Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Color of Lightning

Author Paulette Jiles has crafted a very engaging novel about West Texas history in the years following the civil war. The book,The Color of Lightning, was inspired by the real life adventures of a slave, Britt Johnson, who became a freed black man. On October 13, 1864, Britt and the other men were in town when a large band of Kiowa and Comanche warriors attacked the homestead where his family lived. One of his children were killed and his wife and two children were taken captive. Broken hearted, Britt dedicates himself to finding his family and gaining their freedom. Afterwards he buys a wagon and a team of horses and starts a very successful freight business. The author's prose is very descriptive of the country and its people. She writes with a sensitivity and appreciation of the life style of these natives of this wild land. At the same time she does not shy away from graphically depicting the violence and brutality of the times.
Another character, Samuel Hammond, is a Quaker Indian Agent who is assigned the responsibility to treat the native tribes kindly but convince them to stop raiding and taking captives. His idealism is shaken by the realities of life on the prairie and the clash between cultures and life styles.
Jiles novel gives the reader an insight into the tensions, conflicts, politics, and racism of the years immediately following the civil war. This was a fine read and a gift from my son, John. It is not for the weak of heart but the reader will not soon forget Britt Johnson and the integrity with which he lived.

1 comment:

Keith Roberts said...

I saw Red as well. Fun movie! Helen Mirren was great and John Malcovich had me cracking up the entire time. I'm glad you liked the suggestions.