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The Color of Lightning: A Novel av Paulette…

The Color of Lightning: A Novel (urspr publ 2009; utgåvan 2009)

av Paulette Jiles (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
3802052,860 (3.99)81
The story of two different families, headed by a former slave and by a Quaker, who settle in Texas during the Civil War.
Titel:The Color of Lightning: A Novel
Författare:Paulette Jiles (Författare)
Info:William Morrow (2009), Edition: 1, 368 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


The Color of Lightning av Paulette Jiles (2009)

  1. 10
    One Thousand White Women av Jim Fergus (amelielyle)
    amelielyle: Readers who enjoy stories of Indian captives may also like this alternative in which whites are willingly joined to tribes.
  2. 00
    Blue Horse Dreaming av Melanie Wallace (amelielyle)
    amelielyle: A mesmerizing, austere tale of the ambivalent life of a former white captive set on the post-Civil War western frontier. Like Jiles' novel, it is as much psychological fiction as historical--dealing with the human costs of violence and war.

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Visa 1-5 av 19 (nästa | visa alla)
Besides the fact that there is just a tad bit too much description of the Texas landscape, this is an interesting look at life following the Civil War. Britt Johnson is a freed slave who with this wife, Mary, and their three children leave Kentucky and head to Texas where he plans a new life. The Kiowa and Comanche Indians are being pushed into smaller and smaller regions by the settlements and Indian raids are not uncommon in spite of the efforts of the Office of Indian Affairs.

After Britt's oldest son is killed and his wife and two children are captured by the Indians along with another white woman and her granddaughter, Britt is determined to rescue them. The story of his travels to the Indian territory and the experiences of Mary and the children alternate.

In the midst of all this, Samuel Hammond is a young committed Quaker sent to bring order to the area by the Office of Indian Affairs. Highly naive and principled, Samuel is sure he can bring the Indians into submission if he could teach them to read and write and see the benefits of farming. His good intentions soon meet up with the reality of the complicated situation.

Britt is able to retrieve his family and goes on to become a teamster hauling freight through the dangerous Indian territory to the various outposts and small communities.

The story is readable, believable, horrific at times, humorous at other times. Good read. ( )
  maryreinert | Jun 27, 2020 |
This historical novel was fleshed out from what little is known about Britt Johnson, a freed slave who moved with his family from Kentucky to Texas in 1863. Jiles, who is a poet as well as an author of novels, paints the new alien landscape of these immigrants with an artistic eye:

“They had come to live on the very edge of the great Rolling Plains, with the forested country behind them and the empty lands in front. Long, attentive lines of timber ran like lost regiments along the rivers and creeks. Everything was strange to them: the cactus in all its hooked varieties, the elusive antelope in white bibs and black antlers, the red sandstone dug up in plates to build chimneys and fireplaces big enough to get into in case there was a shooting situation.”

And indeed, a shooting situation came soon enough. The Johnsons built a house in Elm Creek in Texas, just south of territory occupied by the warlike Comanche and Kiowa tribes. The two bands often raided together since many of the Comanche had been decimated by cholera and smallpox transmitted by whites when the gold rush wagons passed through the plains. Jiles integrates these and other facts about the tribes and their history into the story, and also presents the point of the view of the white settlers, who felt terrorized by the Natives. The U.S., however, had control of the land, superior weapons, and a racist disregard for the Native Americans, and it was never going to end well for the Natives.

In the meantime, however, the depredation of the Comanche and Kiowa continued, and as this story begins, Britt’s family and other homesteads in the area were attacked by the tribes when the men were off on a journey. Britt’s oldest son was killed, and Britt's wife Mary and their two younger children, Jube and Cherry, were taken captive by the Kiowa. A white neighbor, the widow Elizabeth, and some of her grandchildren, were taken by the Comanche. Eventually, Britt set out to get them all back.

