about what I would read. I decided that I didn't want it to be one of the hard-boiled crime novels I'd been reading recently, and then I almost made it a Parker novel, which seemed sort of fitting since the Richard Stark novels have kind of been a running theme along with MMA for me in my reviews and reading choices this year. And then I happened to be moving a pile of books from one spot of my floor to another when I saw that George and Rue was there. Ah ha! This would be perfect, it's a serious novel and it's something Karen has been trying to get me to read for over a year.

Canadian poet / novelist George Elliott Clarke, you shall be the author of the 200th book I will read this year!

And I read it, and I really really liked it. I don't know if it's a pure five stars, but it's totally a very strong four, and I like it more most of the books I've been giving out four stars to lately, so I'm going to let this one shine with a five!

You know what isn't five stars though? The cover. The cover is a travesty. It looks like it should be a cover for some press-junket arc or something. Whomever came up with this cover should have their fingers broken so they can't operate a computer ever again. The suit who came up with this should be fired for being a fuckwad twit. The cover is awful. It's like a girl who dresses up all slutty to go out, there is no decency, and it's just trying to attract attention. I was going to say it's like a fat ugly girl, like some fourth generation almost toothless at twenty-two year old girl going out dressed all slutty just to get the attention of some drunk sleaze bag for a few hours, but that would be a disservice to the book. The book isn't some disgusting piece of trailer trash, it's a beautiful, dark and awful (in the best possible meaning of the word) book that shouldn't need to have six blurbs, all of which are in bigger font than the author's name and carry almost all of the attention of the cover. A travesty in design!

After reading a months worth of crime novels this novel stands out in very sharp contrast. In crime-novels perfect crimes are hatched. Alibi's are created. All possible ties are severed. In this fictionalized account of an actual murder it's like the most imperfect crime ever committed. Two bothers bash in taxi drives head for about 160 dollars and some coins. Before bashing in his head they drive all around the county, stopping in to say hi to friends, attempting to get bootleg hooch from another friend, just making themselves all known to be in the cab with the driver. Afterwards, they drive around with the body in the trunk. One of them goes to a town, he visits people with the car, he pays off debts, he goes to an expensive whore, it doesn't bother him to be seen in the car, throwing around money, even though he's poor as dirt, never known to have money to throw around or a car. This is like the dumbest and most trivial crime ever.

One of the brothers was a half suave borderline criminal. The other was a good natured and fairly dumb nice guy. The latter would say this on his first day in court, "Your Honour, sir, I object of answerin any questions on the ground they might be disciminatin on me." He then tries to take the Fifth and has to be informed that he is in Canada and not the United States. Should I mention that he's the brother who drives the car around the county, paying visits and paying off debts with the body in the trunk?

The brothers hang for their crime. This book is about the life, sort of what led them to the fairly senseless murder and their subsequent execution. The two brothers are first cousins once removed (whatever that means, I don't have enough family to remove anyone, and most of my family is something like first cousin, adopted or from another marriage) of the author. It's about poor blacks that were brought to Canada by the British after they were 'liberated' from the United States in the War of 1812. It's about ignorance and poverty and cursed people trapped in their own environment.

Except for the murder, the story is pretty standard poor trash starting with the mother and father. They meet and everything is great. Asa figured his bestest possession be Cynthy, his wife, and wouldn't it be nice to see such pleasure bear fruit? but at first, after conjunction, she'd crush seeds of Queen Anne's lace, mix the white powder with water, and drink to keep the babies off. Still, how can forever refuse natural consequences of love? And so, Georgie happened along. some time last year, 1925.

That's when the sweetness turned ugly...

That passage is from about the fifth page of the book, and it's the whole stupid (i'd normally just say white, but this is about blacks) poor trash story. The stupid fucks who have five kids by the time they are twenty four. The people who are grandparents by my age, the general unhappiness and misery that such a life creates and the failure of quick attempts to grasp at temporary solutions ultimately makes everything so much worse. I don't think I'm doing a decent job putting this in to words but maybe I was able to sort of make myself inarticulately clear.

