Cloudsplitter

Cloudsplitter

by Russell Banks
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Trade Paperback, 768 pages
Current Retail Price: $15.00
Not in stock

Narrated by the last surviving son of the infamous John Brown, Russell Banks' Cloudsplitter is a vast novel about conflict, slavery and the parameters of family loyalty. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, it is (like all of Banks' work) massively original and intensely affecting, an exploration of themes at once American and universal. Brown is not portrayed as a saint, a demon, or a madman, but as a troubled man whose monomania and egotism drives him to more and more radical activity.

Banks evokes an historical atmosphere not only with well-researched detail (he does that, too), but by exploring the thoughts and ideas that informed John Brown's behavior. Doing so through the eyes of Brown's son Owen lends an intimacy to the narrative that helps us understand and to some extent sympathize with (even if we don't condone) the man better than we would otherwise beable to do. Every aspect of life is presented here, from birth and marriage to violence and death, revealing that the concerns of humanity have remained consistent throughout its history.

The blend of historicity and fiction illuminates the relationship between them, as two ways to explore truth. While there is plenty of speculation, it isn't distracting from the context since the point isn't exactly what happened, but the meaning and possible interpretations of what happened. This isn't great historical fiction—it's simply great fiction, not merely a plot but an examination of the nature of historical events and human nature, and the effect one has upon the other. Banks' lyrical prose is more than just a vehicle, it becomes a vital element of the book, an aesthetic door through which to view the enormous themes the author so ably unravels.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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