Monday, 10 March 2014

The Amen Corner by James Baldwin (3.5/5)

First published: 1954
Page count: 126

Goodreads says: For years Sister Margaret Alexander has moved her Harlem congregation with a mixture of personal charisma and ferocious piety.  But when Margaret's estranged husband, a scapegrace jazz musician, comes home to die, she is in danger of losing both her standing in the church and the son she has tried to keep on the godly path.

I say: I’ve been meaning to read James Baldwin for year, so imagine my delight when stumbling upon this play in the used book store earlier today. As I was waiting in line I started reading it straight away and finished it directly when I got home. Not so much because it was that engrossing, but more to see if my suspicions about the conclusion would prove accurate.

They were.

Unfortunately.

What I really liked about this is Baldwin’s very accurate portrayal of church life; the jealousy, the gossip, the judgement. It was a nice to see a female preacher, which brought about prejudice about what the congregation really thought a woman’s place was, and how they came to question what had truly caused Margaret to become so pious. In the same way that they questioned her authority to tell the parishioners what to do when her own son wouldn’t listen to her.

The impact of the play lays in the implications of all the character’s actions; some of which I strongly dislike, and other which I find rather cliché. I can’t really go into any of them without being too spoilery, but I will say that I am bearing in mind that this play was written in a far different time than I live in today, so my judgements should be restricted. I did admire Margaret until the third act, which is when she did what I expected her to do, but was hoping she wouldn’t.

Ah, well...

3.5/5 because it’s a thought-provoking play that brought back a few memories from growing up as the daughter of a priest. I’d love to see this on stage and bask in the air of church gossip from a safe distance.

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