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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard & Judy 100% right again
This book is really powerful. It's set in the Deep South of the USA just as World War Two has finished, where little had changed since the abolition of slavery. White and black farmers live side by side amidst terrible prejudice, yet the war has changed things, and terrible consequences follow. But there's also a lot of love, and family in the book. If you liked Cold...
Published on 21 Oct. 2008 by emma who reads a lot

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jumping on the bandwagon
I have to say, I'm amazed that so many people raved about this. Another reviewer mentioned 'The Help'; this book goes over pretty much the same issues, even using the same device of different narrators. Rather than having its own voice (like 'The Help'), this book seems like a conglomeration of all the clichés about the South and prejudice the author felt she...
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer


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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard & Judy 100% right again, 21 Oct. 2008
By 
emma who reads a lot (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
This book is really powerful. It's set in the Deep South of the USA just as World War Two has finished, where little had changed since the abolition of slavery. White and black farmers live side by side amidst terrible prejudice, yet the war has changed things, and terrible consequences follow. But there's also a lot of love, and family in the book. If you liked Cold Mountain I think this might be a good choice.

The story is incredibly dramatic. It's told by each character in turn, so you hear lots of different voices as the tale progresses. My hair was on end for much of the book and I cried at the ending, which is heart-wrenching. It is as vivid as a good film, but in addition, is beautifully written, with a really strong, muscular sense of the story and of the characters. Hillary Jordan makes a point of showing the goodness and the evil that are both in the world, and links the terrible events of the book to tiny chance decisions that could have gone either way. The ending is really brilliant too. I think Richard & Judy have picked some really good books and this is another one.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering, shocking and beautifully written, 4 Dec. 2008
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This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
This is one of those books I guess which will continue to resonate, and linger in the mind. Its particularly shocking as it forces us to remember how VERY recently the civil rights movement became something mainstream.

In the year when Americans elected Barack Obama to the White House, its so shocking to remember that only a few decades ago, in the most powerful nation on earth, apartheid was still the norm in some states, that the lynching mob was still in operation for black people who 'stepped out of line' (a line drawn by racists)

This story, set at the end of World War II, and dealing with the effects of that on the men who returned to the States from Europe, changed both by an expansion AND a loss of innocence, and also it is about the effect of family, both in its strengths and weaknesses.

The book is told through several different voices, and Jordan builds our sense of compassion, horror, pity, shame and disgust beautifully.

Her ending hints at, but doesn't guarantee, hope
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, but not easy to read, 22 Feb. 2010
By 
M. K. Burton - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
Laura thought she was destined for spinsterhood until Henry McAllan chose to make her his wife. What she didn't bargain on was his desire to own land, and their move to a cotton farm a few years later with two small girls. Laura hates the farm, which she and her daughters christen Mudbound, and hates her father-in-law, who has no place to live but with them. When World War II ends, Henry's brother Jamie comes to stay with the family, and so does Ronsel Jackson, the son of the sharecroppers nearby. Sharing the common bond of fighting men, Ronsel and Jamie become friends of a sort, in a way that no one in the South will tolerate for very long.

It's hard to say I liked this book, but it was compelling and completely horrifying in parts. This is particularly so because most of the characters in the book are very racist. I know people genuinely thought like this when and where this book is set, but it bothers me and I can't understand it (which, I suppose, is a good thing). I wanted all the characters to stop being close-minded, to think more like Jamie, who sees Ronsel as a person despite the color of his skin and respects the military achievements that he made.

The book rotates between viewpoints, giving us insight into all of the characters' heads. We can witness Laura's unhappiness, Henry's land-lust, Jamie's jitters and bad memories. Ronsel's memories of war in Europe were for me the most affecting. He describes the difference it made in Europe when he was defined as a man, not as a black man; the wonder of having a white woman fall in love with him and everyone make him feel like he was valued. He had to be my favorite character and my heart broke for him over and over again, stuck in a racist town working on a farm where he'd never be appreciated the way he should have been.

Mudbound is a powerful and affecting book, but it won't leave you happy. It will leave you unsettled and anxious to change the world, correct anyone who might still feel this way. It's an evocative and moving picture of the American South, but I hope it has changed very much.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gifted debut, 9 Mar. 2008
By 
Neil Curry (Cumbria, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudbound (Hardcover)
Early in the second chapter of Hillary Jordan's brilliant new novel Mudbound, one of her leading characters, Laura, says, "I suppose the beginning depends on who's telling the story. No doubt the others would start somewhere different, but they'd still wind up at the same place in the end." And this is the key to the book's whole structure. We have just seen the end. In Chapter One we saw Laura's husband and his younger brother digging a grave on their farm, a grave seven feet deep in what seems to have been total mud. They were burying their father, who did not, it is hinted, die from natural causes. How this end came about we are told in the following chapters, each of which is narrated by one of the others.
This is of course a structure similar to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, but the comparison need not stop there. Hillary Jordan writes with the same slow-burning intensity and this area of the Mississippi Delta is struck by the same tragedies, the same storms - meteorological, emotional and racial - as any in Yoknapatawpha County.
Two young men have returned to the Delta from serving in World War Two: Laura's young brother-in-law and the son of one of the black share-cropping families who work on her husband's land. They have seen a different world and no longer fit in to this bigoted and racist community. They become friends. But the young black is seen to be riding in the passenger seat of his friend's pick-up truck instead of in the back where he belongs, and that is cause enough for all that follows. It is a violent and brutal story but told with understanding and compassion.
Mudbound won the Bellwether prize for fiction, a prize awarded biennially to a first literary novel that addresses issues of social justice. and I feel sure that there will be many more prizes won by this outstandingly gifted writer.
Neil Curry
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, wonderful book, 13 Jan. 2010
By 
Frances Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
It is hard to believe that this is the author's first novel. Beautifully written from the points of view of several of the protagonists, each is as distinctive as it is convincing. You can hear the voices of the deep South negroes in your head as you read. All the characters are rounded and smypathetically portrayed (apart from the truly appalling Pappy)and as the novel reaches its dreadful climax, it is quite impossible to put it down. One of the best novels I have read in a long time. If you want a beautiful, human, intelligent and gripping read, look no further.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Amazing, 30 Jan. 2009
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
I have absolutely loved this book. Seriously I don't think this review will ever be able to do enough justice to the book or how much I enjoyed it... well as much as you can enjoy something quite harrowing. The novel is set in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1940's. It opens with a two sons burying their father, you are given a clue that the person who died didn't necessarily die of natural causes. Watching the burial is Laura and the story starts with her in the past before the burial in the events leading up to it from when she meets her husband Henry and moves with him (reluctantly) to the cotton fields somewhere she finds daunting and unsettling.

Elsewhere the war has been raging on, once it ends Jamie (Henry's brother) returns a changed man he has seen things that have shocked and scarred him and he wants to work the farm in order to escape the hustle and bustle of life. Another returned soldier is Ronsel Jackson whose family work the farm for Henry as one of the many black sharecroppers if he thought the war was hard he has no idea what is coming and the secrets he carries could come back to change his life forever.

The book is written from the perspective of all the lead characters. A personal favourite of mine was Ronsel's wonderful mother Florence a strong and determined woman who you routed for and admired throughout the whole novel. Henry's father Pappy is possibly one of the vilest characters I have read in a very long time just utterly despicable. Every single character was believable and even if you don't agree with their behaviour or their beliefs you will become completely engrossed in each characters stories and motives. Each characters voice was completely whole and true and meant you saw all sides of the story even if one particular scene made me almost sick to the stomach and I didn't see coming a mile off.

Not only did I find it astounding that someone could write such a fantastic first novel, I couldn't believe that in just over 300 pages someone could take you on such a grand scale journey, a journey that covers affairs, religion, racism and war. Hillary Jordan uses a prose that simply draws you in and takes you along and has mastered an art some authors take years to grasp. She is definitely one to watch and I am 100% shocked that this book hasn't been up for every award going. I can whole heartedly say this must be one of my top five books of the year.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mudbound - a safe bet for Richard and Judy New Writers Book Club, 22 Oct. 2008
This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
Mudbound is about people, relationships, and racism set in a 1940s Mississippi backdrop. If you have read any American history or any fiction based in the South during this time period, then some of the issues in this book will be quite familiar to you. I appreciate that not everyone will be aware of just how bad the racism was at that time, or that from the 19th century into the 1950s, most US states enforced anti-miscegenation laws, so in that respect this book might be a real eye-opener if these things were unclear or unknown to you beforehand.

Mudbound is the name of the farm but it is also a metaphor. All the people in the book are stuck, some of them are trying to climb out of the mud and others are being sucked further into the mud, others are quite happy rolling around in it. The novel has a multi-narrator point of view, meaning that it switches from character to character for each chapter. There are six characters that are allowed to tell the story, and the concept of who has a voice and who is allowed or not allowed to use it, is definitely interesting, especially relating to what happens to one of them during the course of the novel. I would say that you do have to pay attention to the chapter titles, especially at the beginning, so you are clear on who is speaking. The beginning of the book for example, I assumed was voiced by Laura (since the story implied it was about Laura and Henry)until she turns up in page 6 and I realise that it's actually the younger brother who is speaking in this first chapter. Pay attention to the chapter headings to avoid any confusion!

