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A Moment in the Sun

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Description

It’s 1897. Gold has been discovered in the Yukon. New York is under the sway of Hearst and Pulitzer. And in a few months, an American battleship will explode in a Cuban harbor, plunging the U.S. into war. Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, this is the unforgettable story of that extraordinary moment: the turn of the twentieth century, as seen by one of the greatest storytellers of our time.

Shot through with a lyrical intensity and stunning detail that recall Doctorow and Deadwood both, A Moment in the Sun takes the whole era in its sights—from the white-racist coup in Wilmington, North Carolina to the bloody dawn of U.S. interventionism in the Philippines. Beginning with Hod Brackenridge searching for his fortune in the North, and hurtling forward on the voices of a breathtaking range of men and women—Royal Scott, an African American infantryman whose life outside the military has been destroyed; Diosdado Concepcíon, a Filipino insurgent fighting against his country’s new colonizers; and more than a dozen others, Mark Twain and President McKinley’s assassin among them—this is a story as big as its subject: history rediscovered through the lives of the people who made it happen.

From Publishers Weekly

Mar 21, 2011 – Though known best as a filmmaker (Eight Men Out), Sayles is also an accomplished novelist (Union Dues), whose latest will stand among the finest work on his impressive résumé. Weighing in at nearly 1,000 pages, the behemoth recalls E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, Pynchon's Against the Day, and Dos Passos's USA trilogy, tracking mostly unconnected characters whose collective stories create a vast, kaleidoscopic panorama of the turn of the last century. Hod Brackenridge is a miner who gets swindled in the Alaskan gold rush, is strong-armed into a boxing match, and ends up on the run after his opponent dies in the ring. Diosdado, son of a Spanish diplomat, turns against his country and the United States to fight for independence in the Philippines. The most emotionally connected story line involves the black American soldiers who breeze through fighting in Cuba but get stuck in a quagmire in the Philippines while their families back home in Wilmington, N.C., endure a campaign of murder and intimidation that forces an affluent and educated black family out of their home and into poverty in New York City. Naturally, there are cameos—Mark Twain, president McKinley—and period details aplenty that help alleviate the occasional slow patches—indeed, Hod's story line loses steam toward the end—but the flaws and muck of this big, rangy novel are part of what make it so wonderful.

Customer Reviews

A Moment in the Sun

John Sayles's work is gritty, gritty, realistic and rich. A Moment in the Sun is populated by hardrock miners, newsies, bigots, soldiers and shysters. It is a novel of compelling power and complexity, set against the backdrop of America's first overseas imperial adventure. As multi-layered as are his films, Sayles tells the stories of African-American infantrymen struggling for respect and dignity while fighting against other peoples of color; of Filipino revolutionaries expecting independence but receiving only war and occupation and the tales of many others, too numerous to mention here, yet all are well-woven into a single whole as solid as a dreadnought. With perfect pitch, he captures the spirit of the era, the optimism, naïveté, racism and jingoism. His characters seem real enough to touch and they do certainly touch the reader, for both good and ill. More than anything else, I was reminded of the great works of John Dos Passos, a USA for the twenty-first century.

As a history teacher for nearly four decades I am perhaps overly critical of novels in the historical genre, but this is surely one of the best, with scarcely an anachronism or error. The ending of the novel might be termed romantic, yet it also contains an ominous shadow that is wholly in keeping with the author's usually themes. Sayles is a master and A Moment in the Sun is a masterwork.

A Moment in the Sun
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  • $17.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Historical
  • Published: Oct 18, 2011
  • Publisher: McSweeney's
  • Seller: The Perseus Books Group, LLC
  • Print Length: 968 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings