Well Rounded Reading Cooperative (WRRC)

Category-Based Online Book Club ~ To Learn and Share our Literary Treasures
 
HomeHome  FAQFAQ  SearchSearch  MemberlistMemberlist  UsergroupsUsergroups  RegisterRegister  Log inLog in  

Share | 
 

 Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (08 National Book Award)

Go down 
AuthorMessage
Admin
Admin
avatar

Posts : 123
Join date : 2008-10-22
Age : 50
Location : Geneva, Illinois

PostSubject: Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (08 National Book Award)   Fri 02 Jan 2009, 8:27 pm

Hi All ~

Well, I drew this category for January and I am undertaking the 892-page (teensy print) tome, Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen. Although this was first published as a three-novel series (Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man's River and Bone By Bone), the author always saw it as one big story. So he recently reworked it into this singular book, now often being referred to as one of the best novels of all times; and then in 2008, it won the National Book Award. Since that is pretty big accolade and recognition, I thought I would give it a go. He has provided further insight into some of the characters and distilled others. The novel surrounds a murder (and how friends became enemies on rumor and innuendo ~ and perceived wrongs of the victim, which leads to a mob action, set out in the initial few pages of the book) and is about the native people, intrepid pioneers, land and animals struggling to survive in the Everglades/Ten Thousand Islands area in 1890s to early 1900s. It is told from various characters' points of view, with much insight and vision given to not only the plot, but the ecology of the area (much of which was destroyed during that timeframe). So far, I am about a quarter of the way through and Mr. Watson has assuredly been killed. It is very good and ... LOTS of mosquitos. Review to come in the following week or two.



Carolyn
Admin
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://wrrc.4umer.net
Admin
Admin
avatar

Posts : 123
Join date : 2008-10-22
Age : 50
Location : Geneva, Illinois

PostSubject: Review of [i]Shadow Country[/i] by Peter Matthiessen   Tue 13 Jan 2009, 8:27 pm

Review of Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen

Being extolled as one of the best novels of our time (and recipient of the 2008 National Book Award), I had to give this book a read. Although originally conceived as one large novel (but published, in its original form, as three upon the advice of his publishing company: Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man's River and Bone By Bone), this still felt like three very distinct voices about the life of one man. At its core, all three parts revolve around the life and lynching murder of one Edgar A.J. Watson. Apparently Edgar Watson was a real human being and this is an interesting take, in many different viewpoints, of who he was and why he did what he did. We are never sure if he is an abused and confused boy, a senseless killer, a desperado, a braggart or just an "animal" of a man (the latter being a viewpoint oft talked about). The first part deals with how he was thought of by his neighbors before he was murdered ~ told from their perspectives. The second part is about his sons, Lucius, who spends his life trying to understand who is father was and in doing so, writing the history of his Father's life. Then there is the oldest son, Rob, a fugitive at an early age who had a very dark secret about his Father that tortured him his whole life. The third part, we finally hear the story from Watson's perspective, which clears some things up and confuses others.

The timeframe, 1850s to the time of his death in 1910, "pioneer" Florida in the Everglades (and some parts of Arkansas, South Carolina and Southern Florida) is utterly fascinating. It was a cruel, dangerous time and there are so many other deaths in this book, it ultimately numbs the reader. I struggled somewhat with the main character. He suffered a cruel, abusive childhood, which we are to conclude, made him in great part what he was (and was not), but I couldn't muster up any real feelings for the guy. He was a brutal killer with flashes of kindness, but he was not a good man, not even a likeable one ... but yet the book tries to convince us, at times, he is. This is an exhausting read, at times very beautifully written, at times downright boring, others times rather ridiculous about the murderous "pioneer code" and futility of it all. Although I suppose it's true, but it's rather hard to believe a man would gun another down on a shifty look or a stolen pig. But those were the times, I guess. This is a book comprised, in great part, of incredibly unlikeable people. So at times, I wondered whether I really cared about them and their fates. I think I just reached a point where I decided I was going to finish the book no matter what.

The Everglades itself is the most interesting character, the telling of its original beauty, the ecology, biology; and then sadly, senseless slaughter of the animals (some, never to be recovered) and ruination of the land to "progress." I also liked the way that innuendo and rumor during those early years, as now, could be the end of a person, even if there is no truth to what was being said ~ a very interesting study on human nature.

I was glad I read it, but I'm not so sure I know anyone I would recommend it to. It was sort of a labor and not always one of love, more tenacity, I think. There is no way I feel this is one of the best novels of all time, however; it is a very good book and in some ways, a very original novel. It lingers in my mind in many ways, so in that respect, it is somewhat powerful.

3.5 stars

Carolyn
Admin
Back to top Go down
View user profile http://wrrc.4umer.net
 
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (08 National Book Award)
Back to top 
Page 1 of 1
 Similar topics
-
» Country Style Sweet Melts Contest
» Penworthy Prebound Book Contest *usa only*
» Review: Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii Retail)
» Battle Royale ! Rayman Origins VS Donkey Kong Country Returns
» Welcome to Peter Phia Xiong Home page Forum

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Well Rounded Reading Cooperative (WRRC) :: The Twelve Categories - 2009 :: 1. All The World's A Stage-
Jump to: