Summary and book reviews of All Other Nights by Dara Horn

All Other Nights

A Novel

By Dara Horn

All Other Nights
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2009,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2010,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army during the Civil War, it is a question his commanders have already answered for him -- on Passover, 1862, he is ordered to murder his own uncle in New Orleans, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After this harrowing mission, Jacob is recruited to pursue another enemy agent, the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time, his assignment isn’t to murder the spy, but to marry her. Their marriage, with its riveting and horrifying consequences, reveals the deep divisions that still haunt American life today.

Based on real personalities like Judah Benjamin, the Confederacy’s Jewish Secretary of State and spymaster, and on historical facts and events ranging from an African-American spy network to the dramatic self-destruction of the city of Richmond, All Other Nights is a gripping and suspenseful story of men and women driven to the extreme limits of loyalty and betrayal. It is also a brilliant parable of the rift in America that lingers a century and a half later: between those who value family and tradition first, and those dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.

In this eagerly-awaited third novel, award-winning author Dara Horn brings us page-turning storytelling at its best. Layered with meaning, All Other Nights presents the most American of subjects with originality and insight -- and the possibility of reconciliation that might yet await us.

Chapter One

Inside a barrel in the bottom of a boat, with a canteen of water wedged between his legs and a packet of poison concealed in his pocket, Jacob Rappaport felt a knot tightening in his stomach -- not because he was about to do something dangerous, but because he was about to do something wrong. He was nineteen years old, and he was accustomed to believing that he wasn’t responsible for what he did, that there were all sorts of considerations and complications that didn’t apply to him. So he had told himself that one knot was the other knot, that there was no distinction between fearing others and fearing oneself. But as he waited through his second endless night with his chin pressed against his knees and his arms pressed against the barrel’s wooden sides, listening to the waves slap against the hold of the smuggler’s boat that was carrying him to New Orleans, he knew the difference. It had begun on Passover of the previous year, when he first could have ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Reading Group Questions
  1. The title of this novel, All Other Nights, is in the author's view also a question: Are we the same people from one night to the next? If not, how are we accountable for our actions in the past? And if so, how is it possible to change?
  2. Jacob is twice presented with opportunities to potentially save President Lincoln's life, each time at great personal cost. Does he do the right thing?
  3. How do the themes of escape and freedom from bondage (as celebrated in the Passover feast) play out in the book?
  4. What is the role of deception in the novel? What are the different motivations for deception, and can any of them be good? What are the consequences, both for the deceiver and for the deceived?
  5. ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Dara Horn's third novel All Other Nights shimmers with emotion and historical detail. Set amidst the tumult of the Civil War, Jacob Rappaport is on a quest to find himself. When he flees his parents' wealthy New York life, he knows little of himself or the world. His journey takes him into the bowels of evil, self-loathing and despair; yet there is redemption for him as well as he struggles to make sense of love and duty.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Two big questions remain: Is Eugenia still alive? Will Jacob be a fool for love? Make that three: Does anyone care? Turgid and meandering.

Library Journal

Her tale of Confederate Hebrew spies skillfully puts a new spin on a time period that has been researched and written about extensively.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review. Horn both unearths a fascinating, relatively unexplored aspect of American history ... and delivers a novel rich in human emotion and ambiguity. A triumph.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Horn propels the love story at a thriller's pace; the mix of love and loyalty played out in a divided America is sublime.

The Miami Herald - Andrew Furman

Readers familiar with Horn's dazzling earlier novels ... might find themselves a bit disappointed with her protagonist here. ... The novel unfolds intriguingly nonetheless, as Horn's protagonist wades deeper and deeper into the murky waters where the conflicting obligations of country, family and self threaten to consume him.

The Wall Street Journal

A rare and memorable portrait of Jewish life during the Civil War.

New York Post - Sarah Weinman

All Other Nights has the propulsive, suspenseful narrative of an espionage thriller, but the novel stands out because of the larger moral dilemmas Horn weaves into an epic.

The Washington Post - Wendy Smith

Horn is too gifted and ambitious an artist to settle for easy reassurances or a facile happy ending; she instead offers her readers the deeper satisfactions of complexity and generosity as she limns a world of agonizing, implacable moral ambiguities and guides her imperfect yet lovable protagonist toward a tentative redemption.

Reader Reviews
Cariola

Interesting Approach to the Civil War Novel
The premise of this novel sounded intriguing: a young Jewish man, running away from the life his domineering father had planned for him, joins the Union army and is recruited as a spy. His first assignment: to kill his own uncle, who is believed to ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Life & Times of Judah Benjamin
All Other Nights incorporates a number of historical characters, but perhaps the most integral to the tale is Judah Benjamin, the Secretary of State for the Confederate States of America.

Judah Benjamin was born in 1811 in the West Indies during the British occupation of the Danish West Indies (now US Virgin Islands).  He emigrated with his father, an English Jew, and mother, a Portuguese Jew, to the USA a few years later and was brought up in North and South Carolina.  He entered Yale Law School at 14 years of age but left without a degree. In 1832, he moved to New Orleans, LA, where he became a commercial lawyer. The next year, he married Natalie St. Martin, the daughter of a...

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