This is a really really good novel, and it helps give evidence to my idea that Arcadia, or the East Coast of Canada, or whatever it's called is our gothic Southern world. Take away the bitter cold and ice and this story would have no problem being set anywhere in the deep South during the same time period.
Profile Image for Jen.
247 reviews151 followers
October 20, 2012
We read to understand. We fashion narratives for ourselves and others every day, looking for connections and explanations past the perfunctory. And this is what George Elliot Clarke has done here, and he's done amazingly well, and not just because he is weaving a tale around his forebears. It is one thing to take a story straight and crude, fashioned out of need and utility, all chipped edges and gouges, a rough account of violence and murder, and be polite to it, sanding down its hard corners, trimming it out so that it can be half-decent, and quite another thing to respect the drunken, gap-toothed crookedness of it so much that you showcase it in the richest and most expensive velveteen case of words available. Damn, man! The prose is hardly prose, it rolls around, bobbing in and out, sometimes jabbing, sometimes embracing:

"He said, 'I must start out and scythe down grass for myself.' He boarded the train to Halifax, that open sewer on the Atlantic. Its alleys unfurled a parade of puddles and garbage and feces and head-dented cats. Dogs looked half-run-over or only had three legs. Ugly gals sashayed with black-leather-skirted asses or black-silk-scarved necks. Salubrious, unchaste voices, redolent of pigeon squabble and pidgin gabble chortled over sidewalks scrawled on by illiterate Satanists whose graffiti exclaimed, 'Satin lives!'

If the story doesn't bruise you the writing will. Clarke calls his writing here "Blackened English," and states this in the same place where he accepts "total guilt for all errors and faults herein," but I don't see that he has any reason to apologize. At all.

The book is split into four parts (though there are some notes beyond that): Whip, Hammer, Rope, and Crypt. These designations speak for themselves. You start with the whip and things don't get much better, but there's beauty in the bleakness of it and you can squeeze the flesh on this story and marvel at the way your skin goes white and then the blood comes rushing back in again along with your coloring.

As usual I am rambling about a book and not being very clear on its details. My manpants would stop me here and demand I answer "but what happens?" But this is not only a story about what happens, this is a narrative made so that your meeting up with understanding is better and more thorough than simply shaking a hand with plain baldy-faced facts or tsk-tsking over the tale of two black guys who come from unfortunate circumstances and end up in them, so there, manpants—I read to understand! Pow!

Profile Image for Alan.
Author 11 books167 followers
December 16, 2009
just come - from amazon, nice hardback.

Although I am being swept along by the torrent of his prose, I haven't got very far as I keep going back to re-read, and re-read again.

...stunning book. Vivid, intense, unrelenting, written by a poet about cousins of his who were hung for murder in 1949. The book uses real letters and notes and documents but is a fictionalisation of the titular brothers' lives and takes you through their violent upbringing in grindiong poverty and the inhospitable cold of Nova Scotia: The falling snow hammered a prison into shape around them. Snow belted them like their father's hand.

They are products of a loveless marriage: Her marriage was an orchard of rotten fruit and dry, snapped branches, a wormy atmosphere.. The father was no longer crazy for incuntation with her. After a gallon of plonk, he'd go stumbling, jaundice-eyed, tar-faced, cussing, up and down the road, seeking some thoroughbred hussy, with his foul lust sticking out, dripping, his cock looking like dried up muck, a worm of snot dangling from a nostril, and his whole being reeking of pork-scented smoke.

The brothers, variously described as two pieces of shit,and just black boys blackened further by Depression, are not the same though: George is not violent (never hit a man), and although a petty criminal has begun to live a 'straight' life with his wife and children (albeit still in terrible poverty) when Rue arrives (out of jail) and entices George back into a life of crime. Eventually they kill - although they only mean to stun him with a hammer - and rob a taxi driver, George's friend. George does not kill, but provides the murder weapon, and is full of guilt and remorse at the end, during and after the trial. Rue, a failed musician with his own style learnt on half a piano, remains defiant and unrepentant to the end. In court when asked why he is there, he answers Because my mama and papa made me - just like you.; and if his brother wore reading glasses: I never seen him reading. Whereas George converts to Christianity and writes for mercy to several dignitaries from his death-cell.

