Buffalo Soldier by Tanya Landman

Buffalo Soldier is an eye opening account of the Cavalry Regiment in the Civil war, told through the eyes of soldier Charley.

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This is a stunning historical novel, particularly for those who are ignorant about America’s civil war. Admittedly, I knew very little about the American civil war, and this book, for the historical information alone, was fantastic (at filling me in, to say the least). However, it is also an interesting read because it reads into the fate of slaves once they’ve been freed. Many assume that once the slaves were freed, the world was theirs, but as we learn, that was far from the case. As well as that, Landman uncovers some of America’s darkest history, making it a challenging, yet worthwhile read.

Charlotte grew up as a slave, facing years of hardship and deprivation, and was mistreated, to say the least, by the family that owned her. Then the war came around and she was ‘freed’. Yet freedom turned out to be far from the salvation that she desperately sought out, and as a result, Charlotte spent years after her master’s house had been burned down, facing severe hardship and extreme prejudice. It turns out that she was far from free, and after years of insecurity, she finds herself with incredibly limited options. So Charlotte turn to the army, the Cavalry to be precise.

Charlotte, (from this point on called Charley, because she had to pretend to be a man; after all only men were allowed in the army,) and the rest of the soldiers in her regiment, bond through their shared experiences, and they find strength in each other’s companionship. I thought that her fellow soldiers had very rich characters, and it was clear that their friendship with Charley was valued highly, so it was slightly bizarre that we were given only basic information about them.

They were the Buffalo Soldiers, the members of the U.S 10th Cavalry Regiment, and yet even in the army, where they were all working towards the same goal, there was still signs of racial tension. This reminds the reader again, that although the slaves are freed, this by no way means that they are respected and treated equally.

Charley is a bold, independent, resilient and intelligent person and I think that her character will appeal to everyone. She is evidently naive, yet after everything she has experience, she is ultimately wiser. The book is written from her point of view and gives us an utterly unique view of the civil war. Notably, the novel is written in Charley’s dialect, so it can be quite difficult to adjust to, and I think that whilst others will love this style, because it makes you feel immersed in the character, it can on the other hand be quite off-putting.

I thought it was fascinating to have a direct comparison to the way the pioneers of America were treated and the freed slaves, because often the freed slaves were viewed as lowest in society, and yes, they were treated appallingly, but in comparison to the Native Americans, they were living in luxury. It was also interesting to observe that instead of sympathising with the Native Americans, slaves, or ex-slaves, shared the same opinion as their master/ everyone else. As the book progresses though, we see that Charley’s opinion of them changes, as she realises that although so of the pioneers’ actions were questionable, they had unfairly been given a label.

Overall, an intriguing novel, and will delight those interested both in historical novels and YA. This book is not recommended for those under 13 because of the human cruelty and violence featured and is also probably not for those who find American history dull!

 

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She is not invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

An intriguing and unusual novel about the struggles of growing up, especially in a world where unseen obstacles are everywhere.

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Laureth Peak is concerned when she receives an email from a stranger notifying her that they have found her father’s notebook. To add to that her father has not replied to her texts and calls, which made Laureth feel alarmed.  Based on this minimal evidence, and a gut feeling, she takes her 7 year old brother with her and embarks on a journey to New York, the place where the notebook had been found.

I thought that the book was well-written, mainly because Sedgwick made the characters stand out, as well as likable. There was a variety in the characters, however I disliked that (spoiler) in the end, the antagonist of the whole novel was just a stereotypical robber. One you can find in most books. I thought that the novel had lots of potential because Laureth is blind, and this was an interesting perspective to take; I think in some scenes Laureth’s blindness was portrayed very well, yet at other times you almost couldn’t tell, so I thought that there should have been more of a balance or a constant way that Laureth saw the world, as it were.

Laureth has an amiable character; she is intelligent, thoughtful and resilient. And she’s blind. I loved this twist because it gave the book an unusual perspective which is rarely found in novels. It makes you appreciate your sight even more, and how everything we take for granted, like going on our phones, becomes so much harder and complicated due to a disability. And it was because of this that I drew comparisons between She Is Not Invisible and The Curious Adventure… as they both feature teenagers with a varying disabilities. Lots of people in the novel were prejudiced against Laureth just because she couldn’t see, and despite this Laureth would still carry on and continue to be irrepressible, which I thought was inspiring because she didn’t let it get in the way of her plans. My favourite parts in the book was when she was interacting with her younger brother, because that showed that even though Laureth was in charge, due to her age, there was still a lot of dependence on her brother because of her disability. And then there were completely normal conversations between them which was a curious contrast.

Benjamin is Laureth’s younger brother. He was helpful and cheerful enough, showing all the characteristics that a 7 year old boy would normally have except one. Whenever he touched an electronic device, it would turn into a black mirror and become useless. This was an unnecessary trait for Benjamin to have, because it made the novel at times have a slightly unrealistic feel, where Benjamin was almost had a superpower, making it hard as a reader to know if this was meant to be novel happening in our world, as that kind of trait only belongs in fantasy.

Aside from the characters, the plot line in itself is quite weak, because it is a big leap to go from, my dad has not answered my texts, and has lost a precious notebook to HE’S GONE MISSING, and suddenly go on a journey top find him.  As I mentioned earlier, I think it is a shame that the plot was mundane in a way, because in today’s world there are hundreds of people who have written books about people going missing, and this one wasn’t that different except that the protagonist had a visual disability. Yet in the book, this wasn’t expressed enough, enough at least to make the book ‘different’ in my mind from all those other similar stories. I also thought that the bit he mentioned about Laureth’s school seemed to captivate me really quickly, but it was only mentioned in several paragraphs, so I would have preferred to have had a bit more information about that aspect of Laureth’s life!

All in all, I’d rate this book 7/10, because it had an interesting perspective and was well-written, but was let down because of a slightly unoriginal plot. Enjoy!