Listen free for 30 days

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

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

What listeners say about The Nickel Boys

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    149
  • 4 Stars
    65
  • 3 Stars
    23
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    137
  • 4 Stars
    52
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    139
  • 4 Stars
    50
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wow a suckerpunch of a book!

I loved this book, it was easy to follow on Audible and the narrator was steady and pleasant to listen to. A book that gets right into your head, your heart and thoughts. A must listen for anyone who is interested in Black oppression and wants to be more informed. Be warned this book is NOT for the faint hearted it involves violence and injustice. However, the way the violence is described is sympathetic and not at all gory or overly descriptive but for anyone with morals it will still get to you and make you ache with sadness and anger!

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Important and extraordinary

This is an important book for anyone who wants to get an insight into both institutional and casual racism. It is also an extraordinary work of storytelling.i was hooked from the first to the last word.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A must read

An excellent story; painful and captivating. Well written and perfectly narrated. A really good read.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Cannot praise this book.highly enough

This book.will stay with.me for a long while. Haunting, Harrowing, Spellbinding and Soul renching

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

This made me Weep

What an incredibly poignant and beautifully written novel even though the subject matter is devastating. In fact it’s mind-boggling that these things happened. But the fact that they did should be known. These people who did these things, to these poor and often innocent children... know what they did. And one day they will be judged!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A moving and powerful tale

A story that need to be heard in the time of BLM. I found the narration a little sleepy, but the writing kept it alive and compelling

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Heart wrenching read

This book will grip your heart and mind from start to finish. The thrill and suspense. I was on edge till the end. Definitely not for the faint hearted. The wickedness that was allowed to perpetuate is difficult to accept or understand. Sadly it still goes on around us and we must remain vigilant and informed. Thank you Colson for your heart and for this beautiful and skillfully written book.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Heartbreaking story based on real life experiences

Loved it! Good narration by author.. Heartbreaking and moving but unfortunately based on real life experiences

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Bleak horror story with human monsters

No fantasy. A heart-rending story of misfortune in a racially divided world. I wish it wasn't a fictionalized account.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

High quality audio good story historical focus

I enjoyed this book and the education into thebdeep south reform schools however not until the end did i realise it was a true to life story with names changed. This made me appreciate even more the struggle of elwood ans turner if i would change one thing it would be tonhave the relevant information stated in the books description about the reform school this is based on. The twist in the book was also a bit predictable but the writing style reminded me alot of john steinbeck really raw and gritty! 4 stars for the story but performed beautifully by Jackson and sounding crisp good book!