A parallel story describes the metamorphosis of Samuel Hammond, a Quaker from Philadelphia who comes to nearby Fort Sill to serve as the Indian agent to the Comanche and Kiowa. Samuel is full of ideals and optimism. He wants to conquer the Indians with kindness rather than force, and convince them of what he considers to be the superior ways of whites. While Samuel initially believed the U.S. should honor its treaties and give the Natives the supplies promised to them, he soon decided that it was more important to get white captives back. He withheld food and other goods until the captives were brought in, although some of the captives had lived among the tribes for many years, and could not even remember their original families.

To his despair, however, Samuel discovered that the captives did not seem happy to be back. In one case, he tried to reassure a 15-year-old girl, taken when she was five, that she wouldn't go hungry anymore. But as Jiles writes (based on written reports of attempts to “rehabilitate” captives at the time):

“. . . she was not afraid of going hungry, or of starvation. She was afraid of the slow death of confinement. Of being trapped inside immovable houses and stiff clothing. Of the sky shuttered away from her sight, herself hidden from the operatic excitement of the constant wind and the high spirits that came when they struck out like cheerful vagabonds across the wide earth with all of life in front of them and unfolding and perpetually new. And now herself in a wooden cave. She could not go out at dawn alone and sing, she would not be seen and known by the rising sun.”

Samuel could not understand any of it. He only knew the world of hours and regimens, constricted clothing, regulated behavior, and houses with roofs overhead. He understood accumulation of possessions rather than spartan lives punctuated by the delight of finding gifts in nature. All of this, Samuel thought, he must bring to an end: “That was his job. That was why he was here.”

Conflict and tragedy are the inevitable result of the clash of civilizations and the fight for distribution of resources. Jiles presents both the good and bad on both sides, and although both employ plenty of violence, it never seems like a fair fight.

Britt’s story is heroic and full of interesting details about how people survived in that threatening desert landscape. As a black man, Britt faced additional hurdles, and Jiles also juxtaposes the attitudes of Native Americans and whites toward blacks.

Samuel's ignorance and arrogance was not, and still is not, atypical, but Jiles was careful to highlight his good intentions. She also portrayed the army sympathetically, although their record of massacres of Native Americans was far from salutary.

Evaluation: As is true of her other books, the extensive research Jiles has done on this period of history is evident throughout the narrative, which manages to be poetic rather than a dry recitation. It is no mean feat to describe violence and destruction in terms of eloquence and beauty. Courage and character are also recurring themes in Jiles’ books. Those interested in what this lawless time and place were like will be rewarded by working through her oeuvre. ( )
  nbmars | Jun 8, 2020 |
The Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles is set in frontier Texas, starting out in the closing days of the American Civil War. The war drew many soldiers to battle and away from patrolling the frontiers. The Indians took full advantage to use this time in attacks on the pioneers who tried to settle on the vast plains of Central America. Making war and carrying out raids was the way of life for these plains people and they continued to raid into Texas, murdering and kidnapping until they were stopped in the 1870’s.

In the author’s own words, this book is a novel with a backbone of reality. She tells the story of real life Britt Johnson, a freed slave who came to Texas with his family to start a new life. When he was away from home the Comanche came and murdered some and kidnapped others. Among the kidnapped were his wife, Mary, his son, Jube, and young daughter, Cherry. Against almost insurmountable odds, Britt sets out to rescue his family. The story unfolds from various viewpoints, including that of Britt, his wife Mary, and another captive, Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Along with these people, a Quaker, Samuel Johnson is added to the mix as he arrives to be the new Indian agent.

