Book Review. Gods of Noonday.


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Gods of NoonDay

A white girl’s African life.


Elaine Niel Orr


University of Virginia Press

Ohhh this was a hard read! I agonized every bit of it. This woman TEACHES in writing? I felt it was tuition well wasted, a spot for a better employee and an area that the University obviously failed in. My agrevatin grew. I am the worst in grammar as a writer I’ve ever known, until this book. But it was also the overly floral prose, the half memory that was seen through rose colored glasses. The unreal nostolgia that all….and this woman teaches in a University?! I couoldn’t help but rage at my lack of job and someone who had a job they obviously should not.

I had text conversation’s of the subject. “In 1959, we literally drove into the rains; it was the rainy season after all.” Insipid was a word my friend gave it.

I felt that half the memories were made up, other half told t her. I felt that the girl never understoof where she lived growing up. She was in white christian compounds after all. Her only site of dark skin were those who cooked their meals and a visit to the market but as much as she feels a kinship it didn’t seem she had one in the time f growing up at all. She was so much about white and black but not in a poetic scense at all. Not once did she even truly have an African friend. Oh they mentioend playing with a Africa employee’s children ocne or twice but even in that they left them behind to play American games and there was always a distance…these other children were always “The gardenders children” but not her peers. As African as she comes to tell she doens’t seem African at all, her cuntry seems Baptist Missoninary compound, surrounded in walls frm Africa itself. But then she speaks on and on about her lovely Africa…her country that seems t be ne she dens’t know at all. In her compound and school she had only white children to play with, she played many American games, did her hair and wore fashioned, even if behind the times, that spoke of America. When in America she ate and watched television only. Ever. Each trip.

She never spoke of WHY her parents did what they did in Africa, what their movement was for so t speak. The one in their hearts. And as much as she felt un-American it seems that she never even thought of actually going to live in Africa, being African-born even. Much less t follow in her parents footsteps in any way or in any other way. She rarely even went back as an adult.

I have much nostolgia of my childhood…miuch great yearning to grasp the memories that slip from me. But they are so much more real than the memories she wrte on these pages.

From time to time a line would start so poetic I would get excited…I like THAT line that gets me excited, spurns me into inspiration, but then her voice would take a sharp turn and quickly all was lost…..what could have been a good line ended not. I was left dissapointed…I wanted to rewrite this entire book for her. And again I would think only “This woman TEACHES in a University? In Literature?


However, I though I put the book down at a time…and later finally picked it back up, I was somehow still drawn in. Smewhat as a trainwreck does to you. Somewhat because I felt the warmth and the true heart this lady might have. I honestly felt she was familiair. Felt that I would enjoy listening to her talk for awhile over tea. I can’t exactly say why. She seemed…nice. She seemed genuine and I nearly felt bad that I thought her as an author so….stiff, bored. But I also felt her plight with meeting death daily and that yearning to go back…those memories that you took for granted in real time and hate yourself for now that you didn’t cherish. Didn’t know what you had then. The smell you remember, the feel, the sounds of childhood that make you wish so hard to have them back, and to remember them stronger than you do. This, the author, the book Gods of Noonday, did for me. And so I read to the end. Too short, adruptly cut off sentences, lines that swelled and then fell flat and all. Weirdly, it made me think. Think of my childhood. Think of my writing. Think of my daily job. Think of my memories. Think of my own nostlgia. Think of death. Think of life. And that is what a book is supposed to do. Make you think. Make you feel. So I guess in the end I apologize for my thughts to the author. I almost felt bad writing my thought in the end. But then, I chose to stick to who I am, as she stuck to who she is.

I will leave with saying that in reading Gods of Noonday, I did feel a strong urge to visit Africa and perhaps, one day I will.

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