Under the Southern sky

First book club read, and I would say that if Marie hadn’t chosen it, this is not a book that I would have sought out for myself – which was exactly the reason I wanted to start a book club.

All the other books that I’ve written about are ones that have resonated with me emotionally and I haven’t attempted to be objective. This book and my response to it is different.

As I started reading this I had a highlighter and a notebook with me at all times, as many of the terms he used were alien to me, I bolted through the first 4 chapters and then plateaued at one stage and had a couple of days off. The awful daily horror that Solomon went through was astounding, and the descriptions of the inhumane treatment shocked me. The room where he was kept ‘It was like a farmer’s barnyard in most respects, save it was so constructed that the outside world would never see the human cattle that were herded there.’

There is a scene in chapter 18 where he has to beat another slave, Patsey, ‘She was terribly lacerated – I may say, without exaggeration, literally flayed. The lash was wet with blood, which flowed down her sides and dropped upon the ground. Her screams and supplications gradually decreased and died away into a low moan. She no longer writhed and shrank beneath the lash when it bit out small pieces of her flesh. I though she was dying!’

If this were a novel then you wouldn’t believe that it was happening, after a few months Solomon would have been rescued, the bad guys brought to justice; that he went on for 12 years is just so shocking, and kind of mind numbing.

Despite the high emotional content overall I didn’t connect with the book as much as I felt I should, perhaps because as a white person, after the initial emphatic horror my next response was shame ?

I chose this song because John Murry is amazing, and the lyric ‘I’ve got no past, There is no future – underneath the Southern sky’ must be how Solomon felt at times.



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