The story is exciting, based on real history, but with this author, the reader is also treated to some almost musical prose. Paulette Jiles is a poet and she is able to brighten her writing with the most inventive descriptions. Whether it is describing the wind moving over the prairie or the inside of a tepee, the language is rich and vibrant. The Color of Lighting was an excellent read and the author has elevated this “Western” to a much higher standard. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Apr 10, 2019 |
Jiles returns to the American west for this novel, specifically north Texas in the 1860s-70s. There are several main characters, the most prominent Britt Johnson, a historical freed man that Jiles ran across in her research for Enemy Women. Britt, his wife Mary, and three children joined a settlement in Kiowa and Comanche territory. While he was working far from home, the settlement was raided, many slaughtered, and Britt's family, one white woman, and her granddaughter were taken captive. The initial details are horrific: Elizabeth watched her daughter being shot and scalped and a grandson killed, the women were repeatedly raped and beaten, Britt's eldest son was shot, and and the youngest children became dangerously ill. The women were enslaved and the children adopted into Kiowa families. Much of the novel focuses on Britt's efforts to free them, in part with trade items supplied by Samuel Hammond, the Quaker in charge of Indian relations in the district, but even more so with the help of a young brave whose life he had saved. Secondary focus in the novel is on Hammond, whose pacifist beliefs are tried by the brutality he sees around him, and James Deaver, an illustrator-journalist documenting the west for readers back east. Latter chapters focus on Britt's transport business. He was one of the few who would risk driving wagons between north Texas towns through dangerous Indian territory.

Jiles does an excellent job of bringing this small corner of history to life. She brings in a lot of interesting elements that I haven't seen addressed in other novels set in the west: what it was like to be a black family in Texas once the Civil War was in full swing and the slaves emancipated; the struggle of men assigned by various religious groups the government put in charge of peacefully turning the Plains Indians into farmers and moving them to reservations as white settlers claimed stakes on the land; the army's efforts to protect the settlers while staying in line with treaties; and the Indians' efforts to maintain their traditional way of life. I found it especially fascinating as so many of the persons in the novel actually existed. I've enjoyed all three of her novels. Captain Kidd, a wanderer who goes from town to town reading stacks of newspapers he has gathered, paid by the listeners to keep them informed of what is happening back east, makes a very brief appearance here but emerges as the protagonist of her next novel, New of the World, which I enjoyed even more than this one.
( )
  Cariola | Dec 9, 2018 |
Quality of Writing: 8.44
Glad you read it?: 8.39
  bookclub4evr | Jul 21, 2017 |
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When they first came into the country it was wet and raining and if they had known of the droughts that lasted for seven years at a time they might never have remained.
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His dead older brother had left an empty space and Jube came to fill that space within days, flowing into its blank silhouette like powder smoke.
Britt had heard that the Comanche and the Kiowa and the Kiowa-Apache possessed some kind of bottomless and efficient magic that carried them through all the years of their wars on the settlements, that kept them ahead of Rangers and cavalry alike, and this magic had to do with their hair and with other people’s hair. He watched for a few moments as the young man tied up the right braid with a thong and then wrapped it in a long shank of otter skin.
They sang as they came into camp. Fifty men all singing of what they had done and how they had charged into the farms and ranches of the enemy. … You could hear their voices for a mile. They had a red scalp and two blond scalps, very long ones that waved and shook in the wind, and in that hair was the soul of the enemy held tight, tight. There was light all around them and all around their war horses and it was as beautiful and dangerous as the color of lightning.
The young man told him his everyday name, Tissoyo, and said that he was a Comanche, Nemernah. He continued to gaze at Britt and Britt knew the man was trying to place him in some category where armed and mounted black men took up their social space but could not.
They are our great mystery. They are America’s great otherwise. People fall back in the face of an impenetrable mystery and refuse it. Yes, they take captives. Sometimes they kill women and old people. But the settlers are people who shouldn’t be where they are in the first place and they know it and they take their chances. … Perhaps we can regard this as a tragedy. Americans are not comfortable with tragedy. Because of its insolubility. Tragedy is not amenable to reason and we are fixers, aren’t we? We can fix everything.
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The story of two different families, headed by a former slave and by a Quaker, who settle in Texas during the Civil War.

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