Cotton Comes to Harlem

Although I enjoyed our strong characters in this novel, overall I did not enjoy the novel itself. I found it to be very George Orwell-esque in its unnecessary attention to small detail, such as what seemed to be a car chase involving a sequence of streets in New York that I am unfamiliar with, that made it a somewhat thick read and therefore harder to keep my interest. The plot itself was very convoluted, much like Red Harvest, and required a lot of development that I also found hard to follow at times. Not only this, but I honestly did not care for the style of writing at all. I found the vulgar depiction of events or descriptions of people very distasteful, and I don’t feel like I need to get started on the dialogue.

I did, however, have a lot of appreciation for our characters. Iris was like our commonly discussed femme fatale except on crack. Although I don’t agree with her morals and some of her actions, I have a lot of admiration for the way she got herself out of sticky situations, especially when escaping her police watch. I didn’t catch on at first, I thought she was just being “round heeled”, but when she sauntered off naked under her coat with only her shoes at the end of that sequence, I found myself chuckling because I realized that had been her whole intention. The catfight was also hardcore. Perhaps I don’t exactly live in a hotspot, but this seemed supremely unrealistic to me in how they both ended up naked and bloodied with Mable dead. It was a little too over the top for me, but I still give props to Iris’s handling of the situation, as I did in most of the book.

I also really enjoyed our detective duo. The fact that Coffin Ed’s face is just a reenactment of what happened to our author’s brother saddens me though and only further deepened my curiosity towards his life that could have resulted in this sort of novel. However, I liked Gravedigger’s and Coffin Ed’s witty banter not only towards each other, but towards the people they would be interrogating as well. Their relationship in general was interesting to me, how close they were that is, but their similar ways of thinking also got me interested.

I really appreciated how Uncle Bud wound up to be the mastermind in the end, all over a bale of cotton. I like the allusion to this in the title and how something so benign kept peeping up throughout the novel and doting itself on unsuspecting targets, like Joshua and Billie. I thought that the Colonel being brought up on charges was an interesting twist as well. While there were aspects of this novel that I appreciated,Cotton Comes to Harlemis not a book I would choose to read recreationally.

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