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.
Hod is the first on deck to see smoke.
"That must be it," he says, pointing ahead to where the mountains rise up and pinch together to close off the channel. "Dyea."
There is a rush then, stampeders running to the fore and jostling for position, climbing onto the bales of cargo lashed to the deck to see over the crush, herding at a rumor as they have since the Utopia pulled away from the cheering throngs in Seattle, panicked that someone else might get there first. Store clerks and farmers, teamsters and railroad hands, failed proprietors and adventurous college boys and scheming hucksters and not a few fellow refugees from the underground. Hod has done every donkey job to be had in a mine, timbering, mucking ore with shovel and cart, laying track, single-jacking shoot holes with a hand auger. He knows how to look for colors in a riverbank, knows what is likely worth the sweat of digging out and what isn't. But the look in the eyes of the men crowding him up the gangplank...
I surrender. To explain in a few paragraphs a story that ranges from the frozen gold fields of the Yukon to the yellow fever swelter of Cuban hillsides, from the racial turmoil of post-Reconstruction North Carolina to the most humble, remote village in the Philippines, is a fool's errand. So let me dispense with any attempt at summary and cut straight to the chase - if an unrelenting commitment to showing action as it unfolds in vivid (and even painful) detail excites you, read John Sayles's new novel.
(Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).
Full Review (710 words).
In John Sayles's A Moment in the Sun, Hod Brackenridge's colorful past is marked most deeply by his participation in a working class uprising. A group of men, inspired by Populist rhetoric, hijack a train car in an attempt to bring their economic grievances to the nation's capital.
Turn-of-the-century America was fraught with class conflicts of this sort, some of which exploded in violent strikes and protests. In 1894, Jacob Coxey - a wealthy Ohio businessman - headed an "Industrial Army" of diverse men and women, who were dissatisfied with "the federal government's inaction in the face of economic crisis."
Though many promised to march on Washington DC, only a small number fulfilled the commitment. "Coxey ...
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