History Lessons by Linda Leigh Hargrove is a relatively short novella, that leaves the reader wanting more (and it seems there is more to come with these characters in future books). Paula Raye Lawrence is a poor girl from a dirt-poor African-American family in rural North Carolina, in 1973. Her greatest wish has always been to escape the poverty and drudgery of working the fields as has always been the legacy of her slave forebears. Although she had escaped to the safety of a University in the big city, the death of her parents had brought her back to the tiny town of Cherry, in the heartlands of North Carolina. When a stranger arrives in town, a smartly-dressed and handsome University history professor from the City, to study the area’s history, Maxine is naturally drawn to him, despite her determination that no man (neither her drunken, womanising father, nor her violent ex-boyfriend) will ever have the opportunity to interfere with her life and her plans for the future.
Linda Leigh Hargrove has given the reader an insightful glimpse into the life of simple, plain, rural townsfolk in the heartland of America. In History Lessons we are given a look into just how little had changed for the descendants of slavery, by the mid-seventies. Most African-Americans in rural America still found it impossible to escape from the grinding poverty and minimal wages they were paid to tend the fields of the invariably, white, wealthy landowners. Hargrove’s characterisations were wonderful and I was very drawn to many of the cast. History Lessons very much does what the title says and provides us with a history lesson of that time. I really enjoyed this read, although I did want more and found myself wishing it was a full-length novel. That having been said, I would highly recommend this read to anyone who likes a look at the past, especially if it is a cultural paradigm you are not familiar with. I look forward to reading more of this author in the future.