Johanna's Reviews > Nightjohn

Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen
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's review
Jan 30, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: engl420
Read in January, 2012


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message 1: by Johanna (last edited Apr 10, 2012 04:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Johanna ***GARY PAULSEN***
It only took me 30 minutes to read this book, but it definitely made an emotional impact on me. Nightjohn is about a slave of the same name that has returned from freedom to secretly teach other slaves how to read and write in order to help them one day obtain their freedom. Told from the perspective of an adolescent slave girl, Paulsen graphically describes the harsh realities of life in slavery, but not distastefully. Because this novel (novella?) is so short, every word is important, and no page space is wasted on graphic violence that is meant only to shock audiences. Instead, Paulsen concisely weaves a tale of sadness and triumph, hardship and hope. The ending is open ended but leaves the audience with a hope for a better tomorrow.
I found this book comparable to "The Old Man and the Sea." Both are short, both utilize sparse language, with a lot left unsaid, leaving it up to the reader to fill in the blanks. While Hemingway portrays a bleak world view, Paulsen portrays the opposite, but the similarities in a structure that leads to different ends fascinates me. Hemingway uses the form for allegorical purposes, while Paulsen lays everything on the table. I don't believe one is better than the other; I simply believe that this novel has a lot to offer, especially when compared with other great, more well-known works.

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