Friday, June 03, 2016
Posted by JaneGS
When I heard that the History Channel was doing a remake of Roots, I decided that I better buckle down and read the Alex Haley blockbuster from the 1970s so that I could watch it. I only saw bits and pieces of the original Roots, since mine was one of those families that didn't always have a TV while I was growing up.
Anyway, Alex Haley's Roots was one of the several chunkster books that I read in April and May and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A few observations...
- I had no idea that more than half the book was Kunta Kinte's story, with a very large part taking place in Africa before he was captured and brought to America as a slave. I really enjoyed reading about life and customs in the village of Juffure in the Gambia. I blush to confess that I didn't know that the people in that part of the world at that time (mid 1700s) would be Muslim, but once I learned that it made sense. Just had never thought of it before.
- The part of the original series that I watched and remember best was the story of Chicken George, and this was my favorite part of the book as well. Such a colorful character, literally, though cockfighting is a truly appalling activity.
- The writing wasn't the best, even though Haley did win a Pulitzer prize for Roots. For example, I thought it awkward and clumsy the way Haley told the history of the U.S. by having one of the slave characters recount what he or she overheard the white characters discuss. Although it did help to provide a timeline for the main characters.
- I thought it a bit frustrating although realistic how we didn't learn the full fate of Kunta Kinte and his wife Bell. Once their daughter Kizzy was sold, she never saw them again or heard of their fate, and neither did the reader.
- Having read 12 Years a Slave last year and several novels about slavery, I was prepared for the violence and cruelty but it's never easy reading. I couldn't help remembering how much I loved Gone With the Wind when I was young and what an insult I now consider that novel to the African-American experience.
- I've been doing a fair amount of genealogy work on my own family, so it was very interesting and moving to read about the author's journey of family discovery. I love history, and I love stories, and so family history and individuals' stories are near and dear to my heart.
- Final quibble - I am reading the version I chose for my opening image, and there were a lot of typos. Amazingly and disappointingly so. How hard is it to get the words right in a 30th anniversary edition?
I've been recording the new series and look forward to starting it this weekend. However, I have to say, 4 2-hour installments doesn't seem nearly long enough to do the book justice. But then, I'm used to Outlander, which has been so faithful to the books that I'm afraid nothing else will be able to touch it in terms of getting it right.