Caryl Phillips can slip you into the head and heart of characters as diverse as the African diaspora, and make you care desperately These wrenching, beautiful tales are tied by the horror of slavery but travel hundreds of years beyond the official end of that particular plague.You believe you re being lead somewhere, and perhaps you areExtensive entries from the log of a slave ship s master include a variety of things letters to his beloved wife, the weather, trouble with his crew many entries, once the ship reaches Sierra Leone mostly quite cursory of the slaves bought, as though Africa were an entire continent of people lined up with bar codes on their foreheads, just waiting to be, scanned, put in irons and chains, and shipped, head to toe in their own vomit and filth across the Atlantic To hell.On and on with theone small girl 4 strong men , two young womentil you begin to blur as awful as that is and then suddenly you are jolted back with a sentence that you remember and you realize that youknow a human being sold right now into slavery and the savagery rips you from your previous semi state and you can t breath right.After that, when the log registersBefore midnight buried 3women slaves Nos 71, 104, 109 Know not what they died of, for they have not been properly alive since they first came on board Why haven t you been angry What s wrong with you me You are ready to sling that master up by his.wait Am i angry enough now Am I paying attention now A 15 year old honor roll student shot dead by Dallas TX police yesterday, as he sat in the backseat of a car Doing nothingone young manLooked properly alive to me The power of good writing to tell the truth. Skillfully, savoring the agony, Caryl Phillips picks at the our itchiest patches of skin Skin is his great subject skin color its discontents Born in the West Indies, he s what an American would call black, but he s also Oxford all that, both his novels his non fiction have spun his hybrid nature between magician s fingers For non fiction, try THE EUROPEAN TRIBE, among his novels you ll find nothing so brilliant as CROSSING THE RIVER Framed by a tragedy in brief, a few pages at beginning end concerning a West African subsistence farmer forced by circumstances to sell his children into slavery, RIVER then pieces together four novellas of the slave trade its far reaching consequences Settings range in time from the mid 18th Century to the mid 20th, the details chilling exquisite no matter the period, the points of view are, well, diverse would be an understatement Only one perspective is that of a colored person, as the protagonist herself would say This is the old woman abandoned in pioneer Denver, post Emancipation She s too sick for the journey cross country to California, where her surviving daughter has made a life Indeed, everyone here is seeking after lost family, though the relationship may be smeared w incest Consider The Pagan Coast, the stunning opener Our vehicle of consciousness is a Virginia slave owner, a man who readers of this era will come to understand is a catamite not that the character himself would ever admit to such a thing his story concerns a broken hearted ultimately self destructive odyssey over to the newly founded Liberia, where he has allowed his former favorite house boy favorite, in every way to repatriate A subtle narrative, Pagan Coast eschews an obvious climax but delivers a wallop, the title piece may convey a still stranger shock it purports to be the captain s log from a slave trader The long closing novella limns the shadows cast into the 1940s, via the love affair with an African American GI stationed in England, again from a remarkable point of view that of the man s married white lover, the eventual mother of their mixed race child, soon given up for adoption Does their love come closer to equality Does it hold out the possibility of reconciliation For a book about the chasms pitched open by race a book of incomplete journeys represented in fragments this one proves nothing short of miraculous in how it gets over. Crossing the River is divided into three sections, each focused on a different effect of the slave trade I found it interesting that even though the novel is about slavery, and was written by a black British author, the three main voices were of white people One is a slave master who frees his slaves and pays their way back to Liberia in the 1820s the next is a captain of an 18th century slaving ship and the last is a young shopkeep in Liverpool who falls in love with an African American soldier during the Blitz.The stories cannot rightly be said to intertwine, but neither are they totally disparate Each protagonist finds him or herself bound to the horrors and hatred of slavery and racism, albeit to very different effect.I really liked Phillips use of non traditional formats The first two sections of the novel are comprised of a mix of narrative, letters, and the ship captain s log, which encourages aactive reading style The third section is cut up into very small sections with dated headers, but the dates are not at all linear If I were still a grad student, I would probably write about the breakdown of historical narrative, etc, etc, but you can infer that for yourselves.This was a nice complement to the last book I read, Toni Morrison s A Mercy. What a powerful novel I d never even heard of this one till it was picked for an online bookgroup I belong to I couldn t put it down Really a well conceived and imagined novel.The novel begins with a father explaining how the crops failed and in desperation he sold his three children Nash, Martha, and