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Ta-Nehisi Coates’ venture into the world of fiction, The Water Dancer, is the story of the power of individual and collective memory and how those enslaved channel it to retain their humanity and dignity. At the heart of the book is Hiram, a young boy fathered by a white man, Howell Walker, and a mother who has been sold off into slavery by Howell. Despite the gift of photographic memory, Hiram is unable to recall the details of his mother’s sudden disappearance. This is just the tip of Hiram’s suffering—he and everyone born to his race undergo far greater ignominies at the hands of whites—for he is ordered to be the chaperone for his white half-brother at Lockless, a tobacco plantation and estate in Virginia owned by their wealthy father.
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.
I loved this book to begin with, but my interest waned around the halfway mark. From that point on it was inconsistent for me, felt like it had lost its focus, and some potentially interesting characters were not fully developed.
Esta novela de Ta-Nahisi Coates estaba siendo esperada desde que anunció hace más de un año. Coates es el autor de tres libros de no ficción (una biografía, unos ensayos en forma de cartas a su hijo y una compilación de artículos de la revista The Atlantic sobre la presidencia de Obama). Estos tres libros son magistrales, por lo que la novela era esperada ansiosamente. Sin embargo, este libro no está a la altura enorme de su trabajo de no ficción. Está bien escritoa y gustará a sus seguidores, pero le falta algo. En algunas críticas, la novela fue comparada con Toni Morrison e incluso con James Joyce. Con Morrison seguro que por la temática (la esclavitud americana). Con Joyce no se sabe por qué, ya que Coates y el autor irlandés están en las antípodas respecto a estilo, temática y, en definitiva, casi todo lo demás. Conclusión, un buen trabajo, pero muy por debajo de sus obras, arriba citadas, de no ficción y ensayo
The Water Dancer is a book loaded with potential- The story is filled with loss and surprisingly a sense of hope - the message is powerful meaningful and beautiful written though at times verbose I felt it ended abruptly
This was an interesting story about slavery, but with a magical twist. As Colson Whitehead has created a literal (but fictional) train in his Pulitzer-winning The Underground Railroad, here Coates creates a sort of mystical, magical path to freedom called The Conduction. I just found it much less interesting as a story compared to The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Beloved by Toni Morrison.