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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fiction Meets Fact
Scottsboro is a novel based on the true story of a trail in the town of the same name in Alabama in 1931. A trial which "the principles that, in the United States, criminal defendants are entitled to effective assistance of counsel and that people may not be de facto excluded from juries because of their race." Two white girls had accused nine young black men of raping...
Published on 29 May 2009 by Simon Savidge Reads

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3.0 out of 5 stars Didn't live up to the promise of other reviews
Although this novel had good ratings and the descriptions were good, it didn't quite live up to my expectations - the subject matter was good and the fact that the main character was a woman in a man's world was another hook that drew me in, but ….. I found it quite hard going a lot of the time and written a bit like a report rather than a story and sometimes I...
Published 10 months ago by supergran


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fiction Meets Fact, 29 May 2009
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
Scottsboro is a novel based on the true story of a trail in the town of the same name in Alabama in 1931. A trial which "the principles that, in the United States, criminal defendants are entitled to effective assistance of counsel and that people may not be de facto excluded from juries because of their race." Two white girls had accused nine young black men of raping them on a freight train back in times when if you were black sometimes you didn't even need a trial you could just be hung by the locals and it was overlooked by the law and judicial system. However these cases made it to the courts even though "the juries were entirely white, their attorneys had little experience in criminal law, and the judge gave them no time at all to prepare their cases". I am quite ashamed to admit that I had never heard of what is such an incredibly important case in history.

The fictional story is told through two voices. The first of which is Ruby Bates, one of the girls who accused the boys of rape and then proceeded to change her mind several times. Her story tells of the desperate poverty and life that she led as a penniless prostitute and how the infamy of the case changed her fortunes and her life and yet she knew what she was doing was wrong. Through her eyes we get the tale of a good girl gone bad due to circumstance and how when things get much to big for her she tries to do right but can she change a media whirlwind completely beyond her control. The second voice is that of one of the media, journalist Alice Whittier. However unlike the other journalists who are interested in sensationalizing the whole case, Alice is looking at it from the perspective of `what if these young men are innocent' this doesn't by any means make her a `heroine of the piece' though. In fact though Alice is a wonderful factual voice for the whole plot and all the key facts and twists in the case, I never felt like I really got to know her which would be my one main criticism of the book overall.

Some people have said the book reads as non fiction, which I would partially agree with, bar the incredibly well created, depicted and carried off character of Ruby Bates who I didn't like but wanted to follow and read more of. I thought that the other girl Victoria, who also accused the boys of rape, was also incredibly well crafted and incredibly dislikable. I can see how a book couldn't be carried by just these two though as you do need the facts and the twists. It's an amazing case (I have included a picture of the boys below as I found it made it even more real) which undoubtedly people should know much, much more about and I think in a market where a book like Kate Summerscale's `The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' has done so well a great book like this with find a huge amount of people who will really enjoy the book like I did.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb, 2 Jun 2009
By 
Judith Cummings (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
Quite simply one of the best things I have read in years. It chronicles one of the most shameful episodes in the recent history of the USA. Scorsboro is a fictionalised version of true events which took place in the American Deep South in the 30s.
As I read the book I began to feel more and more strongly that it should be included in the English Curriculum of all schools. A very powerful and disturbing account of real people and real events, told in a simple, clear and unmelodramatic way, which probably increases the horror of the injustice faced as a matter of daily life for so many people from the South.
An absolute tour de force which should be read alongside To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men and other classics of the period. It makes Maya Angelou's chronicles of her experiences (and I love Angelou), seem easy by comparison.
Read it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why Scottsboro is a novel for our times, 24 May 2009
By 
V. ROWLAND "Valerie Rowland" (Guernsey, Channel Islands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
Scottsboro - a fictionalised account of a pivotal court case in 1930s Alabama in which nine Black Americans were sentenced to death for rapes which clearly never occurred.

The perversion of justice was so blatant that - such was the global outrage - a sea change began in American society that ultimately led to Barack Obama in the White House.

The story is told in two voices. Ruby Bates, whose lies condemned 9 innocent men to the electric chair and Alice Whittier, a campaigning journalist.

Prostitute Ruby Bates is so dirt poor in Depression America that she cannot afford a moral standpoint. Her survival choices are forced on her by bullying or bribery.. We meet Ruby at the start of the book when she is bullied into accusing nine black Americans of rape.

Journalist Alice Whittier is the voice of an educated person with a conscience, a woman in a man's world who develops an awareness of shades of moral grey areas while holding on to her sense of outrage at the corruption of racism, sexual hypocrisy and ruthlessness which drive the show trial of the "Scottsboro Boys".

There are no heroes, but there is always hope. History since 1931 at the time of the trial, up to the recent events in present day America show that change for good is achievable if enough people try hard enough. A novel utterly relevant to our times.

