BookBrowse Reviews A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Moment in the Sun

by John Sayles

A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2011, 968 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2012, 968 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Historical Fiction: A turn of the 20th century epic novel

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 novel. He had me hooked by page ten, following the hopeless greenhorn Hod Brackenridge up a death-defying slope in the Alaskan wilderness. What kept me interested through the nearly 1,000 pages that followed was Sayles's uncanny ability to find complexity in all of his characters, revealing the conflicted motives that drive them to pursue their desires.

If there is one unifying theme of the book, it is just that - the complexity of human desire. The pages are replete with love, lust, and greed, but rather than being simply described, emotions are brought to life by the characters' actions. There is the young black soldier ready to die for the love of a girl whose superior social class puts her beyond his reach; the crippled son of a southern magistrate, entranced by the young technology of the moving image; and the educated son of a Filipino land owner who turns from aspiring priest to committed revolutionary, and a dozen or so more. Each story is told in electrifying detail and each marked by the ambivalence and contradiction that make human actions so hard to make sense of.

Of course these are not unrelated tales. They are brought together not only by the coincidences that link the characters in space and time, but by the defining presence of the historical moment. While the action moves from imperialist adventures in far flung lands to domestic conflicts over race and class, there is a constant sense of history being written, drawn, and filmed as it unfolds. Contemporary story tellers, Mark Twain and Joseph Pulitzer included, form a secondary group of characters - not quite at the heart of the action, but not just along for the ride either.

The epic scope of the novel does become unwieldy in places, detracting somewhat from the potent tension that shoots through most of the narrative. But the creative imagination behind such a wild, wide ranging work is less concerned with perfection than with raw energy. This Sayles provides, in copious amounts, and his readers are the better for it.

Additional Information
John Sayles spent years researching the turn-of-the-century world of A Moment in the Sun. Click here to see some of the photos that helped shape each chapter and to read John's notes on some of the historical details that crop up in the text. For more information on the books John consulted, click on his extended bibliography.

Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman

This review was originally published in September 2011, and has been updated for the February 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Coxey's Army

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...
  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...
  • Book Jacket: Havana
    Havana
    by Mark Kurlansky
    History with flavor...culture with spice...language with gusto...it would be hard to find a better ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -