The House Behind the Cedars
The House Behind the Cedars, which many consider Charles Chesnutt’s ﬁnest novel, tells of John and Lena Walden, mulatto siblings who pass for white in the postbellum American South. The drama that unfolds as they travel between black and white worlds constitutes a riveting portrait of the shifting and intractable nature of race in American life. This edition revitalizes a much-neglected masterpiece by one of our most important African-American writers. As Werner Sollors writes, “William Dean Howells did not overstate his case when he compared Chesnutt’s works with those by Turgenev, Maupassant, and James . . . and [Chesnutt] has become one of the most important ‘crossover’ authors from the African-American tradition.”
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
I must say, this book turned out to be quite more of an adventure than I expected it to be! It started out one way completely, and then before you knew it, our main character had completely dropped out of the picture while everything went on without him. It's a very intriguing book, and it's written well and flows so smoothly! You can read it like drinking in fresh air after being cooped up inside a stale house for days! It's enjoyable, it's pleasant, and it's a charm to read. In fact, I was more than surprised by many of the events and concepts that this book played with. While I'm sure it's not an old idea that the intermingling of races--especially on a romantic front--can lead to problems, it's still interesting how they brought about much of the interplay here in this book. In fact, the most shocking thing to me is that the book started out one way and changed at multiple times to be something completely different. It's not a linear read at all. It's got characters in it that are pure and single-minded, and others that are confused and wandering in circles. Everyone has either objectives to follow and meet, or has emotions tugging at their heartstrings so deftly that they cannot help but listen to them and fly madly into fits of logic! Logic! Not passion! How impressive and singularly strange this book was! For the first half of it we were following the story of John, who was our main character by all respects and standards, and his objective was pretty simple enough: "Come with me my beautiful sister! For I can make a better life for you than in our shoddy hometown!" And thus WHOOSH he speeds her away and she becomes a lady of respects and manners, beautiful and intelligent and desired by one man in particular. It becomes a case of courtship, and then it all BOOM. Grows complex! As romances do. I know this is hardly an explanation, but let's just dabble into the second half, and the ODDEST shift of any book that I've EVER seen! Somewhere, somehow, our main character, John, just drops completely off the face of the earth for us halfway through the book. He's there, and then suddenly, we realize, "Heyyyy... we started off reading about John. But now we're constantly reading about his sister Rena." And mind you, I was NOT upset about this. I think that John came off as a narrow-minded character, with a singular view and purpose in his mind, and that he was acting along a path that followed only what he was attempting to achieve. Once that succeeded or failed, he didn't care beyond that. If it began to mess with his plans, he left it and moved on, which is essentially what he did throughout the entire book: with his mother, his sister, and anyone else he ever worked or interacted with. He's not a person who cares beyond the objective. He has a mind set on a goal, and that's the end-all and only source of concern in his life. *Shrugs* I don't quite hate him, but neither can I say that I exactly fully like him either. He doesn't do anything particularly EVIL in my opinion, even if he is something of an ass. But when he fades away towards the middle of the book, and we start following Rena's life and what she's going through, then I can't be bothered with John anymore. Rena is a much more honest, emotive, and relateable character I feel. Her voice is strong throughout the book, and her feelings aren't some stupid whining patheticness like most girls today are written up with. She's not a shallow character. Not at all. She has so much depth that it makes the second half of the book almost a torment to read about at times! In a good way. When she's feeling agony and pain, then we do too. And when she's thrilled or annoyed, we feel it too. We right there empathizing with her all the way, and it's a lot of fun to do so! Even if it brings out a lot of emotional feelings in us. I mean, for a character as strong and beautiful in heart and soul as in her features, she's a woman that goes through so much that it's terrible. But that's what makes you love her all the more. Because she's tough enough to keep on trying and...
Review: The House Behind the CedarsUser Review - Goodreads
Overall - I enjoyed reading this novel. However, I do not know if it has to do with the writing or my liking to reading books post-war. The book is not complicated at all to read. Yet, it seems like ...
Other editions - View all
The House Behind the Cedars: Easyread Super Large 18pt Edition
Charles Waddell Chesnutt
Limited preview - 2008