The voice of ordinary members of the public can be heard. We can push forward evolutionary change for a fairer world. Yes we can!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid Re-Imagining of Historical Atrocity, 25 July 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
The trial of the Scottsboro Boys was one of the worst miscarriages of justice in the American south in the twentieth century. A group of black youths were on a freight train heading towards Chattanooga, Alabama, when they were attacked by a gang of white boys. They held their own - until some of the white boys jumped from the train and persuaded local officials to stop the service, and arrest the youths for 'picking a fight with them'. Two white women - millworkers Ruby Bates and Victoria Price - were also discovered on the train (they were attempting to hitch a free ride to Chattanooga). Either in a bid for attention, or to avoid being arrested for 'stowing away' on a freight train, Victoria Price claimed that the black youths had raped her and Ruby. Ruby backed her up. There was no physical evidence of a rape or struggle, and the women's stories made no sense and moreover kept changing. And yet, the local officials were ready to condemn nine innocent men on virtually no evidence, simply because of their skin colour. And the punishment was to be either life imprisonment or the electric chair. The trial, in which the boys were defended by brilliant lawyer Sam Leibowitz, became one of the most famous in history, and a shocking revelation of the racism and anti-Semitism in the American South, as Leibowitz fought for justice. In the end, only one of the boys made it to a content old age.

Feldman has stuck closely to the facts of the Scottsboro case in her novel - and with the exception of her principal narrator, journalist Alice Whittier, and Alice's friend Abel, a playwright, and her family, most of the characters in the novel were also real people. Her novel is a fascinating and highly readable account of a particularly shocking example of injustice, full of interesting facts about law, the difference in attitudes in 1930s America between the North and the South, and how America changed during the twentieth century. She gets in some broad cultural and social references too - at one point Alice, like Martha Gellhorn, ends up on one of the teams reporting to the Roosevelts about the state of life for working-class families in the American South during the Great Depression. Feldman's re-creations of historical figures in her fiction is impressive too: Sam Leibowitz is a hugely memorable character, and Feldman is also good at depicting the Scottsboro boys, and their progress from hope to despair to - in one case at least - eventual triumph and vindication. Best of all is her depiction of Ruby Bates, the mill girl who was always uneasy about her accusation, and withdrew it during the trial, only to claim rape again some forty years on. Ruby is a very believable creation: she is not at all likeable, but Feldman gives us plenty of reasons why she has become the unpleasant character she is, and paints an effective picture of her confusion, guilt, intermittent capacity for tenderness and desperate selfishness.

If there is a problem with the book, it is that in choosing a subject where she is sticking so close to historical facts, and in wanting to give a very detailed historical picture of 1930s America, the 'pure fiction' in the novel (the story of Alice, her boss Harry and Abel, the man she loves) can feel a bit underdeveloped and bland. Alice was not, despite her important role in the story, a particularly interesting or well-developed character. The bits in the plot about her past and her half-sister felt rather tacked on, and for long periods she largely seemed to be a mouthpiece through which to convey the story of the Scottsboro boys, with little sense of independent personality. Her sudden friendship with the Roosevelts felt forced - put there so Feldman could insert some broad descriptions of life in the American South by making Alice a reporter for Mrs Roosevelt's social reforms - and her ease about promiscuity seemed unconvincing to me for a 1930s woman from a genteel liberal background (even the freethinking Gellhorn felt terrible guilt about living with a married man when she was in Paris). The relationship with Abel, though moving, also felt rushed. As a character, Alice was always going to take a back seat to the real-life Scottsboro Boys' story, and this seemed a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, her final meeting with Clarence, the last of the Boys, was very moving.

An impressive work which combines fact and fiction very interestingly, even if I did feel the fact was stronger than the fiction at times. I will look out for more of Feldman's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scottsboro, 4 April 2010
By 
K. Wright - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
In the great depression in 1930's Alabama, a New York journalist, Alice Whittier attempts to gather the truth about a rape case. Victoria Price and Ruby Bates claim to have been attacked by 9 black boys, yet Ruby keeps changing her story. This well written fictionalised account of a true story deals with issues of civil rights, racism and injustice through as the boys are put on trial. Feldman clearly portrays poverty, illiteracy and racism whilst maintaining a thrilling story. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poweful, Noteworthy Book on a Sad Subject, 20 Feb 2012
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
Upon its hardcover publication in 2008, "Scottsboro," by Ellen Feldman, was named one of the five best novels of the year by the "Richmond Times-Dispatch," and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009. Feldman, previously author of the novels (LUCY ); and The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank: A Novel; is a regular contributor to the "Huffington Post." It's for sure she's done a ton of research for this novel; she also must have a lot of self-confidence to dare to go back and reexamine the Scottsboro case, one of the most famous of the early 1930s, in fiction. And she's needed a powerful imagination to breathe life into the controversial old case.