There is no redemption in this book, despite George's conversion. Religion is tainted by its practitioners - the local preacher was skilled at the subtle fucking of wives. Yep, he loved hogs, whores, and wine, in no apparent order and runs off with the boy's mother, eventually killing the drunken father by roping him up and nudging the wriggling man off the wharf... He died thinking, "Who's pissin in my face?". This is in Halfax who's raw sewage pipe into the harbour was Halifax's answer to the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Great Wall of China, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Acadia (new word to my ignorant ears), and Canada itself does not come out well: racism and neglect, poverty and indifference are the keynotes here.

So not a pleasant read perhaps, but Clarke's poetic use of language drives you through it. Georgie careened through a cliff-slippery, hilly city, dramatically shuddering, crazy toward the Fundy. He saw churches mushroom from solid gravel; teeter-totter houses see-saw up and down steep, cascading hills. Occasionally I did feel his writing got a bit much, with word play on every page it seemed: When Rue saw Silver he saw red; He hated Rue's unfunky jazz: music should doctor, not need one.; Their affair had lust in it - the remains of lustre. All these are fine, but tiring when there are so many. But the book's vivid potrayal of rough and bitter lives amidst a rough and bitter landscape is worth all five stars.

Thanks Karen for bringing this to my attention.
Profile Image for Kathy.
12 reviews12 followers
June 23, 2009
George and Rue was an amazing and beautifully written book! Clarke does more than tell story of a murder but the underlining situations and experiences that lead to the event. One of the most powerful lines in the book is (sorry I don't have the book so this is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase!) "Asa was raising niggers, not engineers". This line describes the experiences of the family in a nutshell, how the effects of racism and poverty are passed on from generation to generation. Asa (George and Rue's father) takes out his despair, rage, and depression on his wife and children. His children then see no other way of living so the cycle of racism and poverty continues.

I highly recommend this book!
Profile Image for ❀ Susan G.
704 reviews54 followers
July 23, 2016

This novel is a fictional tale based on a historic incident where two brothers, George and Rufus Hamilton, were hung after the murder and robbery of a taxi driver in 1949. This murder happened in New Brunswick and the novel describes the brother’s lives and the poverty they lived with their entire lives. This Canadian novel is my 33rd book from the CBC list of 100 Novels that Make You Proud to be Canadian.

The boys were raised in a poor shack, abused by their violent father and neglected by their mother. They dropped out of school with George focusing on farm work which he felt suited to and Rue teaching himself to play the piano on an abandoned, damaged instrument. George married and was living a quiet life until his brother returned with dreams of entitlement and no commitment to working towards his goals.

Rufus devises a plan to murder for money and unfortunately for his wife and children, George goes along for the ‘ride’. The story is a sad expose of the life that these two boys may have lived leading up to the crime and shares the lack of planning and poor choices that led to their arrest. These were not sly and prepared criminals, they were uneducated petty thieves who participated in escalating crimes.

Clarke is a 7th generation Canadian who is a professor, novelist, playwright, poet and literary critic. He lives in Toronto and is Canada’s current poet laureate committed to amassing a treasure of Canadian poetry while promoting the arts. He has won the governor general’s award for his poetry.

Although this is another bleak read, George and Rue shares interesting Canadian history that I was not aware of. It is another story that is important to be told and one that might capture the interest of high school students while imparting historical details.
Profile Image for Bill.
308 reviews312 followers
October 18, 2009
Really excellent first novel by the Canadian poet George Elliott Clarke. Based on the true story of a murder of a taxicab driver in New Brunswick in 1949, the murderers are actually distantly related to the author. You can tell he's a poet as the writing is beautiful. Hopefully he'll write some more fiction.
5,870 reviews130 followers
July 24, 2021
George And Rue is a historical fiction crime mystery written by George Elliott Clarke. It is the unremittingly grim story of two black brothers, bound from birth for the gallows.

The narrative is based on the true story of the 1949 murder of a taxi driver in New Brunswick, Canada, by Clarke's first cousins, brothers George and Rufus Hamilton. The characters are descended from African-Americans who immigrated to Nova Scotia at the end of the Revolutionary War.

It begins the brothers' story with their impoverished, part black, part Mi'kmaq Indian parents, Asa – a violent patriarch who felt commissioned to destroy his family and the beautiful, tawny-skinned Cynthy. For George and Rufus, this lineage dooms them from birth, if not their very conceptions in Three Mile Plains, Nova Scotia.

George is the simpler brother, willing to make an honest living, while Rufus, the younger brother but the leader, is brighter, more creative and ruthless – he only wants to plot piano gigs and casual thefts. Petty crime escalates to murder in a desperate hope for cash ensue as the narrative eloquently plots the Hamiltons' tragic trajectory toward the crime for which they hang.

George And Rue is written rather well. Clarke's narrative is multifaceted, oscillating between a lyrical, filigreed prose and a blunt, no-nonsense report, sometimes in black vernacular. The brothers must battle racism all their lives, but Clarke never makes that an excuse for their crimes – if anything, he comes down on them too hard, the clownish, no-account George and the sinister, gangster-cool Rue.

All in all, George And Rue is a powerful debut, with a visceral understanding of pain and anger.
Profile Image for Jacob Wilson.
141 reviews4 followers
November 4, 2020
George Elliott Clarke, is by trade- a poet. It shows. I'm familiar with his other, sensuous, vivacious, witty poems about life; he brings the same to a meditation on death. On lives foreshadowed and stamped with death from birth. He ponders, with acerbic humour, the death that systemic racism mandates: the closing of possibilities and potential, and the melancholic, ironic, and wry beauty that haunts those lives. Clarkes' prose is beautiful and evocative, and the narrative is compelling, demanding to be read and read carefully, savouring the delicious, bitter taste of the velvet words in the mind.

Read this book! I struggle to see how you might regret it; it will be- at the very least- memorable.
Profile Image for Connor Bennett.
39 reviews3 followers
November 23, 2020
It's during books like these that you get a real sense of Canadian literature, and how little it gets read.
Profile Image for Cymric.
246 reviews
April 8, 2023
This story of two brothers is hard to classify--is it history, given that it is based on actual people and occurrences, or historical fiction, given that the author has given free rein to his imagination to fill in conversations, thoughts of the various players in this drama, and so on? I guess the former. This story takes place in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Montreal in the 1940s.

The writing is dialectical, at times raw and brutally explicit, at times playful, at times poetic, but the story is cruel. The value in it for me was in reading between the lines, trying to understand why this occurred.

The two brothers, George and Rufus, were raised in incredibly tough circumstances, subjected to poverty and physical abuse throughout their childhoods. Their father was a drunkard and a cruel person who beat his wife and children; their mother, a helpless and immature women who could not protect her sons. Both parents die when the boys are not yet out of their teens. Once grown, they are thrown into a world that judges them harshly and in which systemic racism means that their job prospects are extremely limited and they seemed doomed to poverty. However, George tries to accept this unfair situation and to conform to the strictures of the place and the times in which he lives; whereas Rufus, the more intelligent and gifted of the two, is resentful and rebellious. George joins the navy and the army, never getting much of a chance even within those milieus, and once discharged finds menial work. He marries and has children. Rufus loses his first love in an accident and then becomes something of a drifter, engaging in petty crime and doing time.

Eventually Rue finds his way to George's home and convinces his brother to rob an acquaintance of theirs, a taxi driver. The plan is to knock the guy over the head with a hammer and that is eventually what transpires--the two hire the taxi, asking the driver to take them here and there, and at one stop, when George steps out ostensibly in search of some moonshine, Rufus knocks the unfortunate victim over the head with a hammer, killing him in a scene that is graphic and raw. Subsequently, they rob the dead man and go on a spending spree with the proceeds of their crime.

Why did the two brothers do this? The book does not dwell too much on this question. The victim was someone who was relatively kind to them, a simple man who led a simple life. However, the victim was white, and so he had so much more than either George or Rufus could hope to have--a steady job, a satisfied wife and well-fed children, and status in society thanks to his white skin. Perhaps the fact that the victim was so similar to them and yet was able to achieve so much more, created a huge amount of resentment and anger that could in part explain the murder. I wondered if George or Rufus felt at some level that they had no choice but to do what they did--that everything and everyone in their life was forcing them to their tragic and dramatic fate.

