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The Reading Lessons

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3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  106 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Mississippi 1920: Nine year old servant, Hadley Crump, finds himself drawn into a secret world when he is invited to join wealthy Lucinda Browning’s dirty book club. No one suspects that the bi-racial son of the cook is anything more to Lucinda than a charitable obligation, but behind closed doors, O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. What begins as a breathless ...more
Paperback, 338 pages
Published January 9th 2014 by Immortal Ink Publishing (first published January 8th 2014)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Liz
Sep 05, 2014 Liz rated it really liked it
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway within the Historical Fictionistas group. I would like to personally thank the author for delivering such a thought provoking historical novel!

Carole Lanham weaved a beautiful (and at times very-not-so-beautiful) story about the unique relationship between two unlikely paired characters. Hadley is a black servant boy in Lucinda's household. At a very young age Lucinda begins giving Hadley reading lessons, even though he can already read very well, in
...more
Autumn
May 06, 2014 Autumn rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure how to fully describe how much I loved this book. It's one of those amazing books that you get so sucked into reading that you just can't wait to get home to and you stay up ridiculously past your bedtime for because you just can't tear yourself away. It also helped me be able to ignore my chronic pain for a little while.

This book is a beautiful, tragic, hateful, loving, bittersweet story of a girl of privilege in the 1920s named Lucinda and her family's servant named Hadley, and t
...more
Newton Newton
Apr 14, 2014 Newton Newton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With a brush laden heavy with American nostalgia, Lanham paints a distinctly vivid portrait of the precarious relationship that develops between a 1920’s era wealthy white woman and her biracial gardener over the course of their growing up together in the same household as well as their shared love of risqué literature. The colors of the language expertly detail the progression of their connection; from the innocent curiosities of youth, to the emotional desperations of adolescence, to the all ...more
J. Sharp
Mar 10, 2014 J. Sharp rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-book, top-books
I was given this book in ARC form. The receipt of the book did not influence my attitudes about that book. Everything portrayed here comes from MY evaluation of this book.

So let's get to what I like about this book:

Characters: Are you kidding me? There are more interesting characters in this book then you could read about in a dirty book club. Hadley Crump, Lucinda's gardener and all-around handyman is such a great guy and at times it feels like his entire life has been manipulated for him. It's
...more
KV Taylor
Mar 04, 2014 KV Taylor rated it it was amazing
I obviously loved the short story from which this came, which is in The Whisper Jar, Carole's book of short stories. And I was not surprised to hear that Hadley had taken such a hold on her imagination that he needed his own book. I'm so, so glad he did.

The Reading Lessons is poignant, emotionally charged; for a longish novel that covers such a massive period of time, it manages to keep the reader on the edge of fear and heartache with astounding consistency. Sustaining this kind of emotion is s
...more
Louise
Feb 11, 2014 Louise rated it it was amazing
Carole Lanham’s The Reading Lessons is a seamless blend of historical literary fiction and romance. She pulls you in with the opening sentence and the narrative never lets go. It’s impossible not to feel for Hadley Crump, a biracial boy living in Mississippi in the 1920s, who falls in love with the daughter of the white man his mother works for. Lucinda has a hot temper and manipulates Hadley to keep him in her life, but, though she denies it, it’s obvious from her more tender moments she loves ...more
Carrie Filetti
Feb 19, 2014 Carrie Filetti rated it it was amazing
Life as a bi-racial boy in the 1920's must have been hard, but what would been harder is falling in love and not being able to be with the one you wanted. Hadley Crump is only nine when he and his mother begin servant jobs with the Brownings. Hadley falls in love with the Browning's daughter, Lucinda.

It all begins when the children start a secret reading club where they read books their parents wouldn't approve of. As they grow, Hadley's feelings for Lucinda deepen but Lucinda's feeling for him
...more
Debby
Sep 05, 2014 Debby rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, first-reads, 2014
I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads program.

