Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison: Book Review

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Book Cover

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison Book Cover
Title: Invisible Man
Content Warning: Racism, Violence

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Both a deeply compelling bestselling novel and an epic milestone of American literature.

Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then-unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century.

The book’s nameless narrator describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, before retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, James Joyce, and Dostoevsky.

My Review:

I imagine that this book is a fantastic choice for a book club or assigned reading but I, as a solo reader, just found it confusing. The plot jumped around with little resolution, characters appeared and disappeared, and I couldn’t find an entry point to understanding it. To be fair, it’s written in an almost-stream-of-consciousness style and I never do well with books written like that. Readers who are wiser than I am love this classic, so please don’t base your decision to read or skip it on my review alone.

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