Oprah’s Book Club: “The Water Dancer” – Apple+ Episode Recap & Review

10 Years In The Making

I wish I had more time to read. I know that sounds like a pretty formulaic excuse but when you watch as much TV as me and spend every waking minute reviewing and researching TV and film, the only time I really get a chance to read is for my kids when I put them to bed. Having said that, during my teen years I read a lot of books but two in particular always stood out for me – The Color Purple and To Kill A Mockingbird. The latter frustrated and angered me so much I actually threw the book across the room in disgust. I remember this moment so vividly because as I reflected on this extreme burst of emotion I realized this came from words on paper. From that moment forward, I knew I wanted to write for a living.

Out of all the shows released today on Apple+, Oprah’s Book Club is actually the one that intrigued me the most. I love the analytical side of books and deep diving into the mind of different authors and allowing Oprah to discuss their works of fiction feels like a match made in heaven. In practice, the first episode gets off to a pretty good start, although some distracting camera work and a few awkward instances of Oprah talking over Ta-Nehisi Coates holds this back from being a better opening episode.

The structure, I’d assume, will remain the same through each episode and this is certainly a big positive here. After a brief introduction from Oprah herself, we’re graced with numerous snippets from different readers around the world before our author takes to the stage for an intimate one-on-one conversation about the book and its origin. Between excerpts from the book itself to video footage of locations used for researching the novel, the themes and ideas of the book are brought to life in a really interesting and engaging way.

Having said that though, the episode itself has a distinct lack of critique or objective ideas toward the book, with a lot of the material here heaping lavish praise on the author. Don’t get me wrong, the book itself has been highly rated from critics and audiences alike but at the same time, there’s always some critique toward a piece of work, even the most beloved works in the world of fiction. Early on, Ta-Nehisi mentions sentence structure and things he wasn’t entirely happy about and aside from a light-hearted jab toward the length of this first paragraph, there really isn’t much of a deep dive into the critical aspects of the book.

Still, the format itself is good and aside from a distinct American slant in terms of the talk-show format (audience cut-aways, exaggerated head nods and applause etc.), the episode sets things up nicely for the next author to follow suit. It’s a very clever idea too, especially given the promotion Apple will be doing with their Book store for these authors, and it could well prove to be the most lucrative offering Apple+ has. For now though, the first episode whets the appetite and certainly intrigues me enough to go and check out the book, even if I’m likely to buy it and lament its untouched pages on my bookshelf! With two months to go until the next book, the time-frame is perfect for avid book readers to digest the material, and may prove to be a real winner for Apple if this takes off.


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