Top critical review
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on June 10, 2014
After enjoying Envy and Deadline, I purchased Breath of a Scandal. It was an uncomfortable read for many reasons, two of which I discuss below.
First, the city of Palmetto, South Carolina does not like black people. The "N" word gets bandied about like a tennis ball at Wimbledon. An entire cross-section of citizens: the educated, illiterate, rich or poor all used the "N" word...repeatedly. And just when I thought, 'Okay. That's it, Ms. Brown's made her point contrasting the people of Palmetto with the enlightened main character, Jade', she makes it clear that well, Jade doesn't fall too far from the Palmetto tree.
In one scene, Jade romanticizes about refurbishing a plantation house, keeping its "southern grace and charm", and have horse-drawn buggies transport visiting foreign executives. Mint juleps would be enjoyed on the veranda while another character facetiously replied, the "darkies could sing spirituals from the slave quarters". Really??? Sadly, homosexuals weren't spared either. Gay slurs were flung left and right. And this book began in the mid 70s and continued through the 90s. Let's be clear, we are talking about the 1970's-1990's.
Second, the main character endures a life-altering event, with tragic consequences. Ms. Brown forces the reader to experience this gut wrenching, excruciatingly, dark and hate-filled event, over and over. At times, it seems too terrible for Jade to overcome, much less the reader. Ultimately, some things were unbelievable.
This book is about revenge and hate. And somewhere in the midst of all this sadness, hatred and anger, there is love. What about redemption? It's not in this book. Forgiveness? Forget about it! Stuff happens, roll with it! People don't really change. Was this what Ms. Brown wanted to convey? If so, maybe that's why I'm uncomfortable.