Book - 1998
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Russell Banks's gift for creating compelling stories populated by gritty and startlingly real characters has resulted in such acclaimed masterworks as Continental Drift, The Sweet Hereafter, and his most recent bestseller, Rule of the Bone. Now Banks takes on one of American history's most misunderstood figures, John Brown, whose October 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, crossed the line from civil protest to armed struggle, prefiguring the greatest conflagration in this country's history. Narrated by the enigmatic abolitionist's son Owen, the novel dazzlingly re-creates the fractured political and social landscape of pre-Civil War America, when slavery and talk of secession were tearing the country apart. But Cloudsplitter is about much more than one man's quest for political change and social justice. It is a moving and powerfully told story of fathers and sons, of racial conflict and division, as well as an intimate portrait of 19th-century family life. Rich in incident and exquisite detail, Cloudsplitter is the novel that will elevate Russell Banks to the highest rank of 20th-century American authors.
Publisher: New York : Harper, c1998
ISBN: 9780060168605
Branch Call Number: BAN
Characteristics: 758 p


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Feb 28, 2015

"So we were going off to Kansas to be good at killing. Our specialty would be killing men who wished to own other men."
Russell Banks, known for his harshly realistic novels like "Affliction" and "The Sweet Hereafter," delves into American history, which in his hands is something complicated, dark, and bloody. This ambitious, sprawling (over 700 pages), and intense book is the story of John Brown and his war on slavery. Told by his conflicted and uneasy son Owen, who survived Harper's Ferry, Banks brilliantly recreates the mood and feel of the mid-19 century and the divisive force of slavery. John Brown, a religious zealot who felt called by God to start a war on slave owners, is an easy figure to respect, but a much harder one to like. Banks doesn't shy from his difficulty, but he does make him, if not exactly sympathetic, a compelling character who truly believed slavery was a great evil. Historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Tubman make cameos. An impressive achievement that should have won the Pulitzer in 1999, rather than Cunningham's rather mediocre "The Hours." Also see James McBride's John Brown book "The Good Lord Bird" and Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner."
"Freedom! The bloody work of the Lord!"

Dec 29, 2008

Russell Banks won readers' hearts in 1991 with "The Sweet Hereafter". He tackled painful subject matter and a cast of damaged, thorny characters, and wrapped it with a troubling conclusion that somehow had a perverse sense of redemption.

A reader might be predisposed on the basis of that fine accomplishment to assume that only Russell Banks could take on the towering figure of real-life abolitionist John Brown and take him beyond history textbook admirable, and make him understandable and even sympathetic. Unfortunately, "Cloudsplitter" is told from the reluctant and spiritually browbeaten perspective of Brown's son Owen, and the result is ponderous and lugubrious. The good that John Brown so determinedly strives for is powerfully overshadowed by his sanctimony, radicalism and religious fanaticism. The reader is left feeling as battered as the narrator.

Dec 06, 2007

Finalist of the 1999 Pulitzer prize for fiction.

Dec 05, 2007

Finalist 1999 Pulitzer prize.

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