Top critical review
despite the excellent writing.
Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2016
Before reading this book, I had no idea that the Nazis had rounded up African Americans who happened to be in Europe at the time of their invasion of France and then sent them to concentration camps; in fact, I had not even thought about it. The Book of Harlan tells the story of Harlan, an African American musician playing gigs in France (as well as his compatriots) who was interned at Buchenwald. But the book also tells the story of the rest of his life, both before and after World War II, as well as the story of his grandparents, his parents, his child, and others. Unfortunately, McFadden goes into almost no depth with a lot of this. This story is so big, so important, that the other characters deserve a much bigger place in the book; in fact, Harlan deserves more depth himself. For instance, though we hear about the woman who became pregnant with Harlan's children and meet the children briefly, we never know what happened to them, only that they never had a relationship with Harlan. The Instead, the book is somewhat superficial and suffers from a lack of character development, despite the excellent writing.