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The Nickel Boys

Length: 6 hrs and 46 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (73 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Nickel Boys is Colson Whitehead's follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning best seller The Underground Railroad, in which he dramatises another strand of United States history, this time through the story of two boys sentenced to a stretch in a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.    

Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. 

But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide 'physical, intellectual and moral training' which will equip its inmates to become 'honorable and honest men'.  

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear 'out back'. 

Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King's ringing assertion, 'Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.' But Elwood's fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.   

The tension between Elwood's idealism and Turner's scepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.   

Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.

©2019 Colson Whitehead (P)2019 Hachette Audio UK

What listeners say about The Nickel Boys

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

READ the book

It's a harrowing story of survival but on Audible it seems to lose its way when it shifts from the current to after boys home parts I lost the feel for the book and I stopped enjoying it. I stayed till the end anyway and still felt unsatisfied. I think its a book that needs to be read not listened too

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Be patient

Even though I enjoyed this book overall, I struggled a little with the beginning. I did think it was quite clever but I didn't know quite how clever until the end!

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Wonderful

Wonderfully written and performed. I immediately listened to it a second time. Echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Worthy

I hate to give Colson Whitehead a less than perfect review since he seems such a nice guy but this book didn't take off for me in the same way "The Underground Railroad" did. It's great that this kind of story gets told and who would have thought that sixty years ago such atrocities were still taking place. But, even though it is not a long book it still seemed drawn out. Maybe I should read the book to see if the narration had an effect. I guess the deadpan delivery was supposed to heighten the sense of outrage but just made for dull listening.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-08-2020

Wow a suckerpunch of a book!

I loved this book, it was easy to follow on Audible and the narrator was steady and pleasant to listen to. A book that gets right into your head, your heart and thoughts. A must listen for anyone who is interested in Black oppression and wants to be more informed. Be warned this book is NOT for the faint hearted it involves violence and injustice. However, the way the violence is described is sympathetic and not at all gory or overly descriptive but for anyone with morals it will still get to you and make you ache with sadness and anger!

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  • Neozoe
  • 26-07-2020

Bleak horror story with human monsters

No fantasy. A heart-rending story of misfortune in a racially divided world. I wish it wasn't a fictionalized account.

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  • frosty
  • 16-07-2020

High quality audio good story historical focus

I enjoyed this book and the education into thebdeep south reform schools however not until the end did i realise it was a true to life story with names changed. This made me appreciate even more the struggle of elwood ans turner if i would change one thing it would be tonhave the relevant information stated in the books description about the reform school this is based on. The twist in the book was also a bit predictable but the writing style reminded me alot of john steinbeck really raw and gritty! 4 stars for the story but performed beautifully by Jackson and sounding crisp good book!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-06-2020

Important and extraordinary

This is an important book for anyone who wants to get an insight into both institutional and casual racism. It is also an extraordinary work of storytelling.i was hooked from the first to the last word.

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  • TP
  • 11-06-2020

Brilliant and heartbreaking

This book should be read by everybody. Another fantastic book by Whitehead that opens your eyes to the brutal reality of racist society and its continuing cruelty today. The story is compelling and horrifying in equal measure, made more so by the knowledge of its basis in true events and those in the news currently.

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  • DRJ London
  • 25-05-2020

A must read

An excellent story; painful and captivating. Well written and perfectly narrated. A really good read.

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  • Irene wilkie
  • 24-05-2020

Disappointed - need to return this book

Didn’t like the subject matter or the narrator, have to return this book . Definitely not what i was expecting, very disappointed indeed

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  • Tony Smith
  • 11-05-2020

Cannot praise this book.highly enough

This book.will stay with.me for a long while. Haunting, Harrowing, Spellbinding and Soul renching

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  • Adam B
  • 28-01-2020

Patchy narrator

Great story, with a somewhat mixed quality of narration. Some parts excellent, and in others the cadence of the deliver is completely off, pausing mid sentence sometimes which completely wrongly alters the actual meaning of the prose. Still worth listening.

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  • Brian
  • 14-10-2019

Great read

While fictional the book brings together stories and investigations of the goings on at some of these boys correctional facilities back in the 40s to the 80s. the corruption and general abuses. this book is well written and very well read by the narrator. well done all the team involved.