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3.62  ·  Rating details ·  671 Ratings  ·  125 Reviews
Mississippi, 1950. Lee is born a black baby with milky white skin, the result of a dalliance between his black mother and an Icelandic seaman. The local reverend surmises that Lee is God's way of showing "that He's got himself an Almighty sense of humor," but Lee's strange appearance is just one of the ways in which he fails to conform to the world around him. For Lee has ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 2nd 2006 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2005)
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Originally published in the United Kingdom as The Ballad Of Lee Cotton

Leifur Nils Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton (called Lee) is born to a mixed-race mother and an Icelandic fisherman father. From his father he gets his white complexion, blond-white hair and startling blue eyes. From his mother he gets his identity as black. Born in segregated Mississippi in 1950, it’s the “black” that counts, not his white skin. Lee also inherits a gift for “seeing” from his Grandmother Celeste. He c
What a surprising(ly great) book this was - a book club choice that nobody had heard of before, and all of us agreed it was a gripping and highly entertaining read.

Five stars from me: one star for research, one star for use of language, one star for sheer originality, one star for making me laugh out loud, often in disbelief, and finally one star for making me care deeply for such an oddball protagonist.

I'm intrigued that (why) the US edition was, once again, released under a different title,
Aug 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In "Cotton" Christopher Wilson introduces us to the remarkable Leifur Nils Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton...he goes by Lee Cotton for short. Born to a mixed race mother and Icelandic fisherman father, he arrives in rural Mississippi as racial tensions reach the critical level of change in the 1950's. His mother doesn't quite know what to do with him. Walking around in a small Southern town spanking a "white" kid isn't exactly accepted behavior for black women during that time period. So in p ...more
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
This is an interesting, almost outlandish book that explores the idea of identity - racial and gender identity, specifically - in some pretty unique ways, from the point of view of someone named Lee Cotton as they grow up and make their way through life. It was compelling because of the dramatic life-changing events that occur in the pages, but I found it wanting in the identity analysis department. It certainly explored these issues, but the way it did it was somewhat superficial and never real ...more
Zara Hawthorne
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is fabulously inventive, charming, very funny and absolutely extraordinary. The title I read this book under is "The ballad of Lee Cotton" and the story certainly has the richness and lyrical charm of a ballad. I loved the way the author repeatedly takes events to the brink of disbelief only to come up with a plausible explanation just in time. All the way through I was thinking "this is my new favorite book of all time". The ending didn't hold up to the lushness of the rest of the boo ...more
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quirky and very fun. Loved this book!

Brilliant writing. I 'm not sure if it's meant to be comedic because bad things certainly happen to our Lee, but I found myself laughing and delighting in his story nonetheless.

Here's a tiny taste from the first chapter, describing his hometown of Eureka, Mississippi:
"They didn't mind progress as long as things stayed the same."

Although this was from my postal book groupie Kats in Zurich, it is set in the south and is out of print in the USA. Why?!

Rula Zein-Iddin
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very entertaining read. From the outset you think this will be a story that's been told before - incredibly its not. The author has actually created a very unique (in more ways than one) character with an authentic & charismatic personality. You really care about Lee. Lee's attitude to life & how he / she deals with it all are very inspirational. A very enjoyable & original book that rings true on so many levels - read it for a different perspective on life & hope in th ...more
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
Easily one of the most bizarre things I've ever read and the quickest I've realized I had a new favorite book (chapter 15/27). The simplicity and naïveté of Lee, the main character, coupled with the complex life he's unable to get under control, makes for a strange and truly unique story. The author has quite a way with words, which often reveal unanticipated perspectives. Honestly, I've never read anything like this; would highly recommend.
Apr 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Great book. Its like a Forest Gump story, but instead of being full of clichés, its full of taboos and really unpredictable. Funny and emotional most of the way through. I think the only shortcoming is that the humour is only strong for the first half. The plot stays interesting right until the end, though, and the writing is very good.
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a strange and intriguing ride. the writing is excellent. I got book out of the library, curious about its measure Q status, which marked the book as being lbgtq. How this story winds its improbable way into the gender bending category and beyond is inventive, improbable and a great story.
Richard King
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this read. A little reminiscent of Mark Twain with a taste of Voltaire. It was a hoot!
Every chapter had a new twist. A must read on American cultural insight, but written by a Brit.
Apr 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this to everyone I know.
Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
This book has a lot of surprises. I didn't like it as much as my sister but I'm glad I read it. Remarkable story with social commentary. Lots to talk about from this.
Catherine Davison
There are serendipitous moments in life, finding a brand new copy of this book in an op-shop was one such moment. This book has everything, fabulous writing, great wit, a storyline that just picks you up and whisks you away to places and situations that are so off-beat you wouldn't believe them but you do find yourself believing and willingly going along with the magic of the story telling. Lee Cotton McCoy is a character I did not want to say goodbye to. This is a brilliant book on so many leve ...more
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic read! It was really interesting and entertaining from the word go and then had so many twists and turns in it. Totally loved it.
Apr 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved it, a little boy born to an Icelandic sailor and a black woman from New Orleans. History made in so many different ways....

Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's nice to read something that manages to deliver a story that continuously surprises you on how far the reality of its plot is willing to go. As a tale, this book is a great read that flows well and is oddly believable for such a unique chain of events - but it's the execution that really makes it wonderful.

Without giving too much away - the narrator tells the story of their life, which inevitably involves some fundamental shifts and transformations along the way. What surprised me was how we
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
SLJ Reviews 2006 February

Adult/High School -Before he is 30, Lee Cotton experiences life as a black boy, a white man, a white woman, and a black woman. The son of a black woman and a white Icelandic sailor, he was born in 1950 in Eureka, MS. White skin and blond hair notwithstanding, he was raised to know his place in the world. When he has a relationship with the daughter of a local bigot at age 15, he is beaten up by the Ku Klux Klan and left for de
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
The short 'n' sweet description of this book that I've seen favored by various web sites, etc., is "The story of Lee Cotton, who starts life as a black boy and ends it as a white woman." Besides pretty much begging for several bad Michael Jackson jokes to be made, this summary isn't quite accurate; there is rather a lot of culture and genderswapping (bwee!) in this book, but it's all more complicated than a single sentence summary can convey. Which is great—hurrah for not making it easy, which W ...more
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Although this is not compelling & suspenseful reading, it is a unique & interesting story. The author is highly educated & his much-appreciated writing skills, that readers seek out, are apparent on each page.

The story is written in the first person of Lee Cotton, a white-skinned boy born in 1950 to a southern black woman and an Icelandic sailor. His mother howls when she sees first him at birth, knowing he'll have trouble fitting into her black community. And the story confirms that
Stephanie Cox
May 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting read. The main character, Lee, undergoes several transformations throughout the course of the book. It's difficult to describe the plot without giving too much of it away so here is a description of the book I found. Lee Cotton is a black boy born white-skinned in segregated Eureka, Mississippi, in 1950. Over the course of Lee’s first twenty years, he will fall in love with the daughter of a local Klansman, get kicked senseless and left for dead on a freight train hea ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2010 bookcrossing comments:

Thank you again for sending this book to me! I hadn't heard of the writer or the book, so I may never have read it otherwise. It was a great story... I knew very little other than what I'd read on the back about it being in America's deep south about a boy with a black mother and an Icelandic father. And it was such a crazy story, with so many turns. Really big, dramatic turns as it happens as well. And yet none of it seemed unbelieveable in this story. It worked reall
Jan 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
OK, I originally had this at two stars because we had a great conversation about it at my book club. However, after thinking about it - I wouldn't have finished this book if I read it on my own. I get the overall tie-in that the guy/girl is actually an angel looking out for all of these characters, but SERIOUSLY??? How much messed up crap can happen to one person? Sex changes, racial changes and characters that are completely accepting of this without question! It was completely ridiculous. It w ...more
Aug 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Kevin Free provides the perfect voice for Cotton in the audio version of this fable about an American who experiences almost every form of discrimination and prejudice in American society. The story is sometimes hilarious, and at other times it is heartbreaking. It is a story that I will long remember. The audio version is highly recommended. Thank you, Karin!
I see in it a modern day parable or allegory. Cotton experienced almost every form of prejudice first hand. The weird "angel"ending made m
Aradia V
Feb 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
I bought this book in the airport when they were out of the book I was hoping for. I enjoyed most of it. I felt that the author could have taken more time with certain things..perhaps write a sequel or just make it longer? Regardless its a very interesting look at being 'different' in more ways than many people get to experience in one life. The end felt a little lacking. But overall I would recommend least as a discussion piece.
I would also like to know more about the author. As this bo
Feb 17, 2009 rated it liked it
So I have mixed reviews about this book, but I think the important thing to remember while reading it is intended to be bit funny! I think at times I forgot that little fact and then it just seemed too impossible to fathom. The good thing about this book is that it really explores issues from many different perspectives - black, white, man, woman. And that in itself is quite humorous. The main character, Lee Cotton/McCoy is probably one of the most entertaining people I have met lately. ...more
Lori Carpenter
Dec 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all
This book might be a bit "out there" for some, but if you keep an open mind, you'll find that it all makes sense for this person to keep living the life that he feels the time.

I really enjoyed this book; it forces you to look at situations from a very backward angle. I still laugh out loud when I think of the whole plastic-surgery-to-save-your-life, part of the book. This book manages to make you want to laugh at the absurdity of it (in a funny, ha, ha way...not a disapproving laugh A
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Play Book Tag: Cotton / Christopher Wilson - 1.5* 1 10 Jan 22, 2018 02:30PM  
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For 20 years a leading Fleet Street journalist with columns in The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express and Today, he is now a best-selling author whose seminal biography of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, is the acknowledged source material for all other books and TV films on the subject. The book, A Greater Love - Charles and Camilla, was turned into a top-rated TV documentary screened in th ...more
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