The book also describes the trial and the hanging. Even though George did not wield the murder weapon he is still handed the same sentence as his brother. The fact that he is emphatically religious and repentant does nothing to soften the heart of the judge. The trial and the media coverage say a lot about the racism of the time; it seems as if the public enjoyed the sensational aspect of the trial and the gruesome fate of the two brothers.

In the final chapters, the author reveals that the two brothers were actually distant relatives of his.
Profile Image for Artyom Yakovlev.
69 reviews4 followers
January 31, 2020
“George and Rue” has got immediately identifiable Native Son vibes, but contrary to Richard Wright’s novel, it’s overly pretentious. The language used by the poet George Elliot Clarke is too poetic and thus runs counter to the violent story that the author is telling. His usage of what he himself refers to as “Blackened English”, though masterful, is too-infrequent and feels too-unbrave, as if he had been afraid of causing his potential reader too much trouble with the language. I found the plot engaging overall but would have preferred a barebones, Hemingway-like artistic approach to it, or even a deeper, Dostoevsky-like character study. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a feeling that the story managed to offer detailed and profound insight into the issues it raised - criminal morality, courtroom ethics, even the questions of civil rights.
The other major problem with the novel is that Clarke, in his attempts to ‘fictionalize’ the story based on true events, becomes partial. From the beginning of the book, he is trying to justify the boys’ act of violence by showing us the brutality they had to endure in their childhood and later years and asking us to sympathize with the characters. I’m not fond of such emotional blackmail and moral manipulation - having learned the facts, I always prefer to make my own judgement instead of being forcibly dragged to make the conclusions the writer wants me to — even if my personal opinion is not different from the writer’s, which is the case with “George and Rue”.
It is an undoubtedly interesting crime-courtroom drama, which is well-researched and beautifully presented. It dwells upon endless dilemmas and questions of justice, capital punishment, but George Elliott Clarke’s somewhat biased attitude should be taken with a pinch of salt.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Arlie.
1,163 reviews
April 5, 2019
This book is so beautifully written. Clarke's poetry shows, making his prose even clearer. It's a story of tragedy, and I appreciated Clarke's wrestling through how it might have happened. I felt a weird mix of sympathy for George (especially at the trial and with the police), some sympathy for Rue, a deep sadness over the state of the boys' lives, and disgust at the crime itself and some of their choices. But as Clarke says at one point, what they were really looking for was love. I appreciated the moments where it seemed like events could go in a more positive (stable) direction. But they didn't.
Profile Image for Pinktwest.
257 reviews8 followers
July 31, 2019
Unfortunately, I did not like this book at all!!!!

This was a required reading for my class and I had to read the whole thing even though I wanted to dnf it. I know this book had to be uncomfortable and raw but I just could not!!! It was too much for me.

I loved the historical background of this book and the author himself is amazing but I did not like the book. The main reason is the writing style. It was so confusing I had to read some parts again to know what’s going on. I prefer his poetry more than this book which discussed this topic if I remember correctly.

