You really need to go and listen to it. Really. Now.
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read the book, so listening to Julie read it is my first real exposure. And no, that scene in The King and I doesn’t count! I had no idea what an American treasure I’d been missing out on.
The story is exciting, heartbreaking, clever, and sometimes very funny. It was originally written and published as a serial, so there are all kinds of cliff-hangers.
But what really captures me is that it is real. It’s human. And it’s about real history. Julie gives lots of wonderful background information that helps bring the story to life and impress on us the realities it describes. Naturally, there has been plenty of debate, criticism, interpretation and re-interpretation aimed at the story and its author. But I, coming “fresh” to this story, just find it very real, powerful, and humanly satisfying. It goes straight to my heart. And the bit of background info that is constantly in my mind and that resonates most with me is that former slaves testified that the story provided an accurate portrayal of what life was like for them and in the world around them. One cannot be unmoved by that!
Even if you have read the book, I recommend listening to it. Julie does such a fantastic job with the reading. Even if she hadn’t remarked on it herself, I could easily imagine that it would be very difficult to read… what with the offensive language and the vernacular dialect and the intense emotion of the story.