Tag Archives: civil rights

Book Review: The Street Sweeper by Elliot Pearlman

Title: The Street Sweeper
Author: Elliot Pearlman
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 978-0-571-23684-8
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 554
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The Street Sweeper is one of those books that you cannot stop thinking about once you have finished reading it. Elliot Pearlman has done it again and you cannot help but wonder how. He mixes emotion with brutality in a manner that according to me very few authors manage to. It is not easy to do that, to sometimes cut the tension and then get the reader back on track. Having said that, the book The Street Sweeper is a tour de force which I will recommend to everyone even before starting with the review.

The Street Sweeper just makes you see things differently. It makes you realize that how closely inter-connected life is and what its mysteries are. The story is a bit of a task to get into, however once you have, then you do not want it to end. The book is multilayered to a large extent and that is one this is also not a one-time sit-down read.

The book deals with the American struggle for Civil Rights on one side and on the other it deals with the Holocaust. Lamont Williams, an ex-con African American is trying to live his life all over again, after being at the wrong place in the wrong time. He gets a job at a hospital as a janitor and befriends a cancer patient who is also a World War II survivor. Through the patient he learns about the horrors of the war, the Holocaust, the camps and the Nazis. The other spectrum of the tale is about Adam Zignelik who is a Columbian historian whose career and relationships are falling apart. Adam on the other hand is pursuing a research topic of African Americans being a part of the concentration camp, and this is where the two stories merge.

The book is very well written and magnificent in its approach. Elliot Pearlman is empathetic, however does not allow his writing to get sentimental, which is the best approach when writing such a story. The human sense of the book shines in its pages. The unique rhythm of the book and its voice is what keeps the reader going wanting to know more and more as the story progresses. The questions of Holocaust and the Civil Movement are brilliantly answered, without complicating anything.

A lot has been written about both these events; however this book is one of its kind that combines the two seamlessly. While memory is at the core of the book, there is also love, loss, longing and the fact that at the end of it all, we are all humans no matter what. The book is splendidly written, keeping the facts in mind and suiting the reader’s taste as well. I highly recommend this one.