When I started reading this book, the first thoughts which came into my mind were that, it’s amazing how ignorant one can be, about events which happened in your own lifetime. Being a British child at the time these events were taking place, somehow they slipped into a hole between the history I was taught at school, from ancient up to and including WWII, and the recent history which I remember as an adult.
The main character in the story Florina, is a young colored woman who has married Dr Richmond Austin, and moved to his home town Poinsettia, in the South of America. Her new in-laws are very welcoming and her new home is to be his grandparent’s house. However, she very quickly discovers that her new neighbour Agnes, who is married to the other colored doctor in the town, Macon, used to go out with Richmond, and Florina fears that the attraction is still there. However, she has her own secret, one not even her parents know… A secret which lies buried in her heart and which she can only hint at in her very poignant poetry.
This incredibly absorbing story is set at a very turbulent time for the colored people of America. The Civil Rights movement was strong, and was led by the Baptist minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr., a man who worked tirelessly for, and who played such a strong part in the ending of the legal segregation of the African-American people.
Also all the time, in the background, and twisted inextricably throughout the plot of this story is the Vietnam War which was taking thousands of lives…
However, another element of this story, which was very interesting to me, is that I never realised that there was such color snobbery within the families of colored folk, causing so much tension, prejudices, terrible rifts, and great sadness. This was so evident in this book, where at one end of the spectrum there was immense color pride and at the other the seemingly desperate need to appear white.
This book is amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. For me, it has all the essential ingredients for a good story excitement, intrigue, love triangles, lies, deceit, confessions, betrayal I could go on. However, more importantly for me, it gives a fascinating fly on the wall account of what it was really like as a colored person to live in those times, something I would never be able to experience otherwise.
Reviewed by Susan Keefe
Available from Amazon in Paperback http://www.amazon.com/When-Drum-Major-Anjuelle-Floyd/dp/1938070011/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1407946089&sr=8-1