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Five Smooth Stones

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  2,915 ratings  ·  409 reviews
David Champlin is a black man born into poverty in Depression-era New Orleans who achieves great success and then sacrifices everything to lead his people in the difficult, day-by-day struggle of the civil rights movement. Sara Kent is the beloved and vital white girl who loved David from the moment she first saw him, but they struggle over David's belief that a marriage f ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 933 pages
Published 1980 by Bantam (first published January 1st 1966)
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Average rating 4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,915 ratings  ·  409 reviews

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May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This huge novel should be required reading for anyone who thinks it's no big deal that Barack Obama spent eight years in the White House. Five Smooth Stones spans four decades of American history, from the Great Depression to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. David Champlin, a black man, grows up impoverished but in an emotionally rich environment in his grandfather's household in New Orleans, where white supremacy is unquestioned and officially sanctioned discrimination is rampa ...more
Jun 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was on the bottom of an extra-credit reading list my freshman year of high school. For a 14-year-old white girl living a very insulated life, this book was a world-shaker. I still refuse to believe it's a novel - the story was so vivid the characters will always be to me, more than fiction. ...more
Aug 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody
Shelves: fiction
This is an incredible story of an African-American young man growing up and pursuing his education during the turbulent sixties. My mom recommended this book to me, which she hadn't read since the year it was published sometime in the sixties.

Written during the period during which it takes place, the book explores the complexities of growing up black in the South, single parenthood, interracial relationships, and, of course, prejudice. I loved this book.
Jun 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is with out a doubt my favorite book of all time. I read it first in High School--lost if for a while and rediscovered it in the early 80's and have read it at least once every year since. Powerful and moving--I like to give it as a gift. ...more
Aug 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was a contradiction in terms for me, like a lot of woman my age I read this when in the early 70's. it was first published in 1966. its the story of David Champlin an african american growing up in New Orleans in the 50's/60's. Really engaging charactors.

My entire book club read this book and most had also read it 30 yrs ago. Here is the overiding thought. 40 years ago, this book with it steamy romance between Sara and David was pretty racy and generated much controversy. America and
Shirley Freeman
I first read this in high school (early-mid 1970's) and loved it. I read it again in 1983 and was captivated once more. I have often referred to it as a favorite book but really couldn't remember much about it so thought I should re-read it for a third time twenty-eight years later. It is an amazing civil rights story but it is definitely dated. I still enjoyed it and still had tears streaming down my face at the end. The main character, David Chamberlain, is poor, black, religious, smart, and f ...more
Sep 04, 2007 rated it liked it
my mentor recommended this book to me and stated, "this is the besk book i have ever read." coming from someone who loved kingsolver, plath and salinger, this really meant something to me. this is a wonderful novel that touched me in many ways, it is well written and would be interesting to anyone who is even remotely intrigued by prejudice, jim crow laws, and the struggle between races. this is a heavy and emotional novel that takes a lot of investment with 900 pages but i would recommend it to ...more
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! It is the story of a black man born in New Orleans during the Great Depression. It is his life story and goes through the Civil Rights movement. I learned things I didn't know about this time in history and it made me step back and reassess my own prejudices. This is a long book, but it moved quickly. Rated PG for a little bit of language. It dealt with some tough issues and I thought it was done very tastefully. ...more
Jul 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Mom
Wow. I first read this as a teenager and remember it being one of my all time favorite books. That said, as an adult, I couldn't remember it at all, so I decided to reread it. Part of me was so disappointed. Not with the writing.......for that alone I would give it 5 stars. I just wanted it to be more about the main characters and their love story. It's a really, really long book, almost 800 pages. The last third could have been cut down dramatically. The time period is so interesting, but she j ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this book 50 years ago in 1968 the summer before I started high school. I still remember it as one of the best books I EVER read and it had such an impact on me at very young age. I want to read it again
Sarah Logue
Apr 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My mother had to hide this from me in high school--I was supposed to be studying but i couldn't stop reading. This was the first book that changed my life, the first book that made real a world beyond my sheltered, all-white suburban experience. It's also an insanely romantic love story, which made the bitter pill of its message (about race in America in the Civil Rights era) a lot easier for my 16-year-old throat to swallow. It's terribly sad and, I think, completely out of print, but I loved t ...more
Nicki Oldham
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first time I read this book was in 1976. I have an original hard cover from 1966. I periodically pick it up most recently in February of this year and every time I am drawn into the storyline. It is an inter-racial love story in a time when that was not acceptable. The main character, David Champlain, is trying to help his "people" during the Civil Rights movement while juggling his love of Sarah Kent, a white woman who fell in love with him when she met him. Ann Fairbairn has written this t ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: ALL
I read this book for the first time when I was either in high school or just starting college...anyway it really touched me to the soul & I never forgot this book in all the years since! The very first book I wanted when I purchased my E reader was a copy of this book - so that I could Read It Again! I mean to tell you that it touched me - just as much - this time as it had done the first time. This was almost the only book that Ann Fairbairn ever wrote - and actually I believe they say that tha ...more
Aug 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeanne L.
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this many, many years ago and just recently decided to read it again! It had a huge impact on me then, but now, with experiences I've had it has even more. The writing is excellent! The story is real and makes the reader feel what the characters are feeling. I, personally, think this book should be required reading in every high school in the states. I lived through this era and saw much of this on the evening news. I have come to know many young African-Americans who know very little of ...more
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Caity by: Mom
LOVED IT! I'm on a civil rights movement kick and this one was recommended to me by my mother. She said it was her favorite book when she was in college. This seems to be a theme among people who have reviewed this book!

