Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

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Synopsis

From the acclaimed author of Cambridge comes an ambitious, formally inventive, and intensely moving evocation of the scattered offspring of Africa. It begins in a year of failing crops and desperate foolishness, which forces a father to sell his three children into slavery. Employing a brilliant range of voices and narrative techniques, Caryl Phillips folows these exiles across the river that separates continents and centuries.

Phillips's characters include a freed slave who journeys to Liberia as a missionary in the 1830s; a pioneer woman seeking refuge from the white man's justice on the Colorado frontier; and an African-American G.I. who falls in love with a white Englishwoman during World War II. Together these voices make up a "many-tongued chorus" of common memory—and one of the most stunning works of fiction ever to address the lives of black people severed from their homeland.
 

About Caryl Phillips

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Caryl Phillips was born in St. Kitts, West Indies. Brought up in England, he has written for television, radio, theater, and film. He is the author of three books of nonfiction and seven previous novels. His last novel, "A Distant Shore, "won the 2004 Commonwealth Prize. His awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Phillips lives in New York City. Caryl Phillips's "The Final Passage, A State of Independence, The European Tribe, Higher Ground, Cambridge, Crossing the River, The Nature of Blood, The Atlantic Sound, A New World Order," and "A Distant Shore" are available in Vintage paperback. "From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published January 1, 1995 by San Val. 237 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, History. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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My Travis.'' Their life stories--like those of all slavery's children--are ``fractured, sinking hopeful roots into difficult soil.'' Relieved only by excerpts from the 18th-century diary of a slave-trader who, ``approached by a quiet fellow, bought 2 strong man-boys and a proud girl,'' these stor...

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Publishers Weekly

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Phillips's depiction of the African diaspora, spanning four eras in African American history, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. (Jan.)

Jan 16 1995 | Read Full Review of Crossing the River

Publishers Weekly

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The title story concerns James Hamilton, a 17th-century British slave trader, who, in letters home to his sweetheart and entries in the ship's log, coolly chronicles the steady accumulation of human livestock, slowed only by high prices and death.

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Publishers Weekly

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Phillips's depiction of the African diaspora, spanning four eras in African American history, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. (Jan.)

Jan 16 1995 | Read Full Review of Crossing the River

Entertainment Weekly

Crossing the River Caryl Phillips (Knopf, $22) Roots, Alex Haley's epic of slavery and African forebears, made a classic American miniseries.

Jan 28 1994 | Read Full Review of Crossing the River

The Independent

To cross the river is to leave Africa, and the river crossed flows from the real into the symbolic world, a river of tears, the River Jordan, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mississippi.

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London Review of Books

In The Wasted Years, Caryl Phillips’s 1984 radio play, the young Solly Daniels writes a note to a girl asking her out: ‘Dear Jenny, I know that I don’t know you very well so please forgive me for just writing to you like this.’ ‘Where,’ asks the girl, ‘did he learn to write like that?’ That quest...

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