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A Gathering of Old Men Paperback – June 30, 1992

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Editorial Reviews


Gaines knows how to tell a story... He writes with humour, a strong sense of drama and a compassionate understanding of people who find themselves in opposing positions Washington Post The best-written novel on Southern race relations in over a decade Village Voice Riveting... it takes off like a shot and keeps your heart pounding right through to the final climax San Francisco Chronicle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 1-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (June 30, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679738908
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679738909
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
A Gathering of Old Men, set in 1970s Louisiana, is one of the richest and most powerful novels about race relations written in the last few decades. It's really a simple story that could be told fairly quickly, but the event upon which the novel is based is in some ways peripheral to the story. The whole point of the novel is to pry deeply into the hearts and minds of men, both black and white, reveal the pains and struggles that each of them has either dealt out or dealt with, and to reveal the poignant humanity in a group of brave old men who have essentially counted for nothing in their own minds and are determined to take advantage of one last opportunity to stand up for themselves, their friends and families, and their ancestors.
Beau Boutan is dead, lying out in the weeds beside his shotgun, and everyone knows who killed him. He was shot in Mathu's yard, and Mathu is the only black man on the place that has ever stood up for himself against the Boutans. By the time Sheriff Mapes arrives on the scene, the situation is far from simple, though. Eighteen old black men are assembled in the yard, each with a shotgun and an empty shell of the type that cut Beau down, and each one of them says he killed Beau. Candy is there, the white lady half-raised by old Mathu after her parents were killed, and she is determined to defend Mathu and all of the blacks on her land the way her parents and grandparents defended them in the past. She says she killed Beau and will confess the crime in court. Mapes has a problem on his hands. Fix Boutan, the dead man's father, is sure to come down to the quarters seeking revenge, and there is bound to be a lynching if Mapes can't get everything straightened out before Fix has time to get there.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bryan on November 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
"A Gathering of Old Men" is a great novel by Ernest J Gaines who again so vividly captures the prejudice in the south in the 1970's. The book focuses on racial issues of the Southern United States, and also the companionship between friends and the strength of family. Like I said the book takes place in Louisiana in 1970 and starts off with a killing of a Cajun farm worker, Beau Boutan. One of the black workers, Mathu, states that he's killed Beau. Candy, the Cajun owner of the farm says that Mathu is just protecting her, yet no one believes her. All the black men from the surrounding plantations come and state they have killed Beau too....or they just as much a reason to. Clatoo leads the black men to the plantation with their empty shotguns each of them trying to prove a point to themselves as well as to the whit community. The Sheriff, Mapes, arrived to meet them and figure out who he is going to take to jail, while also trying to radio to his deputy to keep Fix at home. Fix is Beau's father and notorious for organizing lynching mobs against blacks. Each chapter of the story is told by each character, including the black men, the sheriff and everyone in between. Giving us insight and history of Black Pride and how its formed. It gives a strong feeling of community and maturity. It shows how the South is changing, as well as the black community. "A Gathering of Old Men" by Ernest J Gaines is a great book to read and I highly recommend it. Gaines' vivid descriptions throughout the book makes you think you are there. You can feel the apprehension and frustration of the characters, as well as see the southern countryside through his words. His unique style of writing the book, telling the story from different points of view., from the good people and the bad people, the young and old. Gaines' new style along with the vivid description make this a must read book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By booknblueslady on August 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ernest Gaines clearly demonstrates his love of the land and people of Louisiana in A Gathering of Old Men. In a storyline which has similarities with Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, eighteen old Afro-American men take a stand by admitting to a murder of the local racist bully Beau Boutan. Their position gives them the authority to redeem their dignity.
Ernest Gaines is a masterful writer and a compelling story-teller. The book is structured almost as a number of short stories. Each chapter adds to the whole and is told from a different persons point of view. Each short synapsis provides insight into a new character and the choices and perspectives which they hold.
This is a story about changing times, the late 1970's. This is a story about strength and dignity. This is a story about father and son. This is a story about black and white. There is so much involved in this short novel. In addition to that, it is told in a way that is interesting and readable. I had trouble putting the book down. It certainly was one of the more important books I have read in years.
I advise anyone concerned about the vitality and diversity found in American Literature to read this.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By yoy1 on September 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Set in a rural area of Louisiana in the 1970s, this novel encompasses the anxiety-producing, the edge-of-your-seat, the heartwarming and the soul-stirring emotions that I've seldomly found in one book these days.

When the Cajun famer, Beau Bouton is found dead in an old black man's yard early in the story, you can rest assured that there's going to be trouble. This is when the local black community steps in to protect the accused, and prominently featured are 18 previously-downtrodden old men. These men, women and children gather together their courage to stand up to the town's redneck sheriff and local hillbillies. As you might imagine, this would not have been an easy thing to do even then, especially not without the fear of retaliation from the 'law.'

Candy, a white woman who was raised by both a white woman and the black man who stands accused of murder, is the one who helped to rally the troops within the black community and take a stand against injustice. She definitely has her moments when you might find it difficult to sympathize with her, but she seems to have a good heart.

You're also introduced to Chimley, Coot, Dirty Red and a host of characters who make this story very entertaining and almost impossible to put down.

Ernest Gaines is a true master storyteller because his books are lively and humorous, yet still give readers insight into living in the 'Old South'! Reading this book takes me back to the stories that I used to hear my parents and grandparents telling us about race relations here in the South. It may rile up my anger, but it also lays bare what has taken place and what still occurs to this day. The dialect is on point too, which I still hear spoken in some areas now.
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