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The Nickel Boys

Length: 6 hrs and 46 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4.5 out of 5 stars (69 ratings)

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Summary

The Nickel Boys is Colson Whitehead's follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning best seller The Underground Railroad, in which he dramatises another strand of United States history, this time through the story of two boys sentenced to a stretch in a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.    

Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. 

But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide 'physical, intellectual and moral training' which will equip its inmates to become 'honorable and honest men'.  

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear 'out back'. 

Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King's ringing assertion, 'Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.' But Elwood's fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.   

The tension between Elwood's idealism and Turner's scepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.   

Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.

©2019 Colson Whitehead (P)2019 Hachette Audio UK

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Patchy narrator

Great story, with a somewhat mixed quality of narration. Some parts excellent, and in others the cadence of the deliver is completely off, pausing mid sentence sometimes which completely wrongly alters the actual meaning of the prose. Still worth listening.

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Great read

While fictional the book brings together stories and investigations of the goings on at some of these boys correctional facilities back in the 40s to the 80s. the corruption and general abuses. this book is well written and very well read by the narrator. well done all the team involved.