The book is narrated by Laura, her husband Henry, his brother Jamie, and the tenant farmers; Hap and Florence, and later their son Ronsel when he returns from fighting in WWII. By far the most interesting narration comes from Florence, Ronsel and perhaps Laura. Henry is a character that held no interest to me and all through the book I was hoping Laura would leave him and run off with Jamie or just go back to her parents house if only for the indoor plumbing! I'm really glad that Pappy, the grandfather, was not given a voice, as I think those chapters would have made my skin crawl.

Despite the multi point of view, I really believe this is a book aimed at women. I don't think it's a book that would speak to the majority of men. It is basically the story of what happens to city-dwelling Laura, when her husband uproots her from her comfortable existence in her family home in Memphis, and deposits her unceremoniously in the mudbound farm of the same name. In 2008, it's really hard to put yourself in Laura's shoes, to understand how accepting she was of everything and how little choice she had, and how much she was required to obey her husband. Personally I would never have put up with Henry, and would have refused to go live in a shack in the middle of nowhere, especially considering this came completely out of the blue. Henry had never shared his ambition to be a farmer with Laura until the day he announces he has bought a farm!

All of the southern white characters are racist to some degree. Some are more racist than other, ranging from Pappy who is so full of hate it is palpable, to Jamie who is a little more open-minded than the rest about some things, but who still believes interracial sex is wrong. Remember it was still against the law - between 1913 and 1948, 30 out of the then 48 states enforced anti-miscegenation laws! It can be a little hard to read, and it is truly offensive in some parts and incredulous in others, but what happens in the book is really quite mild in comparison to what happened in reality.

The ending was a little predictable and that was a disappointment. There were also some not so subtle hints of what was to come dotted through the book, so that even from the first few pages you already knew what to expect and really it was just a matter of reading on until they happened. The problems with the end of the book make it seem anti-climactic after the "tragic climax" making it feel almost rushed in an attempt to tidy up any loose ends quickly. Yet this is a very readable worthy book with some important messages about racism and humanity as well as some real insight in to life in the Delta sixty odd years ago.

Is it a good choice for the first Richard and Judy New Writers Book Club? Well, it has already won the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, awarded biennially to a debut novel that addresses issues of social justice. It was a Barnes & Noble Discover Pick for summer 2008, a Borders Original Voices selection, a Book Sense pick, and one of twelve New Voices of 2008 chosen by Waterstone's UK, so yeah I think it was a good choice and a pretty safe bet.

I give this book 7 out of 10 for being an engrossing and compelling read. Points deducted for lack of originality and some predictability.

If you liked this book, then I would recommend The Color Purple by Alice Walker, and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, In The Fall by Jeffrey Lent; or if you would like to try some non-fiction; There is a River : The Black Struggle for Freedom in America by Vincent Harding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great. A fast, fascinating, thoughtful read., 19 July 2011
This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
Given the amount of people who have already covered the style and story of Mudbound, I have the luxury of giving a mere opinion.

I found Mudbound engaging from the beginning and loved it to the end. I'm not American but having spent some time in and around Mississippi I found it evoked the sense I had of the area, despite the different era. The strength of the writing shines though the way the book skilfully carries conflicting and complex ideas and situations. The first-person narration tool works well, though I agree with another reviewer that the set-up was a little heavy in some detail. However, I'm a fan of plot and character rather than literal description, but I know there are a lot of people who love description and the story is so wonderfully spirited along that I can't fault it.

I read it in two (lengthy) sittings and, at the end, wished I knew someone else who had read it with whom I could blurt about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable, 6 July 2009
By 
Helen Simpson (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Mudbound (Paperback)
Captivating from it's first page and told in the first person I really got a feel for the farm and the characters. Each chapter is told from the view of a different main character. It's very clear who is 'talking' and allows us much more insight into experiences and social 'rules' of the time.

The cotton farm and surrounding land, the people and the day to day living is very descriptive and the language Jordon uses is powerful.
As the tension built I felt uncomfortable reading it, just like you do when you're watching a film and you suspect what's going to happen and don't want it to, but are helpless in preventing it. You're never tempted to stop reading though, just the opposite.
Many issues are touched on both sensitively and realistically, and I felt that the two strongest characters, Laura and Florence, inspired admiration through their strength of character.

Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jumping on the bandwagon, 17 Nov. 2014
By 
This review is from: Mudbound (Kindle Edition)
I have to say, I'm amazed that so many people raved about this. Another reviewer mentioned 'The Help'; this book goes over pretty much the same issues, even using the same device of different narrators. Rather than having its own voice (like 'The Help'), this book seems like a conglomeration of all the clichés about the South and prejudice the author felt she could squeeze in. You could pretty much pick the characters from any number of films or books about Mississippi from the last 20 years. Plot line competent but in parts so unbelievable that I got frustrated - the series of events that meant they had to live on the farm is flimsy in the extreme. Saw the ending coming.

Redeemed from a 2 star.by the elegant last chapter.

Read 'The Help' instead.
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Mudbound
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Paperback - 2 Oct. 2008)
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