Vanessa (V.C.)'s Reviews > If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
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Oct 08, 11

bookshelves: african-american-literature
Read from October 05 to 08, 2011

I’m a huge fan of James Baldwin; by far the novels I have read of his (Giovanni’s Room, Go Tell it On the Mountain, and Just Above My Head), gave a glorious reading experience that had left a profound effect on me. If Beale Street Could Talk, to my surprise, didn’t have that emotional pull, that instant connection and relationship with the characters, and the superior writing that I would expect from a Baldwin novel. Without a doubt Baldwin’s writing is still great here, but it is not his best. It somewhat has a tone and feel of a cheesy melodrama or sitcom from the 70’s, the characters are real and relatable enough, but the story itself was lackluster. I wanted to feel for the characters and care about their plight, but I couldn’t. I thought Baldwin was perhaps trying too hard to make this story emotional and profound, but instead gave us a somewhat self-serving, undercooked, predictable tale of two teenage lovers where all the odds are against them and we are somewhat forced to feel sorry for them, especially since a unborn child is involved and the daddy is in jail. The entire plot just screams “I want to be a sitcom/tv melodrama/soap opera.” What this novel does deliver is the emotional honesty in what it has to say about American society in the 1970’s, but unfortunately the not-so-great writing style, the lack of real depth in its characters, and the overall cheesy 1970’s soap opera feel left me not enjoying this novel as well as I thought I should have or could have.
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