I was initially drawn to this book from the title alone! Reading? Yes please! For some reason I thought this was about a reading club, but not quite. The story takes place "back in the day" when blacks were no longer slaves, but were still looked down upon and typically servants. We meet a young black (well partly black) boy named Hadley. His mother works for a rich family who has a daughter his age. Miss Lucinda. Miss Lucinda is quite th
...more
Linda Ulleseit
Sep 07, 2014 Linda Ulleseit rated it it was amazing
Wow. For me, historical fiction is all about strong characters, and this book is full of them. I wanted to be angry and disappointed with Hadley Crump, but I liked him. His efforts to do the right thing gave me hope and his struggle with passionate lust made me shake my head in despair. Lucinda left me in the same boat. I wanted to hate her spoiled rich girl persona, but her vulnerable moments made her a complicated character. The ending made her a beloved one. The very intimate personal story, ...more
PelicanFreak
Sep 21, 2014 PelicanFreak rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that is a great read but can be disturbing as well. Fairly well written, with well developed, brilliant characters that the reader can easily become attached to. Children that are wise beyond their years and a setting during a time that is always interesting to read. Hard for the injustices and basic lack of civil rights but also fascinating for the history perspective.

This book has some humor, romance, historical fiction and served as a portable time machine - I recom
...more
Curtis Hoffmeister
I enjoy Carole Lanham's short fiction, but frankly I prefer novels, and I knew this one was coming down the pike. So I snapped it up the moment it became available. I suggest you do the same! This is a great story. I was lucky enough to attend a signing the author took part in about a month or so ago, and I bought an advanced reading copy. But I wanted the eBook version too. I'll read again, more slowly this time, so I can savor Lanham's rich prose.
Cathy
Jul 16, 2014 Cathy rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jorge A.
Mar 23, 2014 Jorge A. rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Just enjoyed reading this great book by Carole Lanham! Two great characters drawn to each other and the story that develops as you read it, will make your imagination go through mind provoking thoughts of a forbidden relationship. Totally unique story and spell binding!
Virginia
Jan 27, 2016 Virginia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Se le avesse raccontato che leggeva libri proibiti insieme a Lucinda, sua madre lo avrebbe costretto a mettere un chiodo nel barattolo degli sbagli. E ogni sbaglio, ogni chiodo che andava a posarsi sul fondo di quel vasetto, era un passo che lo portava più vicino alla morte.
Stephanie Ward
Jul 04, 2014 Stephanie Ward rated it it was amazing
Fabulous novel on forbidden love and hidden secrets!
Jonathan
May 06, 2014 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Ok. I knew this was going to be a 5 star review before I was halfway finished with this book, but how can I describe “The Reading Lessons”? I don’t think the book synopsis really captures its magnificence (which is I word I haven’t used to describe a book for a long time). Let’s see, if books were peaches (which I love), this is that one peach that you bite into and it’s just perfectly ripe. Most peaches are good, but every once in a while you bite into one which is just so sweet and juicy, you ...more
Samantha LaFantasie
Jun 05, 2014 Samantha LaFantasie rated it it was amazing
This is certainly one of those books that takes you to a different time in US history and makes you see the way life was for people back then. Especially blacks. It’s refreshing for me to see a story that reminds me of the time of my grandfather. He used to tell stories in much of the same way, which made me reflect on the similarities in the end.
Though I wasn’t entirely positive on what to expect, this isn’t a sweet romance. It’s not going to give you warm fuzzies and though it ends on a sigh
...more
Colleen Wanglund
Jun 05, 2014 Colleen Wanglund rated it it was amazing
The Reading Lessons is a novel about the lifelong relationship between Hadley, a mixed race boy whose mother starting working for the wealthy Southern family, the Brownings. The boy was also given work around the house as he grew up. Mr. Browning’s daughter Lucinda, who is a round the same age as Hadley, broke her leg and was not happy being stuck in the house. Lucinda took an interest in Hadley and began asking for him to be sent to her for reading lessons. Hadley had already been taught to ...more
Stephany Tullis
Jul 13, 2014 Stephany Tullis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hadley Crump,finds himself drawn into a secret world when he is invited to join wealthy Lucinda Browning’s dirty book club." I was intrigued enough by author, Carole Lanham's, description of her novel to read it not quite knowing what to expect from the story line. The notion of a forbidden interracial love affair by a couple drawn together in the 1920s by their mutual love of reading was sufficient reason for me to purchase this book. I anticipated a typical love story of the era. A young ...more
Irene Adam
Jun 02, 2014 Irene Adam rated it it was amazing
I received this book free from the author through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. Carole Lanham is a very talented writer. The best book I’ve read in a long time. This book begins in 1920s Mississippi and tells the life story of a relationship between a wealthy white girl and an intelligent biracial boy who could pass for white and is the son of an employee of the family. They read books together and love flowers. As they mature he becomes the gardener, driver, and all round ...more
Kyle Wendy Skultety (gimmethatbook.com)
I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Carole!


