by Harriet Beecher Stowe, edited with an introduction and notes by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Hollis Robbins
Uncle Tom's Cabin recounts the fates of a group of Kentucky slaves chosen to be sold to settle their owner's debts.
I had never read Uncle Tom's Cabin before, so my first experience was with this annotated edition. I loved the story, and while I started out loving the annotations also, I became less enamored with them as the book went on. Most of them were interesting, but quite a few were not usefully insightful. I already mentioned in a previous post about the annotations that were simply a note that the person writing the annotations found certain parts of the book boring. "My eyes glazed over" was noted a couple of times. Not to be disrespectful, but so what? One of the sections to which this was referring I actually found to be a fascinating exploration into the heart of Augustine St. Clare, the man who bought Uncle Tom from the slave trader. I wasn't bored at all, and I resented just a little bit the feeling of being "wrong" because I didn't agree with the scholar but I got over it. :-)
The other annotations I would disagree with were ones that pointed out the more awkward scene shifts employed by the author. Granted, they were rarely seamless, but that didn't bother me. After recently reading Richard Wright's Native Son, which provided virtually no tension-relief whatsoever, it was nice in Uncle Tom's Cabin to have those moments of informality after many emotionally-charged passages, to have a chance to exhale and absorb what I just read. If it wasn't written that way on purpose, I hope I someday can write half that effectively by accident!
Those couple of grumblings aside, I enjoyed the annotation experience and will definitely read that way again in the future. The extra factual information added dimension to the story I would have missed otherwise. However, I believe a reader would enjoy the book just as much without it. Whichever way you would choose to read Uncle Tom's Cabin, I don't think you can go wrong making time for this brave and beautiful classic.
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!