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Monday, December 02, 2013

Book Review : 'Sycamore Row' by John Grisham


Is he back? John Grisham, one of my favourite authors, since the day I had wanted
to become a lawyer (but didn’t, thank everyone) seemed to be back in fine form. I was thinking it would be a run of the mill book, but then, I saw Jake Brigance. Brigance was the person, who literally set my eyes on the profession of law. He was not just any lawyer, but The Lawyer.

It is three years since the Carl Lee Hailey case, and the Klu Klux Klan’s ghost is still causing Jake to look over his shoulder. Since he won the case, he won rave reviews, specifically from the black people of fictional town, Clanton, Mississippi. 

But, the poor man remained poor despite the near celeb status, the case had. Still the struggling lawyer, he was three years back, with a wife and kid in tow. Jake receives a letter, which has money written all over it. This, from Seth Hubbard who sends a letter and a will, instructing him to defend it. As per the will, Hubbard gives most of his money to Lettie Lang, his black housekeeper. Hubbard sends these instructions to Jake, before taking his own life. He manages to exclude both his children in the process.

One of the other nominees for the will include his brother, Ancil.

He knew it would create quite the row in his town. A white man giving away most of his hard earned money to a black woman, who has a son in jail, a daughter in the army, another one with two illegitimate kids, an old mother, and an abusive husband.

Grisham definitely had his sense of humour intact, as he wrote this one. Read the funeral instructions for a taste of it. The story led on to the court, where we are met with the humourless judge, more lawyers, because Hubbard’s kids are not going to take this lying down. There is also Lang’s unfortunate lawyer, who was only the icing. 

Grisham’s characters seem to take precedence over the story. Too many of them. Very tiring and confusing, as they just add pages to the story, but offer no real value. Must mention Rufus Bailey, his arrival is almost cinematic.

There is some interesting black family history, which eventually takes the case. Ancil Hubbard, who remains in the background, is almost back with a bang towards the end.

Read the book, because it just might be Grisham’s comeback, since I haven’t seen anything as good since his non-fiction, ‘The Innocent Man’. Also, if you want to notice the similarities to Harper Lee,’s classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Of course, ‘A Time to Kill’ is more in line with it but the great black/white divide seems eternal. Also, Jake Brigance was the lead in the first book, but in this sequel he seems lost among all the characters.

SycamoreRow’ seemed to begin brilliantly at word go but lost its way in the middle, only to find itself in the end. It gave me Goosebumps, like the first time I read ‘A Time to Kill’. It is definitely worth a read.

Note on Cover :  Quite nice, though I do like the picture above better. 

Author: John Grisham
ISBN 978-1-444-77955-4

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