Josephine's Reviews > The Mirk and Midnight Hour

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
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did not like it

** spoiler alert **

This was one of the most racist stories I've had the misfortune of experiencing and is also one of the most boring and badly written. I would rate it zero stars if I could. In fact I created an account on this website to hopefully warn potential readers against getting anywhere near this book. The only reason I finished this story was because it was actually in a book-on-CD form and I had to travel over 30 hours with not much else to listen to. Firstly, the white actress who read this story out loud was painful to listen to whenever she tried to struggle and stumble her way through the AAVE dialect of the enslaved characters, but her narration was NOWHERE NEAR how cringe-worthy Jane Nickerson's book actually ended up being.

The fact that this story takes place in Mississippi during the Civil War and centers around a white girl and is written by a white author probably should have probably tipped me off that this is the type of historical fiction that has way too much in common with the likes of Gone With the Wind and Uncle Tom's Cabin. Sadly I gave it a chance because I thought (FOOLISHLY!) that the "severely injured Union soldier" mentioned in the summary would have been black and there'd be some kind of profound type of racial dialogue on the status of the country when she meets him and that the person who was tending to Thomas before Violet encounters him was doing so so that they could force him into slavery. WOW was I way off!

Allow me to specify, when Violent FINALLY meets Thomas (which happens not in the first 3 chapters like you would expect, but nearly at the story's HALFWAY POINT-talk about pacing issues) he's white and his captors are the VanZeldts, an African family who willingly chose to come to America a few years prior despite of the fact that they knew black people in the country were held in bondage and treated worse than animals. Just couldn't resist that spirit of American "freedom" I guess! More specifically, this "free" African family in the South was tending to a Union solider's wounds not out of compassion for the Union cause, but because they wanted to use him as a sacrifice in a Voodoo ritual! Who let this be published...?

That's just the tip of iceberg when it comes to how mind-bendingly racist this book is. For one, Violet's slave Laney is referred to as a "servant" and Violet considers her one of her best friends! After all that's how my relationships with my friends always go-I force them to work for me and I consider them subhuman! Funnily enough, Laney even seems to support the confederate cause, and shows no support for the Union whenever Violet talks to her (I WONDER WHY?). There’s even a scene where Violet finds out her step-sister Sunny had slapped Laney, and Violet makes sure to give Sunny a stern talking-to about not doing that again. So glad the author included that scene to show readers that Violet is a GOOD slave owner, not a nasty mean one! THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A GOOD OR KIND SLAVE OWNER NICKERSON! Although that certainly doesn’t stop her from trying to convince us otherwise in other Violet-Laney instances and through the character of Ruby Jewel and her slave.

Some noteworthy instances also included when Violent remarked on how the VanZeldts seemed "alien" and "snake-like" to her because of their African ways-and this was before she knew they were antagonistic. Yet, who could forget the part where a VanZeldt man attempted (and nearly succeeded) in raping Violet? The myth of the black evil rapist that fueled the lynching of thousands of innocent black men after the Civil War is encapsulated marvelously in Nickerson's prose. After escaping the attempted assault a VanZeldt woman even makes sure to tell Violet that if she doesn't let her near-rapist have his way with her, she'll eventually be drugged so that she'll be easier for him to rape! I hope the author is ashamed!

And this is only what the VanZeldts were written as doing when they WEREN'T casting malicious Voodoo spells on the poor unsuspecting white Southerners (magical black people trope: check), stripping down to loincloths to dance around a fire, drinking snake blood, or beating up an Injured Union Solider! I can’t believe I’m not joking!

Characters were boring and unsurprising when they weren’t racist caricatures and book was obviously double or triple the length it should have been. The author’s writing may in some instances be unusually atmospheric and descriptive, but that in no way makes up for every other gaping flaw it has. In short, this story was blatantly racist and made me depressed to know it was published in 2014. It’s sad to see that few other reviews mention the racism, but this book is pretty obviously historical fiction for one of the two Americas- and it’s not the black one.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2015 – Finished Reading
July 31, 2015 – Shelved

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