This is a tumultuous story about a boy that grows up during the civil rights movement in America. He is one of only a few black students accepted to a northern university. It follows the progression of events in the civil rights movement as seen through one man's eyes. It's a fab
Judy Stasiak
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Read this with a book club. The majority of the 20 women felt that the length of the book and lengthy details caused some parts of the story to drag. Great description of a horrible part in history but wish it would have been more concise to hold every readers attention. This book made for wonderful book club discussions.
Donna Bijas
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
David Champlin will go down as memorable as Atticus Finch, although, in this instance, he (Champlin) takes a much bigger stand on the subject of race. This book was phenomenal from beginning to end. The storylines, the friendships, the love stories and heartaches, but deep down it's a positive message to those of us who come later. A must read. ...more
Apr 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Hands down my favorite book. Hard to find (especially since it is now out of print) but definitley worth it.
Katherine Pollard-Pollak
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favortites
Once again I have finished Five Smooth Stones. It is at least the 20th reading since my first when I was 19 years old. You would think I could recite it by now. Again, though I can't. Every time I read this loved, treasured and important novel, I sit. I wonder "how can people treat another person, other people, with so much hate?". And that is what it is. Every reading leads me to a new awareness, and sadly, of the weaknesses of humanity. Now in light of the atrocities such as the killing of Mic ...more
May 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
David is a poor black man raised in New Orleans during the depression era. He’s mentored by a white benefactor and attends college, ultimately meeting Sarah Kent, the white woman who will, one day, become his wife. It will be years, for they will struggle with the extraordinary pressures of interracial relationship, which force them apart. He will move on to do great things, become a highly visible leader in the black struggle, and will rise above the obstacles of race and poverty to obtain an e ...more
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book brings to acute understanding the life of David Champlin, a black born in the south, educated at Harvard. David's personality and how he sees things through a black man's eyes is so well written that the reader feels as though she were black and the undercurrent of fear and racism is always with her. When David's grandfather is killed in a racist street attack, David leaves his high powered career and goes back to the south to help his people. Omstead of the sword that David was to use ...more
Grandma Weaver
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
While I really liked this book I didn't give it 5 stars because I thought it was a little long, David Champlin was almost too good to be true and I thought the dialogue was stilted. Having said that it made me think more about that time in our history and how hard life was for black people. Even though I lived thru those times I'm ashamed to say I didn't pay a lot of attention. Today's black youth should have to read this book and be very thankful that some people (both black and white but mostl ...more
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading this book a few days ago and it's still with me. It was one of the most incredible books I've ever read. For me, it was one of those books that changes you. The story spans some 30 years and you get to know the characters intimately. From the depression to the civil rights era, the journey with the characters is moving, heart-aching at times and very thought provoking. It was one of several books I've read in my life that I cried very hard while reading. For anyone interested ...more
This is a novel that I have never forgotten. I was fourteen and I recall that it actually was my mother's, and we were on holidays and I got to read it first. I was sitting on the beach when I came to the end, and I flushed and broke out into tears and promptly had to tell my mom all about it. My mom wasn't delighted. I need to read this again... ...more
Oct 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
This book is about an interacial relationship which was pretty controversial in the 60s. I just got drawn in by the story and couldn't put the book down. It covers many years which was the kind of story I liked at the time. I often wonder if I would still love this book at much now. ...more
Judith Johnson
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Only just remembered this morning (when I was picking up and weighing in my palm three beautiful smooth stones from my cabinet of curiosities which I was dusting) that I'd read this book many years back! ...more
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I think I first read this book way back in the 8th grade. It was such a moving book that I went out and bought it for my mother and we both have re-read it more than once. It is a very gripping book.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly long and perhaps overwritten, but in spite of that, I give it five stars. As someone who grew up in the fifties and sixties in the northeast, I was only peripherally aware of the struggles of the southern blacks. This story, largely the story of one young black man who grows up in poverty and in the heart of the racist culture of New Orleans, who goes on to become highly educated and successful. While this is at heart a love story, it is also a story of deep commitment and sacrifice t ...more
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Play Book Tag: Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn - 5 Stars and a Favorite 3 19 Sep 23, 2019 10:31AM  
100 Books Challenge: 2017 Group Read Jan & Feb - Five Smooth Stones 15 18 Oct 08, 2017 07:54PM  
Five Smooth Stones 8 82 Jul 18, 2013 03:00PM  

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Ann Fairbairn (Dorothy Tait) was best known for "Five Smooth Stones," but also published two other books: a biography of New Orleans jazz clarinetist George Lewis, whose tours she managed, and a 1970 novel, "That Man Cartwright". During the 1930s she was involved with the WPA project as a writer. She worked as a riveter in the shipyards in San Francisco during World War II. In the 1940s she worked ...more

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