Summary and book reviews of The Darling by Russell Banks

The Darling

by Russell Banks

The Darling
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2005, 416 pages

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Book Summary

A political-historical thriller set in Liberia and the USA between 1975 to 1991 that raises serious philosophical questions about terrorism, political violence, and the clash of races and cultures.

Russell Banks has exhibited an astonishingly imaginative range throughout his distinguished career as a novelist, and his uniquely realistic American voice, on display in such modern classics as Rule of the Bone and Continental Drift, continues to shine in this latest effort. Fans and newcomers alike will be rewarded by his incisive eye for character and his ability to deliver a relentless and engaging narrative -- always in the service of his inimitable style.

The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the United States in an effort to escape embezzlement charges, he's immediately placed in prison. Hannah's encounter with Taylor in America ultimately triggers a series of events whose momentum catches Hannah's family in its grip and forces her to make a heartrending choice.

Set in Liberia and the United States from 1975 through 1991, The Darling is a political-historical thriller -- reminiscent of Greene and Conrad -- that explodes the genre, raising serious philosophical questions about terrorism, political violence, and the clash of races and cultures.

Chapter One

After many years of believing that I never dream of anything, I dreamed of Africa. It happened on a late-August night here at the farm in Keene Valley, about as far from Africa as I have been able to situate myself. I couldn't recall the dream's story, although I knew that it was in Africa, the country of Liberia, and my home in Monrovia, and that somehow the chimps had played a role, for there were round, brown, masklike faces still afloat in my mind when I awoke, safe in my bed in this old house in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains, and found myself overflowing with the knowledge that I would soon return there.

It wasn't a conscious decision to return. More a presentiment is all it was, a foreboding perhaps, advancing from the blackest part of my mind at the same rate as the images of Liberia drifted there and broke and dissolved in those dark waters where I've stored most of my memories of Africa. Memories of Africa and of the terrible years...

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Introduction

Russell Banks has exhibited an astonishingly imaginative range throughout his distinguished career as a novelist, and his uniquely realistic American voice, on display in such modern classics as Rule of the Bone and Continental Drift, continues to shine in this latest effort. Fans and newcomers alike will be rewarded by his incisive eye for character and his ability to deliver a relentless and engaging narrative -- always in the service of his inimitable style.

The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

O magazine

Banks’s novel is a vivid account of a time of terror, exposing the secrets of the soul.

Hartford Courant/St Petersburg Times

Banks creates a heroine every bit as complex and flawed as someone out of Jane Austen.

Newsweek

Powerful and evocative...

Boston Globe

Hannah’s story shows why Banks ranks among our boldest artists.

Library Journal - Edward B St. John

Hannah herself is utterly unconvincing, both as a revolutionary and as a woman, and it is impossible to feel much sympathy for her. While her motives are impeccable, her actions inevitably backfire and result in appalling carnage. Banks explored the themes of radical idealism and racial struggle with much greater success in Cloudsplitter, his take on abolitionist John Brown.

Publishers Weekly

A rich and complex look at the searing connections between the personal and the political, this is one of Banks's most powerful novels yet.

Kirkus Reviews

The Pulitzer-nominated author of Cloudsplitter (1998), among others, looks unsparingly at the bitter life of a 1960s revolutionary...Banks never makes it easy, but this is worth reading as a warning to anyone not chary of the children of privilege.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Starred Review. Banks' dramatic interpretation of Liberia's real-life tragedies brilliantly extends the vital inquiry into the consequences of slavery found in Cloudsplitter (1997), and his meditation on our close ties to other species poses urgent questions about how our greed and cruelty result in the endangerment of not only animals but also human kindness, empathy, and peace.

Reader Reviews

KBrittain

Exactly that,Review
I will respectfully disagree with the above review. I think the book is very well written,and much can be learned from a story like this. Learning about the history in South Africa, places involved in the conflict that is continuing to this day is...   Read More

R. Beckham

What happened to Russell Banks?
I kept ploughing through this book, assuming it would eventually, at some point, have to get better, in the sense that it could not continue to get embarrassingly worse, and perhaps it was all a trick. A secret to be revealed later. But it ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Liberia is a tiny country on the west coast of Africa which was claimed by the USA in the early 19th century for the purposes of repatriating free blacks back to Africa.  The 'American Colonization Society' was supported by two very different groups: abolitionists who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and 'repatriate' them, and slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America.  They found a little patch of Africa that hadn't already been claimed by any of the European powers, and the first colonists arrived around 1820. In 1847 (after a couple of decades of conflict with the indigenous people, who were understandably none to pleased at ...

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