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Crossing the River Paperback – January 15, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Phillips's depiction of the African diaspora, spanning four eras in African American history, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Here is a brilliantly imagined novel of the African diaspora by the author of Cambridge ( LJ 2/1/92) and Higher Ground ( LJ 8/89), among others. It begins in 18th-century Africa as three children--Nash, Martha, and Travis--are sold into slavery. What follows are "their" life stories along with excerpts from the logbook of the slave ship's captain. Nash returns to Africa as a Christian missionary in the 1830s. Martha is a former slave whom we meet as she lays dying in Denver, having failed to reach California and find her only child, taken from her years before. Travis is reincarnated as an American GI stationed in England in 1943; his story is poignantly told by the British woman he marries. Bold in its design, beautiful in its language, compelling because of its characters, this grand novel of ideas--short-listed for the 1993 Booker Prize--belongs in every fiction collection.
- Brian Kenney, Brooklyn P.L.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679757945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679757948
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Caryl Phillips is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction. His novel A Distant Shore won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and his other awards include the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Caryl Phillips' Booker Prize shortlisted "Crossing The River" (CTR) about the emergence of an African diaspora arising from the slave trade with the African colonies is a collection of seemingly unrelated vignettes spanning over 100 years which share the same emotional core. Each of the four segments making up CTR is a cry from the soul, which poignantly if not bitterly captures the essence of the cultural dislocation suffered by those sold to foreign lands. Some, like Nash in "Pagan Coast", imbibe the Christian values of their colonial masters but experience the pull of their native calling when they are set free and returned as missionaries. Others like Martha, from "West", suffer the misery, indignity and hopelessness that only chattels should know. Phillips isn't out to demonise the white man. He leaves it to us to judge. How do we doubt do-gooder Edward's sincerity in making Nash into a new man ? But then there is also skipper James Hamilton's indifference to the cruelty meted out to slaves in the title segment. The final segment "Somewhere in England" doesn't seem to belong but it does. The strong emotional resonance that these stories evoke is what binds them together. Phillips also displays his literary genius and stylistic versatility in using different styles for the different segments. His Conrad-influenced prose in "Pagan Coast" boasts some of the most beautiful and fluent writing ever. On "Somewhere in England", he comes across like a contemporary novelist using prose punctuated by thought fragments. "CTR" brings four separate but all desperately heartrending stories together.Read more ›
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is without a doubt one of the best books that I have ever read. Its stories are haunting in their insight into human beings. While extremely thought provoking, it is also beautiful and moving. I highly recommend this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on November 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The beauty of the language and the sweep of the narrative make this novel a moving and powerful experience for the reader. Caryl Phillips explores the abandonment and misery of slavery without indicting any of the participants above the rest. In fact, the prologue begins the story with the guilty voice of the father who sells his children to a white slaver out of "a desperate foolishness" when his crops fail. The reader follows the sin and suffering of all of the participants in the slave trade, black and white, and the virtuosity of Caryl Phillips use of language makes the journey both emotional and memorable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Will Gibson on October 28, 2013
Format: Paperback
Caryl Phillips' Booker Prize shortlisted book CROSSING THE RIVER provides welcomed stories about a group of Americans whose stories have too long been untold or ignored. It deserves 5 stars. If you enjoyed reading CROSSING THE RIVER, I think you would like my novel THE MAN WITH THE SILVER TONGUE, which is also a tale about slavery and human dignity--another story that should have been told years ago. The Man With The Silver Tongue
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By Shirley on June 12, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the first story, but I felt rather bored afterwards! I was assigned this text for a postcolonial literature course, and I understand the themes of permanent diaspora, belonging/non-belonging, and communal identity. It didn't help either that the stories change narrators and, I believe it contains four separate stories: Nash Williams (now freed/privileged slave of a Christian man named "Edward), James Hamilton (slave ship owner), Martha (Old slave that receives hospitality from a White Christian woman), lastly, Joyce (a white woman that has an affair with a black military man). (Not in chronological order)

The journal entries written from James perspective were insightful, but very boring. The entries from Joyce's narrative were very dull.

I know Phillips is known for several other works like France: Strangers in a Strange land, but I disliked this novel.
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