Shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2009
Scottsboro is a novel about the shocking injustice recieved by nine black youths, falsely accused of raping two white girls, on a train in Alabama, in 1931. All the details of the alleged crime, and the trial are included. This book reads like a non-fictional account, but many of the characters are fictional. This meant that the book failed to live in either camp. I’m not a big fan of non-fiction books, as I like to feel the emotion of the characters, but this book can’t really work as a reference aid, as it is unclear exactly which bits are factually accurate, and which are added to improve the flow of the book.
Unfortunately the book is too factual to appeal to fans of historical fiction. We never see beneath the surface of any of the people; events rush along without dwelling on how the characters involved are feeling. I think that this story would work really well on film; the court room drama would work much better on screen than it does on paper.
As an aside, I thought that the cover for this book was terrible. My copy has a picture of a blurred train on the front, and it looks really cheap, and poorly displayed. I would never have picked this up in a bookshop, as it just looks as though no thought has gone into it, therefore implying that the book’s contents are not worth the effort. It needs some embossing, foiling or some other embellishment, and the font on the back is too large and clunky – am I just being a bit fussy?!
I had never heard of this case before, so I am really glad that I now know all the details, but I’d only recommend this book to people who are directly interested in this trial. Everyone else should wait until the film is made and released!
What did you think of this book?
Are you surprised to see it on the Orange shortlist?
Do you think it has a chance of winning?