The Cutting Season-Attica Locke
nationality: USA (WoC)
A body is found in the fields next to a former plantation, now tourist attraction, overseen by a daughter of the owners' cook and descendant of a slave who had worked the plantation fields.
Locke writes really well exploring the disquiet of modern African American identity. Her main character, Caren, is an excellent device for exploring race relations-the daughter of the cook now public manager of a plantation set open to the public. The threads of history stretch back to the Civil War. I don't actually know if I'm primed by fiction to constantly see the South of the US as haunted by the Civil War or whether it truly is but Locke offers an intriguing multi-dimensional character for the reader. The tensions on the plantation, both historical and between the current management vs actors in a tourist show, echo the tensions in the community at large (the small farmer vs the corporation, local vs immigrant) and of course, race is present throughout. There are a lot of parallelisms running throughout the novel-the undocumented victim, the slaves, the class difference between owner and worker-and sometimes Locke does lose the plot a little. The mystery is well set up and the prose is articulate and careful.
There was something though, that somewhat fell flat. I really wanted to like this novel more than I did. I don't know what to blame really, I can only talk about a few bits and bobs that stick out. One is that Caren is the protagonist and is inadvertently tied up into the murder mystery but is never interested in investigating or finding out the truth. Instead, like in her own life, she lets herself be buffeted by the dangers and uncertainties while flailing in panic. She is almost numb except when she makes mindbogglingly bad choices and since we spend so much time in her head, following her, the slow pace lets you fully become irked by her.
I will definitely be trying Locke again, just you wait.