The reading and the writing were both a bit dry. Nonetheless, it's an interesting premise. The best medium to tell the story is probably film.
I am an Australian woman who enjoys reading many different styles of books, from history to sci fi and mystery to poetry.
This is a bit along the same lines. The only thing that bothered me was the lack of emotion around the horrors the character saw. She seemed almost resigned and clinical about it unless she was actively experiencing said horrors. That grated on me a little. I thought a little social commentary and interest was called for.
Having said that I enjoyed the book and I liked the premise.
The narrator was reasonable, did not add or detract from the story.
I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did.
The premise here is fantastic, and I mean that both literally and evaluatively. On the one hand, this is clearly fantasy. It takes a contemporary woman (contemporary to the moment of its writing in 1976) and transports her back to slave times. As a Black woman, she is in the awkward position of preserving the life of the generally obnoxious plantation owner who will eventually become her great-great-great grandfather. If fantasy is typically escapist, this is an ambitious effort to engage the ever-challenging question of race in American history. If I’d read this as a book proposal, I’d be all over it. I’d pre-order it, sure I was going to get a home run read.
But, great as its conception is, this suffers from the same problem a lot of “golden age” science fiction does. It’s so in love with its own premise that its characters don’t emerge as satisfyingly formed. Dana is ever reasonable, taking her time-slipping almost for granted. She solves some of its problems in straightforward fashion, for instance tying a denim bag to her waist so that, when she is transported next, she has assorted 20th century items (aspirin or a knife) at hand. That said, she then takes the experience at face value. There are things to learn, situations to apprise, horrors to see. There is almost no real emotional grappling, though.
Take, for example, the section of the novel where her husband, Kevin, goes back in time with her. She inadvertently goes forward again, stranding him in the past. For her it’s only another day or so before she returns. For him it’s five years of his life. He’s a white man in a world where that gives him privileges, but he still has to live five years in a world that condones slavery, a world much more physically demanding than our own. When Dana does get back, she busies herself in the lives of the plantation family to which she’s tied. She tries to figure out what’s happened while she away, and she tries to put things right.
And she hardly bothers to ask after Kevin! As a sympathetic reader, I’m desperate on her behalf. She has just stranded the most important man in her life in a difficult past, but he seems an after-thought. It’s as if the bones of the story are too interesting for Butler to worry over what must surely have been the central emotional fact of Dana’s experience. Husband? Oh yeah, he’s around here somewhere, but I’m going to worry over these slaves instead.
There is also a narrative clunkiness here. The episodic nature of the story means that we never have to see how one situation develops into another. Dana is then, she’s now, and she’s then again. The opening scene recounts what will happen to her, and all we’re left to figure out is how. I might call it a [SPOILER] to suggest i that Rufus’s holding onto her arm – and causing her to have it sheared off on her return – reflects the crippling grip slavery has on our national consciousness, but I don’t have to say it. That’s a blunt claim, one she shares at the very beginning, and one so heavy-handed as to seem unartistic.
There is a lot of ambition here, and I think it might serve well to push a young adult audience into contemplating slavery in new terms. Plus, this has a solid spot in literary history. It’s a stepping stone toward stronger work that contemplates some of the same material – I’m thinking of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow or, by reputation at least, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad – and someone had to be the first to subvert sci-fi to the problem if race and history. Plus, I’ve read Butler’s later Dawn and, if I don’t quite love that, I see a more mature artist there.
So this was a place to start, and it deserves credit for that. I can overlook some of its clumsiness to the better work beyond, but I’m also less than inspired about this work on its own terms.
I'm a country potter, gardener, flute player and tin tinker living with my husband, an electrical engineer & cabinet maker.
I know I'm getting picky but it makes me crazy to hear the same sentence over and over when there could be so many ways to say it.
"I said nothing" was a statement made by Dana over and over and over. I heard it 5 times in an hour in part 2. Poor editing didn't bother me until I listened to Ken Follett's book and he was so repetitive with such awkward sentences that I wanted to scream at times. He had a great story but where was the editor???
