on 12 August 2014
When I started reading this book, the first thoughts which came into my mind were that, it’s amazing how ignorant one can be, about events which happened in your own lifetime. Being a British child at the time these events were taking place, somehow they slipped into a hole between the history I was taught at school, from ancient up to and including WWII, and the recent history which I remember as an adult.
The main character in the story Florina, is a young colored woman who has married Dr Richmond Austin, and moved to his home town Poinsettia, in the South of America. Her new in-laws are very welcoming and her new home is to be his grandparent’s house. However, she very quickly discovers that her new neighbour Agnes, who is married to the other colored doctor in the town, Macon, used to go out with Richmond, and Florina fears that the attraction is still there. However, she has her own secret, one not even her parents know… A secret which lies buried in her heart and which she can only hint at in her very poignant poetry.
This incredibly absorbing story is set at a very turbulent time for the colored people of America. The Civil Rights movement was strong, and was led by the Baptist minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr., a man who worked tirelessly for, and who played such a strong part in the ending of the legal segregation of the African-American people.
Also all the time, in the background, and twisted inextricably throughout the plot of this story is the Vietnam War which was taking thousands of lives…
However, another element of this story, which was very interesting to me, is that I never realised that there was such color snobbery within the families of colored folk, causing so much tension, prejudices, terrible rifts, and great sadness. This was so evident in this book, where at one end of the spectrum there was immense color pride and at the other the seemingly desperate need to appear white.
This book is amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. For me, it has all the essential ingredients for a good story excitement, intrigue, love triangles, lies, deceit, confessions, betrayal I could go on. However, more importantly for me, it gives a fascinating fly on the wall account of what it was really like as a colored person to live in those times, something I would never be able to experience otherwise.
on 25 February 2014
"The thick jungle, and the heat. It was too much. They had to cut their way through vines and over growth. No path had been laid out like usual. It was native tropical forest, untouched. They had been through their own war." Clifford lowered his head. He teared up, redness swallowing the whites around his irises. "Towards the middle of the night the Viet Cong heated up their firing. We thought it was all over, that in the next moment their entire company would descend on us. I lost track of Ennis. Like me he was trying to keep focus on his men amid the fighting and keep them alert. Firing died down about one the next morning. We began to hope. Then one of my men reported seeing a soldier dragged off. By morning twenty-five men lay with their necks slit." "Not more than ten yards from me Ennis lay dead.".... "I never got to say "Good-bye," Clifford said, barely audible. Neither had Florina.
Florina had met Ennis while in college. They found themselves deeply in love and married just before he left as a First Lieutenant in the US Army on his way to Vietnam. Many saw him as a white man but Ennis's mother was of both Negro and Cherokee heritage. This was no problem for Florina since she was of the Negro race but very light skinned. But due to his heritage, she decided to keep both Ennis and their marriage a secret from her family until after her graduation. This never took place. Ennis was killed in action while in Vietnam.
Life goes on for Florina. She found a great man and husband in Dr. Redmond Austin, one of only 3 black doctors in the small North Carolina town of Poinsettia... Redmond, his father and Macon Elders. But as all lives come with baggage...hers was in continuing to keep Ennis and their marriage a secret, Redmond's baggage came in the form of Agnes, Macon's wife as well as their next door neighbor.
Now and then I run across a book that has a story that simply tugs at my heart with its love/hate relationships. This is one of those books but this is more than just a love story. I grew up with boys I went to school with being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. I grew up with segregation going on all around the little town where I lived just outside of Atlanta. I also grew up confused as to the way both white and blacks treated the one boy that was admitted to my high school. He wasn't accepted by either race. Why? He was light skinned. I never understood the problem. As I read, When The Drum Major Died, after all these years, I have begun to understand. If you grew up as a baby boomer, especially in the south, this is a book I recommend you read. It is beautiful, educational and simply a wonderful book to read.
on 30 January 2014
When the Drum Major Died by Anjuelle Floyd
Set in 1967 North Carolina when Martin Luther King was planning his Poor People March, young Florina Gavin Austin is newly married to Dr. Redmond Austin. She tries to adjust to her new home and life as a doctors wife. But she holds secrets and she is not ready to share. She meets her neighbor Agnes, a woman who also has secrets of her own, some involving Florina's husband. Will Florina be able to let go of her past, accept the present and move on to her future? What will happen when all the secrets are revealed?
A well written emotional read. I loved the story, it felt so real as if it really did happen. Filled with many secrets, twists and turns, I was hook from the first page. I was able to feel what each person was going through, almost as if I were there. I am a big fan of Anjuelle Floyd and When the Drum Major Died was as fantastic as I knew it would be. Next to read by Ms. Floyd will be Seasons in Purdah. I highly recommend to those who love women s fiction.