Shadow Country (Modern Library): Book summary and reviews of Shadow Country (Modern Library) by Peter Matthiessen

Shadow Country (Modern Library)

By Peter Matthiessen

Shadow Country (Modern Library)
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2008,
    912 pages.

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Book Summary

Peter Matthiessen's great American epic – Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's River, and Bone by Bone – was conceived as one vast mysterious novel, but because of its length it was originally broken up into three books. In this bold new rendering, Matthiessen has cut nearly a third of the overall text and collapsed the time frame while deepening the insights and motivations of his characters with brilliant rewriting throughout. In Shadow Country, he has marvelously distilled a monumental work, realizing his original vision.

Inspired by a near-mythic event of the wild Florida frontier at the turn of the twentieth century, Shadow Country reimagines the legend of the inspired Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw E. J. Watson, who drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him, in a killing that obsessed his favorite son.

Shadow Country traverses strange landscapes and frontier hinterlands inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of the archaic racism that, as Watson's wife observed, "still casts its shadow over the nation."

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Book Awards

  • award image National Book Awards, 2008

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Matthiessen's Watson trilogy is a touchstone of modern American literature…this reworking…is remarkable….Where Watson was a magnificent character before, he comes across as nothing short of iconic here; it's difficult to find another figure in American literature so thoroughly and convincingly portrayed." - Publishers Weekly.

"Shadow Country is altogether gripping, shocking,and brilliantly told, not just a tour de force in its stylistic range, but a great American novel, as powerful a reading experience as nearly any in our literature." - The New York Review of Books.

"Magnificent and capacious…. I'll just say right here that the book took my sleeve and like the ancient mariner would not let go...a breathtaking saga." - The Los Angeles Times.

"Gorgeously written and unfailingly compelling, Shadow Country is the exhilarating masterwork of [Matthiessen's] career, every bit as ambitious as Moby Dick." - National Geographic Adventure magazine.

"Peter Mattiessen consolidates his epic masterpiece of Florida -- and crafts something even better...anyone wanting an explanation for what happened to Florida can now find it in a single novel, a great American novel." - Miami Herald.

"Even among a body of work as magnificent as Matthiessen's, this is his great book." - St. Petersburg Times.

"Shadow Country is a magnum opus. Matthiessen is meticulous in creating characters, lyrical in describing landscapes, and resolute in dissecting the values and costs that accompanied the development of this nation." - Seattle Times.

"Shadow Country is an ambitious, lasting, and meaningful work of literature that will not soon fade away." - East Hampton Star.

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Peter Matthiessen was born in New York City in 1927 and had already begun his writing career by the time he graduated from Yale University in 1950. The following year, he was a founder of The Paris Review. Besides At Play in the Fields of the Lord, which was nominated for the National Book Award, he has published six other works of fiction, including Far Tortuga and Killing Mister Watson. Mr. Matthiessen's parallel career as a naturalist and explorer has resulted in numerous widely acclaimed books of nonfiction, among them The Tree Where Man Was Born, which was nominated for the National Book Award, and The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country, which won it.

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