So the story line is good though a bit strange at time. The character Dana disappears and returns wet and muddy in a few seconds and her husband doesn't believe what she tells him. He tries to tell her she imagined it yet there she is wet and muddy and in a different place in just seconds. The conversation should have been closer to - Holy Cow. What is this? - but instead he tries to tell Dana it was just a dream. She should take a shower and clean up and she will feel better and realize nothing really happened to her?
Really? That's the conversation? Is that because he's the man and she's the woman and therefore he must understand more than her?
The book is worth the read because of the different inside looking out view of slavery but with involved editing it could have been so much better.
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
A bit over a year ago I picked up Octavia Butler’s book Fledgling more by mistake than anything else. I knew the late Octavia Butler was a well known science fiction author, but I had not read anything she had written.
Fledgling, her last book, was about vampires, but was far different from either the young adult Twilight books, the Anne Rice books or the traditional Bram Stoker, book.
I was reluctant to pick up Kindred because of the subject matter. An African American woman gets sent back to Antebellum South. I expected a depressing or superficial book. Instead I found one of the best fiction books I have read this year.
I am a bit allergic to nostalgia, wishing to be back at some mythical point in history is great, for those that were privileged at that point in time.
Dana, both a woman and African American, was not privileged to in 1815 or the later points where she goes back. It is this voice, of the African American and female writer that Butler is known for. But what could be a simplistic (slavery was bad) book was a nuanced look at how culture affect the person.
This past week, with all of the tributes to Nelson Mandela, I was disturbed by those that wanted to focus on his freedom fighting days prior to his arrest without paying any attention to the reality on the ground of what Apartheid was like. Similarly, there is a movement among a small segment of Christians that want to assert that slavery is not objectively evil, but only evil to the extent that slave owners acted sinfully toward their slaves.
This is a level of historical reconstruction similar to holocaust deniers and just as dangerous. If this book were only a modern look at the reality of slavery it would be worth reading, but limited. Instead, it is well written, understands both the evil of slavery and the power of culture and the ability to overcome culture at times.
In some ways this book makes me think of one of my favorite books, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Both are heartbreaking in the way that one person is ripped out of time and another is left behind.
This is not a new book. Kindred was written in 1979 and was the book that allowed Octavia Butler to become a full time writer. Butler later won a MacArthur Foundation Genius grant and multiple Nebula and Hugo awards. I have picked up her Patternist series and Lilith’s Brood Trilogy as part of a recent kindle sale and look forward to reading what I understand is yet again two very different types of stories.
Originally posted on my blog, Bookwi.se
I found the writing to be basic and simple and I wondered what age the book was intended for, maybe a young teenager? Despite the lack of complexity in the writing the story brought the experience of living under slavery in America to life! It raised a number of questions in my mind about the legacy of slavery based on the experiences of the protagonist as a contemporary black woman thrust into slavery. I recommend it for the new perspective it will give you by examining the past.
I had heard great things about this book and author, so I was excited when this title was offered as a daily deal. I was extremely disappointed. The writing made me think I was listening to something that belongs in the young adult genre and the narrator sounded like she was reading a children's book. I tried to struggle through it hoping it might get better, but I surrendered by chapter 5 and returned it.
avid reader and writer of speculative fiction...
Excellent story with a very unique perspective, highly recommend.
This combines two classic stories -- time travel, slave memoir -- so well that it seems almost surreal that there aren't more stories like this out there!
This novel is well written, and deals with some complex issues. It is a sophisticated book. The performer reads it like it is a children's story: over-annunciating everything and speaking every line of dialogue with enough melodrama to gag on. It makes it hard to take the story seriously, which is a bummer, because it deserves to be taken as seriously as any literary masterpiece.
Octavia E. Butler is a genius.
Love listening, learning and letting myself get swept away in love, other's lives and electrifying adventures.
I struggled to finish this a bit, slow in parts. Great for understanding the lives of slaves and the current and past struggles for African Americans.
very good read. the premise was fascinating. feel like it gave me new incites into slavery.