An Alabama posse stopped a freight train on the afternoon of March 25, 1931, and rounded up nine black youths, ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen: they'd been fighting with white boys. Then, suddenly, two white girls, dressed in men's overalls, turned up elsewhere on the train. The girls showed no sign of abuse; nevertheless the cry of rape went up. The nine black youths were immediately, and for a long time thereafter, in imminent danger of getting themselves lynched: it was a Jim Crow South at the time. And they were put on trial for rape, then a capital offense: for many years, they also faced the legal death penalty. The boys were largely defended by the American Communist Party, its legal arm, and its supporters; the NAACP also had a (smaller) hand in their defense. The case dragged on for almost 50 years, resulting in more trials, convictions, reversals, retrials and Supreme Court decisions than any other in American legal history. The boys were eventually proven innocent of the charges, and freed. But their exoneration came too late for them: they'd spent the most significant years of their lives in some of the worst prisons the South had to offer at the time, in continuing fear for their lives, either through the legal machinery, or the extra-legal. None of them managed very well-adjusted lives: their employment and marital histories were spotty; all of them were to serve further jail time -- between them, they served more than 100 years in prison, and none of them lived particularly long. Only one ever received an explicit pardon.

To blow the dust off this case, set in a time and place of overwhelming racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, Feldman researched first-person accounts, archival material, and court records. She has achieved a powerful, note-worthy book, and created two strong female characters that tell her story. First, Ruby Bates, one of the accusers, a little-educated, barely literate millworker - they were popularly known as lintheads at the time - and, as they weren't paid sufficient to live on, were generally part-time prostitutes too, as Ruby was. Also, Alice Whittier, a fictional composite based on actual players in the case: a well-heeled, well-educated young woman employed by one of the numerous left-leaning little magazines of the time. She staked her career on the case, was one of only two women allowed in the courtroom during the trials; and became a journalist of note, who hobnobbed with such as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his First Lady, Eleanor. Throughout the novel, Ruby seems better developed as a character; Alice serves more as simply a mouthpiece. (Unfortunately, later in the novel, as the 1930s wear on and the coming World War II begins to cast its shadow forward, Feldman seems to lose interest in both these women: they both appear to be simply sending sound bites from whatever front they're on.)

Nevertheless, "Scottsboro" is never less than compulsively readable, eloquent, intelligent, and passionate. As it happens, I'm one of those people known to New Yorkers as a red diaper baby; born the child of the many left-leaning idealists the Great Depression created. I think I had heard of the Scottsboro boys before I'd heard of Bing Crosby. It wouldn't be easy to get me interested and involved in a book on the subject, but Feldman's done it and then some.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant adaptation of a deplorable case, 29 July 2010
By 
CJ Halton (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
Having studied history and being a massive fan of historical fiction - this book does an amazing job at not only telling the strory but also allowing the reader to feel the emotion of the characters. In contrary to previous reviews I believe the book is intentionally wirtten as a non-fiction book to encourage the reader to imagine what life was actually like for the characters at the time of the Scottsboro case.

It was a compelling read and in my opinion one of the best historical novels I have ever read. Factually accurate and accurately reflecting the feelings and emotions the American South in the 1930's. Having studied this area of history probably aided my understanding of the novels intentions. Would highly recommend to anybody interested in this period of history!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, intelligent and brutally honest, 10 Jun 2009
By 
A. Merrill - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scottsboro: A Novel (Paperback)
Though this isn't usually my sort of thing, I picked it up based on it having been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. And what an impulse buy! Scottsboro has characters so utterly real - complete with fundamental flaws and complicated motivations - who inhabit the shocking true story at the centre as if they were already there. Feldman's apparent adherance to the real events that form much of the plot does this story justice. Too often 'true fiction' takes too many liberties with the 'true' part, but Feldman manages to both portray the reality of that Alabama courtroom and mold the tale enough that it is still interesting.

Alice and Ruby are both wonderful characters, and for the main part the supporting cast do very well. The one exception is abel, who I found a little dull and not very fleshed-out. This does make part of the final chapters weaker, but the finale itself is perfect (though that's all I'm saying about that).

All in all, a very very good book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read, 11 April 2014
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This review is from: Scottsboro: Picador Classic (Kindle Edition)
The book is better than the play and I would highly recommend it. This is based on a true story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 19 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Scottsboro: Picador Classic (Kindle Edition)
I didn't know about this story & I was horrified to hear of the treatment of these boys - just awful!
I found it interesting to hear the story from the viewpoint of a journalist.
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