Paperback: 441 pages
Publisher: Penguin (3 Mar. 2016)
I saw this in the shop and thought this would be a good chance to learn something about the southern states of the USA. After reading quite a few crime novels based in the South I thought I ought to learn something about it.
I was expecting poverty, religion and racism and that’s what I got.
The religion, and its role in society was quite exotic for someone in the UK. For most of us, it doesn’t play a big part in our lives, and I’ve certainly never had my hair cut by a man who has his own church. I was hoping that he would visit a church that used snakes, but he didn’t. He didn’t eat much barbecue either, but I suppose you can’t have everything.
The poverty, on the other hand, is discussed in terms that seem fairly universal. Loss of traditional industry, lack of education, poor housing, production moved overseas – all of it could be true of many places.
It’s more interesting when he discusses the growing trend for African-American families to move into farming, and the various routes they have taken. Apart from that you can’t really tell you are in the South. Conversations in development agencies, for instance, seem to run along the same lines whether you are in the UK or the USA.
There was plenty on racism, including discussion of the Civil Rights movement and the current situation, which doesn’t seem to have moved on as much as you would have thought. I’m not going to develop this discussion because there is too much scope for putting my foot in it. Just let’s say that it gave me food for thought.
To sum up, there’s a lot to this book, but while it gave me much to think about, it also seemed to leave a lot undone. It seems too long, partly due to digressions about previous travels and Southern literature, and partly due to repetition of things like Gun Shows, but in some areas it just didn’t go deep enough.
Not a bad book, but an unsatisfactory one. Would I recommend it? Probably not.
Sorry to be so negative for two reviews in a row, that’s just how it is.