March 10, 2018

Book: Black Alice by Thomas Disch and John Sladek

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:02 pm

imageA very different book from the normal fare that you read.


Alice, eleven, is waiting for her governess Miss Godwin to pick her up by the car. The latter seems to be late by more than an hour. She meets a sleazy “reverend” who comes by in a car.


She realizes that it is probably a kidnapper and accidentally avoids him by running towards a friend whose parents came to pick that kid up.


Roderick Raleigh, a crook and a failure is envious of his brother in law Jason Duquesne and his millions and hopes to get it all when Alice inherits it and he and his wife are named as guardians. He is rebuffed by his brother in law when he wants an increase in his allowance and is angry. How to get more money out of the cantankerous old man?


His wife, who is the man’s daughter is a hypochondriac who resents both the old man, her father, and Alice, her own daughter, for cutting out the flow of money.


Alice one day is taken in a limo with Miss Godwin and realizes that she is being kidnapped. The language of the child is authentic and interesting to read.


But then the story sags with her being cooped up in the house. A “pill” makes her black (temporary effect) so she is literally a black girl, merging with the kidnapper’s family, who are all black.  She means turning to be a black person in reality. What? Where is this pill ? The author has temporarily gone mad?


Now she realizes that her mom and dad may be behind the kidnapping.


Raleigh’s side of the story reveals how he wanted to drive Alice crazy so that he could become the guardian and get at the considerable fortune for himself. But failing that, he comes up with the kidnap plan and plays the grieving, anxious father with the police.


Things totally unravel from that time. Alice escapes, is found by the father and brought back to the kidnappers. He has killed his accomplices and made it look like they killed each other in a quarrel. Roderick wants Alice killed but Bessie saves and escapes with her to a church where the black congregation is attacked by the Klan.


The various escapades of the kid and the characters and the various plots of Roderick are all told beautifully, and the sequences have some Wodehouse like twists, even if this is not intended as a humorous book. Has crazy unbelievable aspects to it, but overall, I’d call it a nice book to read. As I said in the beginning, very different from normal fare in parts sounding tongue in cheek and in parts a serious and sentimental story.


6 10

– – Krishna


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