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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Color of the Soul by Tracey Bateman

Andy Carmichael has left his struggling marriage behind to travel to the South, to the mansion of an old woman with an intriguing story. There he finds that the prejudice toward "coloreds" has never died, just as it was in Miss Penbrook's story. She tells him of her sinful life and the sinful life of her adopted sister, a slave her mother redeemed from the auction block. Camilla and Catherinia Penbrook hated each other for a good part of their lives because of the color of their skin. They spited each other, refused to put aside their differences, and ultimately both faced the sins of their past. There, at Penbrook Estate, Andy learns something both women wished they had learned earlier in life-that a person should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the color of their soul.

Tracey Bateman has been unsuccessful in the other genres she experimented in except this one-historical fiction, of all things. Normally historical fiction is plastic, lacking in good characters and original or realistic ends. But the precarious Tracey Bateman has actually struck gold with the writing of this book, which is something she did not do with her more popular books. But when one considers the end of this book, one understands why this book is unpopular.

The characters are exquisite. They are highly imperfect and each have personalities. Cat could have easily been portrayed as a victim because of Camilla's prejudice and hate, but Cat commits several sins of her own. This is also true about Andy. This is not a cast of characters that uses the typical good characters and the typical bad characters. All of the characters are sinners, which is the way characters should be portrayed. Not all characters should be as sinful as the characters in this book, but it is appropriate for this type of book.

There are many original plot elements, such as key character deaths, different romantic subplots, broken romantic subplots, and general imperfection. These plot elements apply to the past and the present. Many authors try to place imperfection in the past and perfection in the present with these types of plots, but that is not the case here. Tracey captures the sin of prejudice in the late 1800s as well as the early 1900s, which are the two different time lines of the plots, accurately proving that this sin did not cease with the end of the Civil War. She uses the sin of prejudice as a plot device to show the reader the different ways it can affect different people, making the reader think.

Besides all the imperfection, the best thing Tracey did was abandon the typical plot structure used in historical fiction. This is because the Segregation can not be talked about so lightly. It was a serious issue that Tracey handled in the correct way, making this the best work of historical fiction to date.

Who knows what Tracey Bateman has in store for us in the future, but for now, we can bask in the superb work of fiction called The Color of the Soul.

5 stars

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