All in all, the author is amazing but the book was not in my opinion.
Profile Image for Marg.
165 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2022
DNFed it at 50%
I tried, I really did, but I couldn't get past the abject misery in this book. And it's based on a true story!
One thing going for this book is Clarke's literary roots in poetry. This man can make poverty sound romantic. I found myself writing out sheets of quotes from the text that sounded like music lyrics. Truly stunning and beautiful. If only the language could make you forget about the horror show you're actually reading about.
Profile Image for Melinda.
974 reviews
July 5, 2017
Can't really say I "liked it," but three stars is probably not enough for the mad genius of the writing and more than I'd care to give for the vile, graphic nature of the story. If you can get past the first 50 pages, you may compulsively read the rest of this true crime tale about two brothers who murder a cabbie for $180 and end up swinging on a gallows in Nova Scotia.
483 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2022
A powerfully written imagining of the real-life story of brothers George and Rue. In moving and evocative language, we are confronted with their impoverished beginnings, the racism and violence that shaped their lives, and in the final tragic chapter, their execution for a brutal murder. I particularly liked some of the lyrical, almost poetic language used.
Profile Image for Cam Waller.
228 reviews57 followers
September 20, 2017
Beautifully written. This novel's heart wrenching plot has sentences which flow like honey. Decorated with some of the greatest imagery I've read to date, George and Rue is an essential read for any Canadian interested in the meaning of race and justice.
Profile Image for Selena.
12 reviews9 followers
July 2, 2018
Exceptionally written. Clarke uses imagery of colour, food and black culture to paint a picture of life in rural Nova Scotia as an "Africadian." It's maddening, heartbreaking and reveals the cruelty of our justice system in good ol' Canada.
Profile Image for Annika.
110 reviews
November 21, 2017
"Their own dreams and choices were the passed-down desolations of slavery."
November 9, 2018
This an excellent book. George Elliot Clarke’s poetic prose beautifully paints this horrendous story and speaks to what it was to be an African Atlantic Canadian in these times.
Profile Image for Patrick.
30 reviews18 followers
January 14, 2019
Amazing. Lyrical and evocative. A powerful social history of one facet of the Black experience in "Canada". Clarke's use of language is beautiful. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jeff McLennan.
13 reviews6 followers
December 26, 2019
This book was amazing. A first novel - incredibly creative and poetic. Kept me turning the pages with its unique perspectives and historical relevance. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lyle.
104 reviews1 follower
August 7, 2021
Page 62
… sidewalks scrawled on by illiterate Satanists whose graffiti exclaimed, “Satin lives!”

Page 87
And they got a reddish cat named Dog.

Page 183
Rufus testified in his own defence at his separate trial, but his speech delivered merely cryptic satire. Boyd asked, “Why are you here, Rufus?” Rue explained: “Because my mama and papa made me – just like you.“
Profile Image for Pamela.
335 reviews
October 17, 2017

It is horrific to think that there was a time when the death sentence was standard in Canada. Barbaric, wrong, evil.

Clarke writes the story from his family's history (cousins of his mother, I believe). From, an account of the actual events:
"14 Hamilton Brothers - It was quite possibly the most infamous case in Fredericton's history. Though the details may be vague and the exact date may escape them, many of the city's residents can still recall the night that George and Rufus Hamilton went to the gallows.
The crime sealing the fate of these young men from Barker's Point took place January 7th, 1949. On that evening, George (23) and Rufus (22) Hamilton called a taxi, a phone call which ultimately led to the brutal murder of the driver, Norman "Silver" Burgoyne. The resultant trial raised more questions than it answered due to contradictory testimony and the fact that each tried to pin the crime on the other. Both, however, would pay for the crime that the Deputy Attorney General described as "one of the most cold-blooded, planned, and brutally executed murders in the history of New Brunswick." There was little question, once they were found guilty, as to what their ultimate fate would be: A murder conviction called for a mandatory death sentence!"

Some of it is good. I'm being too picky maybe. Too judgmental too. Too open-opened-up to the realities, shame, fear, deprivation, racism, and reality of being black in Canada, in Nova Scotia, at a time when racism was rampant and there was nothing for no one if you didn't have a job, but you couldn't get a job if you were black, impoverished, had nothing. Here's how it was that time right before the crime, but they didn't expect it to be a man they knew (was it really or is that imagined for effect?):
"To snitch and snatch was the answer to empty and used-up. The air was cold in that shack: words could practically be traced in the white mist that cracked their mouths. Not even their blood flowed right in this winter. They had to burn wood--or freeze. All-important kindling dwindled. They was in a jam.
'The universe is perfect,' thought George, 'except for us.'"

I do not find this a powerfully evocative account, a great story based on facts. I find it fact after fact, with some flowery language thrown in so that it's not just an accounting. I don't care about these brothers. I don't care about the story. I just want to get it finished. Will that change?

Thus it BEGINS.
"A WHITE devil moon haunts the black 1949 brand-new four-door Ford sedan when a black hammer slip out a pocket and smuck the taxi driver's head, from the side. Not just a knock-out blow, the hammer was a landslide of iron. It crashed down unnervingly."
Displaying 1 - 30 of 47 reviews