The first few pages were rather disjointed and I almost put the book away unread. I was THISCLOSE to doing it...but something made me keep going.

Boy, am I glad I did! The writing is sly, at times heartfelt, sometimes maudlin, and there are many hidden gems along the way. The plot is fairly simple: boy meets girl, boy becomes gently obsessed with girl, girl is evil and strings him along. At times I wanted t
...more
Ellie L.
This story has a great voice that's very natural and full of character. I loved Hadley Crump, the protagonist, because he somehow remains sweet, no matter what tragedies or hardships come his way. He's a man who finds himself constantly stuck in the middle in life. His mother is black and his father is white and he has a hard time fitting in comfortably in either world. When he falls in love with a rich white girl named Lucinda, he finds himself caught between Lucinda and her husband. I was ...more
Lisa
May 21, 2014 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Reviewing a book is probably not the best time to be at a loss for words.

When all is said and done -- this is beautifully told. The editing (spelling, grammar at times) can be a battle, but if you squint a little bit, you can chalk it up to the charm of the times.

I've rarely come across a couple, whether in tale or real life, where they are inseparable in my mind. Their character, their souls, are so well-fit, it is hard to imagine them 'not them'. Hadley and Lucinda. Lucinda and Hadley. So many
...more
Stefania Mattana
Jun 27, 2014 Stefania Mattana rated it really liked it
The Reading Lessons is a delightful story that transported me in the Twenties in the United States, at a fairly problematic epoch quite sensitive from the sociological point of view.

I really liked how the author has managed to build the main character, Lucinda, a lady that somehow embodies the characteristics of the historical age she lives but also so modern and avant-garde.

The themes of love and racism are described with the decision, which I also appreciated during its more "obscure" phase.
...more
Sharon Kennedy
Sep 06, 2016 Sharon Kennedy rated it it was amazing
I loved this! It is a wonderfully evocative tale, detailing the relationship between Lucinda and Hadley, a relationship where neither can do without the other - or perhaps it was Lucinda who could not be without Hadley - but that they could never be together, because of the attitudes and reactions of society.
When they meet, as children, Lucinda gradually draws Hadley into her secret book club, almost using him as an experiment, to try out various things they read about, almost leading to Hadley'
...more
Alan Hardy
Jun 21, 2014 Alan Hardy rated it it was amazing
A great book which threads together many themes into a viable whole: a curious relationship at its centre; some juicy moments; and the historical background of racial strife and bigotry. Such elements make for a great read for a book in this genre; we can believe in the characters, and the situation they find themselves in, both inter-personal and social. An author in control of her subject. Check it out.
V.L. Locey
Oct 06, 2014 V.L. Locey rated it it was amazing
What a compelling read!


The Reading Lessons is a vivid portrait of a dangerous relationship in 1920`s America between a wealthy white woman and her biracial gardener. Without going into detail which might spoil the book, I'll only say that the love story is not what you may be thinking it is. If has far more depth then that. This book is a page turner with such vibrant, realistic characters that you can`t stop yourself from being swept up into the story.
...more
Carole Lanham
Review by Thomas Sullivan: Tastefully erotic, packed with meaning, and sung with lyric perfection, THE READING LESSONS will make your imagination dance through the riveting perils of a forbidden relationship. Carole Lanham’s debut novel is a complete feast. – Thomas Sullivan Pulitzer Prize Nominee and Author of DUST OF EDEN
Cynthia
Jun 29, 2014 Cynthia rated it really liked it
the beginning of the reading lessons was very beguiling to me, while the middle grew tediously repetitious. When Nina enters the picture it once again became very enjoyable to read. When Meg enters the picture it kicks up a notch. With an unexpected ending, I found it very readable with a very creative plot! looking forward to more from this author.

won this in goodreads giveaway
thank you
Simone Crouchelli
Jun 22, 2014 Simone Crouchelli rated it liked it
I think I was not in the frame of mind for this book- but I am looking forward to my book discussion on it. it was read during a stressful time and I felt like it was just another thing on the to-do list. My future discussion with my ladies will help me digest it better.
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