Travis to a slave trader The four sections that make up the center of the novel focus on each of the children as well as one a young ship s captain on his first trip to bring slaves from Africa to America the one who picks up the 2 strong man boys and a proud girl from their father The focus of each section and its language is completely different and appropriate to the content There is tragedy but also triumph in each life Nash is conceived as an educated American Negro whose master sent him back to Africa in the 1820s to the new nation of Liberia to educate his people and to teach them Christianity We read his letters to the master, increasingly despairing because he doesn t hear back his master s wife has intercepted and destroyed the letters Martha is a slave, sold away from her husband and daughter when the master of a Virginia plantation dies, who goes first to pre Civil War Kansas which is not a slave state and then, when her owner intends selling her across the river into Missouri which is a slave state she runs away and joins a wagon train of free blacks going to California, but dies on the way, in Colorado Travis is an American GI in WWII, stationed in England who carries on a delicate courtship with an Englishwoman, fathers a child, comes back to marry her, and then is killed on the beach in Italy Nash s and Martha s voices are appropriate to their time and place their thoughts are on freedom and on love Travis is seen through the eyes of June who loves him though she s never really known love before There s also a section focused on the captain of the American slave ship consisting of excerpts from a ship s log and letters to his wife.Phillips doesn t handle each section the same way, nor are the voices exclusively those of the African disapora Captain Hamilton s view point is important because he s not a hardened slave trader, though possibly his father, who captained the ship before him, was But making the last section from Joyce s point of view was brilliant Had he made it from Travis s, we might have gone over territory that had already been covered, but that of the woman who loved him brought something new I loved how Phillips tied it up at the end, in the voice of the distraught father who sold his children, quoting from each of the voices and relating their stories to black soldiers in Vietnam who had no quarrel with the VietCong , to Toussaint L Overature, to those struggling with Papa Doc and other dictators, to Jazz and dance and James Baldwin who in Paris wrote Nobody Knows My Name and Martin Luther King s I have a dream speech. FRom BBC Radio 4 Drama written and dramatised from his own novel, CROSSING THE RIVER, by Caryl Phillips.SOMEWHERE IN ENGLAND is a story of love and race set in Yorkshire during the Second World War.When the US Army arrived in Britain during World War Two, it came in still segregated units When a platoon of black GIs sets up camp near a quiet Yorkshire village, there are far reaching consequences both for rebellious GI Travis Johnson and local shopkeeper, Joyce.All other parts played by members of the castProduced directed by Gaynor Macfarlane.http www.bbc.co.uk programmes b0848cvn An then listened as the many tongued chorus of the common memory begins again to swellA beautifully written and structured account of intertwined generations of victims of colonization of slavery The concept of diaspora playing a very important role, key for both fully understading the novel and concept itself Multi layered discourses are melted in all the different voices that are used, plus a possible metanarrative reading by an analysis of all the different modes that are used journal, epistolar, summary A must read if you want to make the most Postcolonial theory and its application to literature. The concept of the book and its relation to the experimental form was compelling, but it just didn t hold together for me The crossing portion was particularly strong by using absent voices to illustrate the cultural schizophrenia of the time and of our current time as well But I missedthreads pulling through the entire work though of course I can see how the lack of such threads could also be a comment on the diaspora as well. From The Acclaimed Author Of Cambridge Comes An Ambitious, Formally Inventive, And Intensely Moving Evocation Of The Scattered Offspring Of Africa It Begins In A Year Of Failing Crops And Desperate Foolishness, Which Forces A Father To Sell His Three Children Into Slavery Employing A Brilliant Range Of Voices And Narrative Techniques, Caryl Phillips Folows These Exiles Across The River That Separates Continents And CenturiesPhillips S Characters Include A Freed Slave Who Journeys To Liberia As A Missionary In The S A Pioneer Woman Seeking Refuge From The White Man S Justice On The Colorado Frontier And An African American GI Who Falls In Love With A White Englishwoman During World War II Together These Voices Make Up A Many Tongued Chorus Of Common Memory And One Of The Most Stunning Works Of Fiction Ever To Address The Lives Of Black People Severed From Their Homeland 2 DEC 2016 a recommendation through Bettie Thank you. a couple choice quotations That my father traded not wisely, and with too much vigour He goes on and hints that Father cultivated a passionate hatred, instead of a commercial detachment, towards the poor creatures in his care For indeed my father held dear to the belief that the teachings of the Lord were incompatible with his chosen occupation, and that it was folly to try to toke together these opposites in one breast Get the police, I ve just done in my missus The dirty bitch.