A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines


     This story takes place in Louisiana in the 1970’s. Times have changed and across the country the black community has started to see civil rights, but deep in Cajun country there are people who don’t like that change. When a white man is killed it seems evident that a Mathu, a black man, has done it, but when the sheriff arrives he finds not only Mathu and Candy, a young white woman, but 18 old black men with shotguns… each one claiming they’ve killed the white man. The sheriff tries to get it all sorted out, but the lynch mob everyone expects to be on the way could take care of that for him.

I wouldn’t say this is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, but it definitely has its good points. What really makes it stand out is the way the story is told. The entire novel is written in first person, but the point of view changes with each chapter. You are hearing each piece of the story from a character who was a witness. We don’t get each character’s point of view (characters like Mathu, Candy, and Fix are only seen from outside perspectives), but there are several (both black and white) who get to tell a piece of the story, some more than once. This makes the story a bit more interesting as you get to see it from both sides. There are times I felt like we were given information that slowed the story a bit, and the language in the last couple of chapters gets harsh as the situation intensifies, but that’s the only thing really wrong with this one (if you don’t like bad language).

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 3

Average of  score 3.7
Overall grade = C

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

This was book 48 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge.

This was book 9 in my Classics challenge.

2 thoughts on “A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines

  1. Jessica,
    I’m sorry you find what many scholars describe as a classic novel – one to become a part of our literary cannon – “average.” If you read Gaines’ book simply to follow a story line, or a plot from point A to point B, then your error in judgement is a bit more understandable. However, if while reading the novel one is able to recognize and appreciate the stylistic elements and use of figurative language and go beyond a base reading of the story, then Gaines’ book invites his reader to appreciate a work of art – not an average book.

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    • It’s truly all a matter of opinion, so there is no error in judgement. I have no problem with the stylistic elements or the figurative language. These are actually the points of the story that I enjoy. The way the story is told is what stands out. The overall story is what I find to be “average.” The story itself never really left an impression on me. So many stories have been told about racial tensions in the south, and I feel like others have done better. That is not to say this story isn’t a classic, because it is. Whether or not I enjoy a novel doesn’t make or break its classic status. I’m sure there are novels that are considered classics that you don’t enjoy… and that’s okay too.

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