Summary and book reviews of The Darling by Russell Banks

The Darling

by Russell Banks

The Darling by Russell Banks X
The Darling by Russell Banks
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
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...
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!
  • award image

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

Write your own review!

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

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 ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

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!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Russell Banks

If you liked The Darling, try these:

  • Kintu jacket

    Kintu

    by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi

    Published 2017

    About this book

    First published in Kenya in 2014 to critical and popular acclaim, Kintu is a modern classic, a multilayered narrative that reimagines the history of Uganda through the cursed bloodline of the Kintu clan.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
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!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Educated
    Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Voted 2018 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Tara Westover had the kind of ...
  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Voted 2018 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Towards the end of Madeline Miller...
  • Book Jacket: Children of Blood and Bone
    Children of Blood and Bone
    by Tomi Adeyemi
    Voted 2018 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    What would you do if, in a ...
  • Book Jacket: Where the Crawdads Sing
    Where the Crawdads Sing
    by Delia Owens
    Voted 2018 Best Debut Novel Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    Where the Crawdads Sing was a ...

See all Award Winners & Top 20

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Paris Echo
    by Sebastian Faulks

    A story of resistance, complicity, and an unlikely, transformative friendship.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 ½ Deaths of
Evelyn Hardcastle

"Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day...quite unlike anything I've ever read." - A. J. Finn

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

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.