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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles

This beautiful book broke my heart and I just adored it.

This beautiful, heartbreaking book.

Set toward the end of the Civil War on the Texas plains, The Color of Lightning centers around the bare-bones but amazing facts known about a real-life freed black man—with imagined details and events elaborated on in fantastic form by Paulette Jiles. She inserts many other richly created characters that make the story come to life.

Absolutely brutal and vivid details of Native Americans’ physical brutality are depicted; naive and uninformed eastern urban white men’s ideas and outrageously rigid ideas meant to “civilize” western Indians are gradually undone; complexities and brilliantly laid out fundamental differences in white and Indian life views are gracefully explored; white-Indian friendships fraught with potentially lethal misunderstanding but incredible trust and humor are imagined; and the tragic and multilayered reasons for the undoing of any hope of white-Indian coexistence build slowly to a tragic end.

The dreams of many of the key characters and their self-reflections are lovely and illuminating and poignant. Jiles turns assumptions on their heads: untested characters find they are capable of incredible grit—and idealist characters find themselves crushed and without any of the basic answers about justice and life they were once confident in.

This book broke my heart and I just adored it.

What did you think?

This is the third Paulette Jiles Civil War-era historical fiction book I've read and adored. She also wrote News of the World, which I loved, as well as the solid, music-filled Simon the Fiddler. Next on my to-read list from her is Enemy Women.


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