Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary JordanRating: 5/5
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 328
First published: 2008
Genre: historical fiction (1940s)

This book was one of three books that I won in a giveaway by Windmill Books. They did an author chat event on Twitter with author Jonathan Lee (of Who Is Mr Satoshi?) and I was declared the winner of a set of books. Even better, I was allowed to choose from their entire catalogue!

Mudbound: What it is about

This book is about Laura in particular and about a farmer’s community in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s in general. Laura is already 30 years old when she finally marries. Her husband is Henry, 41, and they have a few good years in the city, where their children are born. But then Henry, without consulting Laura, decides to buy a farm and moves his family to the countryside.

Laura is culture-shocked, especially when it turns out that the house they were going to buy is no longer available and they are forced to move into the shack that is part of the farm. Even worse, Henry’s father moves in with them. He is an unpleasant retired widower who does not help out on the farm and refuses to do any household work.

The book revolves around Laura and Henry’s family and their tenants, the Jacksons, black sharecroppers who work on their land. The mother of the Jackson family, Florence, helps Laura with her household work. Without her, Laura would not be able to survive the harsh country life.

Things turn sour when the sons of the families come back from the war in Europe and, having become used to the equal footing in which white and black deal with each other there, refuse to see blacks as inferior to whites any longer. This causes big problems in the small town where racism is still very strong.

In the end, the Jackson son has to suffer badly for his friendship with Henry’s son, and the drama affects both famillies deeply.

Mudbound: What I thought

This was such a good read: I loved following Laura, who got married late, then was moved against her will to the countryside and had to deal with a very unpleasant father in law and with the events around the two families. She wasn’t strong, but she was a realistic character. She was selfish, but fair towards her home help Florence. She had the basic racist ideas that were normal at the time in that place, but she saw Florence and her family foremost as people that needed help. Her husband wasn’t cruel, but he saw the Jackson family more as a farm asset. If they could not farm their land, for whatever reason, he would send them off and get a new family in their place.

Henry’s father and some of the town’s people were severe racists – when Ronsel Jackson comes back from the war and visits the local store, Henry’s father stops him from leaving via the front door, as black people should use the back door. But this is only the beginning of his hatred against Ronsel.

The book was told by the different characters who each have several chapters in the book. They include Laura, Henry, Ronsel, Jamie (Henry’s brother), Florence, and her husband Hap. Because each character’s story is a continuation (or sometimes a replay) of the previous events, the overall story is easy to follow. I had no problems remembering who the characters were (as I sometimes do when many characters tell a story). Without being cliché, they all had their own voice and their own way of understanding the events they were describing. Henry’s father didn’t get a voice in the book and he probably was a cliché character, but that was not an issue while reading the book.

A fantastic book about women, racism, war experience and a window into 1940s rural America.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

20 Responses to Book Review: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

  1. Nadine Nys says:

    Seems (again) like a great read, Judith… Should I pretend I don’t know about it? I think you have already read some great books this year… Do you like it too, when all your reads are good, or great, or interesting? I love that feeling, but it makes me hesitate to choose the next book to read.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, I seem to be lucky at the moment, but I’ve also become more choosy. I much more careful in deciding what to read I think. Although, I’ve read some random books recently, and I was lucky with most of those too. Just luck! Yes, I love it, when I have these good books going. I’m not worried about the next read. I just expect it to be good, too. And if it’s not, there is the Did Not Finish pile. No problem!🙂

  2. I read this a few years ago and loved it as much as you did.`It is rare for a book that is so easy to read to be so powerful. I’m hoping to read Jordan’s new book soon.

  3. Wendy says:

    I love this kind of story. Sounds like it sits alongside Gone with the Wind and The Help. Funny how we gain so much from reading about what the human race does so badly. xx

  4. Tes says:

    It sounds like an nice story. I love reading the story about people who have to adapt their lives and find their ways… these kind of stuffs teaches me in real life🙂 And what a nice review give, it’s so much fun to read🙂

  5. bibliosue says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did.

  6. I really enjoyed this book as well when I read it. Terrific review Judith.

  7. This one sounds great. Perhaps it is one for the teacher in me🙂

  8. JoAnn says:

    This is a great review, Judith! Mudbound has been on my wish list for a long time and I’m glad to be reminded of it. My book club meets this week and I haven’t decided on a book to suggest for our next read.

  9. Aths says:

    I’m hoping to read this one at some point. I’ve heard a lot and am glad that you recommend it too!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Aths, I think you’ll enjoy this – I know, enough books on the list! But when I finally got round this I was really kicking myself for leaving it on the shelf so long!🙂

  10. Marg says:

    I read this book a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I need to remember to pick up her next book from the library.

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