The Water Dancer Paperback – 15 October 2019
|Paperback, 15 October 2019||
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One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life . . . I was enthralled, I was devastated. -- Oprah Winfrey
a remarkable story about inequality, slavery, memory, freedom and dignity. I found it important and universally relevant -- Elif Shafak ― Guardian
a crowd-pleasing exercise in breakneck and often occult storytelling that tonally resembles the work of Stephen King as much as it does the work of Toni Morrison, Colson Whitehead and the touchstone African-American science-fiction writer Octavia Butler. ― New York Times
a work of both staggering imagination and rich historical significance . . . timeless and instantly canon-worthy. ― Rolling Stone
A tale of slavery and mysterious power in this debut novel from one of America's most exciting young writers. ― The Times
An arresting story of fantastical power in the brutal world of human bondage . . . A transcendent, arresting work from a crucial political and literary artist -- Diana Evans
Eagerly anticipated . . . The Water Dancer merges historical and fantasy fiction in a slavery story that Oprah Winfrey says is one of the best books she has read in her life. ― Observer
In prose that sings and imagination that soars, Coates further cements himself as one of this generation's most important writers, tackling one of America's oldest and darkest periods with grace and inventiveness. This is bold, dazzling, and not to be missed ― Publisher's Weekly
Beautiful prose and wonderful characters . . . an important book written by one of the great thinkers of our times. It's a thriller, a historical how-to, a love story and a warning. I read it one long night and the next day pressed it into everyone's hands. Brilliant.
About the Author
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- Publisher : Hamish Hamilton (15 October 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0241325269
- ISBN-13 : 978-0241325261
- Item Weight : 502 g
- Dimensions : 15.3 x 3 x 23.4 cm
- Country of Origin : United Kingdom
- Generic Name : Book
- Best Sellers Rank: #39,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from India
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The story of Hiram is so fascinating and it gives you a glimpse of what slavery is, what happens when you try to escape slavery, how life is after the freedom they long for and what kind of sacrifices people had to make just to stay alive.
Coates imparts his protagonist with tremendous responsibility in the form of “Conduction”—the ability to transport yourself and others across time and place by the sheer force of memories of one’s own and communal past. It is this potential that renders Hiram a vital collaborator in the network of Underground Railroad. But here’s the hitch—Hiram is unable to yield this facility yet. Rest of the narrative follows Hiram’s journey as he meets his mentor of sorts, Mosses or Harriet (as she prefers to be called) who shows him the force of his gift and how he can wield it to his benefit, and realises that he can secure his freedom as well as of those he cares about. Things are obviously not as easy since any kind of escape from the masters involves mortal danger.
I felt that The Water Dancer would have been more potent if it were shorter. Of course, Coates does furnish his debut with moments of brilliance and intensity, though these occur only occasionally. He writes about the pain and humiliation of slaves, whom he calls the Tasked, without going into the gory details. He chooses to explore the emotional dimension of it instead, although there’s something that I can’t quite put into words, which seemed missing. Perhaps it was depth that I found lacking, which made it seem that I was floating on the surface even as tension roared just beneath it.
Top reviews from other countries
Having recently re-viewed Gone With The Wind, which President Trump clearly adores, I’m convinced that we need more movies — and more books — that present slavery as it actually was, and not as apologists for the Confederacy want us to see it.
Ta-Nehisi Coates new novel is nothing at all like Django, in the sense that it does not harp on the violence and brutality of plantation life in Virginia. The lead character, Hiram Walker, is the son of the plantation’s white owner and one of his slaves. Throughout the book, which Walker narrates, he refers to the slave-owner (and his owner) as ‘my father’. Much of the story revolves around the destruction of Black families, who were sold off individually as property by slave owners.
While there is little of the blood-letting which Tarantino showed, slavery is presented here as a slow-burning horror. In the end, one feels in addition to rage, a very deep sense of sadness at the pointless cruelty of everyday live in the pre-Civil War American South.
Hiram has a memory with perfect recall, but alas he cannot remember his mother, indeed there is a hole in his memory, and he cannot even remember what she looked like. As the son of a female slave, his father is the Plantation owner, and he thus has a white half-brother, who dies early on in this story. As we read of Hiram growing up so we have a certain sense of realism, but this is always being broached by the fantastical element, which instead of adding to the tale seems to stifle it a bit, giving a bit of an off-kilter view of things. So what we end up with is something that at times does not reach its full potential.
The characters and situations, with regards to the Underground Railroad and the different experiences of slaves from different areas reads as authentic, also this takes in the raping of the land, as the tobacco plantation that Hiram comes from is starting to decrease production due to the soil becoming too eroded. The latter is something that still rankles, as it changed parts of the US completely, and of course around the world this intense farming of one crop has caused serious soil damage. As the plantation is being run into the ground so we see slaves being sold off, and older ones being brought in when needed as replacements.
We read of the brutalities that went on on some plantations and the various relations between slaves and their owners. Coates also brings up here other issues, which are lightly touched upon at a camp, where there are people touting female suffrage, free love, communism and so on, although these are never furthered and thus are left as loose ends. With the Conduction elements so we have something that does jar and seems to not flow with the rest of the story. Such a power supposedly comes from Africa, with its different religions and myths, but somehow has become mixed with Christianity, which we know happens when religions collide, however we get in one place at least, quite a biblical scene that does not fit rightly, whilst what is going on is certainly not biblical; indeed Hiram’s power, which others also have is quite reminiscent of the Harry Potter books, where Harry and others travel via fireplaces. Here is it done by waterways, and you need a guide to take you.
This is this author’s first novel, and as such is very good, but personally I felt that if the fantastical elements were left out, thus keeping this more realistic throughout then this could well have been a modern classic, as although such things can and do work in other books, here it just destroys the fluidity and balance of the story, and decreases some of its power.