Having read “The Underground Railroad”, I confess to being a little reticent about deciding to read Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys”. I wasn’t sure that it would be quite ‘me’. Perhaps I was nervous that – as a white, middle class Brit – the book wouldn’t resonate with me, that I’d fail to engage with it emotionally.
I needn’t have worried. “The Nickel Boys” is a super book; the sort of book that, if you had the time, you could probably sit down and devour at a single sitting. I like the way it weaves past and present in a structurally fluid way, not resorting to the trite one-chapter-about-the past / one-chapter-about-the-present formula. But most of all it’s the graphic quality of Whitehead’s writing that shines through. You get the horror, the brutality, the depravity of it.
“The Nickel Boys” is the sort of book everyone should read – perhaps especially so if they are ignorant of the thread of history it depicts. Even from many thousands of miles away, it leaves you a sense of shame, of how wrong things were. Powerful stuff.