The Confessions of Nat Turner a wrenching reminder

In August, 1831, a few dozen slaves in Southampton, Virginia, revolted, slaughtering whites mercilessly. The confession of the revolt’s leader, Nathaniel Turner, presented at his trial and subsequently published as a pamphlet, is the factual basis of William Styron’s novel. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron Random House, 1966, 1967; 428 p. 1967 […]

The Weavers an unromantic tangle of plot threads

The Weavers is a romance, but it’s mostly about David Claridge. David leaves his English village around 1850 for Egypt, where his good looks, Quaker habits, and scrupulous honesty are novelties. The Weavers by Gilbert Parker 1907 bestseller #2, 1908 bestseller #10. Project Gutenberg ebook #6267. My grade: C+. Prince Kaid asks David to be […]

The Foxes of Harrow not worth digging out

Steven Fox arrives in New Orleans in 1825, broke and friendless. By his gambling and his good looks, he makes a fortune and buys land, working along side his slaves to make it prosper. The Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby Dial Press, 1946. 408 p. 1946 bestseller #6. My grade: C-. Before long Harrow […]

54-40 or Fight has lost its power to excite

You can not tell how large a trouble may be started by a small politician. Emerson Hough’s 54-40 or Fight takes a great story and renders it dull as dishwater. The story is told by Nicholas Trist, confidential aide to John C. Calhoun. It opens as Calhoun becomes Secretary of State in President Tyler’s cabinet. […]

History Trumps Story in Love Is Eternal

The trouble with historical novels is that they have to be historically accurate. To meet this demand, authors often must attempt to account logically for illogical human behavior. Irving Stone’s Love Is Eternal: A Novel about Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln is a case in point. According to the novel’s dust jacket, Stone’s goal is […]

Sun Is My Undoing in top 10 second year

Public recognition of the sufferings of slaves, such as the one in “Chains” monument shown in the photo from the  Jardin de Luxembourg in Paris, is not common.  However, novelist Margaret Steen produced something even more rare: a public recognition of the misery slavery inflicted on slave traders. In 1942, Steen’s novel about a slave […]

The Sun is My Undoing is true blockbuster of a novel

No matter how you look at it, Marguerite Steen’s 1941 novel The Sun Is My Undoing is extraordinary. Three times average novel length, it covers 40 years, intertwines characters on three continents, and its hero is a slave trader. Plenty of books tell about how slavery degraded slaves; this one tell how slavery degraded the […]