Remember Ben Clayton: A novel
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Remember Ben Clayton: A novel

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  59 reviews
From the author of the acclaimed best seller The Gates of the Alamo, a new novel that confirms and enlarges Stephen Harrigan’s reputation as a major voice in American fiction.

Francis “Gil” Gilheaney is a sculptor of boundless ambition. But bad fortune and his own prideful spirit have driven him from New York into artistic exile in Texas just after World War I. His adult da...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Vintage (first published May 10th 2011)
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This book was, by far, the best novel I have read in years! If I could give is six stars I would. All of the charcters were fully developed, each with their hidden backstories and emotional secrets. The story envelops you into the time and place and inserts you into the storyline as if you were really there. Stephen Harrigan is a very talented writer and this novel is worthy of consideration for one of the major book awards. I recommend it very highly.
A friend, who is an avid reader, encouraged me to read Stephen Harrigan's latest book. I had read none of his earlier works. Since she and I have very similar interests, I decided to check it out at my library and read it.

This was a wonderful historical fiction work that dealt with Texas immediately after WWI. I live in Texas and am quite familiar with Texas history, but the information was entirely new to me even though I live in the same area. I was also completely unfamiliar with the work of...more
This was a really intriguing novel about families, war, loss, and art. Harrigan succeeds in getting us involved in a dual story about Ben Clayton and the artist who will capture him for all time in the Texas wild country, Gil Gilheaney. One of the more interesting characters is Gilheaney's daughter, who comes into her own as an artist and sculptor after failing to help her father in his quest. It is fascinating to see how art is stymied by arthritis (a nice pun for those who are looking for it)...more
I loved this book and it may be a five star book. I listened to it as it won the Audie award for Literary Fiction. Ben Clayton, a young man from Texas, dies in WWI and his father, one of favorite characters, ever, commissions a statue of him to remember his son. The sculptor and his daughter are the other two main characters. They each have their own stories that they bring to the table and when these three get together, it is easy to listen intently at their interactions. Another character, Ben...more
Kem White
"Remember Ben Clayton" is simply an outstanding novel. The book tells the story of how a sculpture of Ben Clayton, killed in World War I, is created for his bereaved father, Lamar. Sounds kind of dull, right? Trust me on this, it is anything but boring. The story moves forward with a momentum and vibrancy I've seldom encountered in fiction. At times humorous, at times historical, and some times, ineffably sad. Harrigan is in top form. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Virginia Myers
I read this book for my book club. We had an excellent facilitator and an interesting discussion. I liked the book before I went to the meeting – I really liked the book after the discussion because the discussion brought out things I had failed to notice. So much for my ability to do a good review!

To me, the book is essentially a study of two men. Both men have kept secrets from their families and in the book we find out these secrets and the harm it has done. One man is a sculptor. He is hopin...more
Jennifer Franz
One of the better books I've ever read. Seriously. Beautiful and haunting. I can't possibly recommend it enough.
The fact that this took me so long to start reading--I've had it on my shelf for years--then so long to get through, does not speak to its impact. This is a beautiful book, even (especially?) in its deep sadness. I've been a fan of Stephen Harrigan's since I tore through "The Gates of the Alamo" years ago. His clean, conversational writing lends itself perfectly to the kind of epic-journey plots of his novels, and in this book especially his language and lovely use of description were allowed to...more
If it were possible to give Stephen Harrigan’s novel six stars, I would. I have not been able to stop thinking about “Remember Ben Clayton” since putting it down a final time. It is so moving, with a kind of West Texas majesty that reminds us of what the west was like not that long ago.

And it is readable—compulsively so. I was a huge fan of Harrigan’s earlier “Gates of the Alamo” so I was aware of his writer’s skill. “Ben Clayton” is even more nuanced and complex. The story is this: noted San An...more
This is a magnificent novel! It’s old-fashioned in the sense that it’s not fancy or “meta” or framed in a way that makes 1920 feel like it’s inhabited by Generation Y. The writing is compelling and honest--as are the characterizations in the way they naturally evolve from the complexities of human relationships and the effects of individual histories. The descriptive language is especially skillful in convincing us of the “chromatic dead zone” that equally applies to both West Texas and the dorm...more
I loved this book!! Yes, it's a Texas "western," and yes, it's a war story, and yes, it's a book about fathers' secrets, and yes, it's much much more. These characters and their stories really grabbed me, which is interesting because they weren't especially likeable people. But they were powerful characters that I could see and hear and feel. And the landscape was just as powerful in its own right.

The story frame involves a Texas rancher whose son is killed in the trenches of World War I. He hir...more
This is a 1920s novel by Stephen Harrigan about a NYC sculptor commissioned by a Texas rancher to create a memorial statue of his son, who died in WWI. Sculptor and rancher are both deeply flawed fathers, and their relationships with their children is a major theme. Folks, keeping secrets from your children is selfish and destructive. I'm not usually a big fan of fiction, and the plot in "Remember Ben Clayton" was sometimes less than believable. But the characters (and their respective dialogs)...more
Suzanne Freeman
I loved this book. I actually listened to it and George Guidall, who read it for Audible, was AMAZING! He has read over 900 books and I'm now looking for something I might be interested in among his list just to hear his voice again.

Remember Ben Clayton is written by Stephen Harrigan, who wrote Gates of the Alamo. He's a Texas writer who captures the flavor of the state like few can. No caricatures here! This story takes place in 1920-21, just after World War II. A New York sculptor and his agi...more
I was over half way through with this book before I really got invested in the story. Once I was hooked, finishing the book was easy. This is a book about family relationships, secrets, and grief. I enjoyed reading about the process of sculpting a statue. The descriptions of battle in World War 1 were harder for me to get through. Overall, a great historical fiction novel.
I had to read this one for work, and I have to admit that it is not a book I would have ever chosen to read on my own, but I enjoyed it more than I expected. One of the things I found most enjoyable is that part of the book is set in early 19th century northwest Texas, where my mom is from. I have spent a lot of time in this area, so I'm familiar with how the terrain looks, which helped me to visualize those areas. Also, being a genealogy nerd I've done a lot of research on the branches of my fa...more
This book was a rare find. I read it with trepidation as it did not seem like a story line that would be interesting. My book club is reading it and the author is coming to the meeting so I gave it a try. It is about a rancher who hires a sculptor to erect a statue of his son who died in France fighting in World War I. There are several subplots involving the son's friend in the war and the sculptors daughter. The development of the characters was extraordinary especially that of the dead boy's...more
I loved this book! I won't write too much about the plot because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but it was just so good. An unraveling...

Francis Gilheany--sculptor, transplant from NYC to San Antonio, looking for his sculptural legacy
Maureen--daughter of Gil, sculptor in her own right, struggling to find her place in a world dominated by her father and his work
Lamar Clayton-- TX cattleman, taciturn, hard-headed, filled with secrets
Ben Clayton--Lamar's only son, died in the war
George's Mary...more
Ms. S...........
Since I have been going through some grief presently, I very much related to the depth of feeling in the characters. each had his/her own mourning to work through and secrets from the past to face. one charcater compared her own secrets to her father's and found that "her secrets were not gravely held, but simply her own business" (p. 320). another character comissions a statue of his son who died in The War knowing that the statue won't bring his son back, but wanting it anyway. That statue, st...more
Harrigan's novel lets the characters develop and take shape slowly, much as the process of sculpting the commissioned statue of a Texas rancher's dead son does. Unlikely elements and people braid together in this fine story. It's a heart-breaking tale about the devastating power of secrets and the relationships between fathers and their children. I loved the setting of San Antonio and west Texas. Harrigan's meticulous research makes every detail ring true, whether it's about sculpting, restoring...more
Elizabeth Sowa
Great book set in San Antonio and west Texas during the 1920's.
I give a lot of 5 star reviews and this book makes me wish I didn't. It makes all of my other 5 stars seem more like 4.5. It's a special story, and I highly recommend it. Great suggestion for a book club; lots to discuss. The artist and his daughter, the lonely rancher and his grief, the broken and badly damaged young surviving friend exiled in France after the Great War- all have their stories to tell and somehow everything comes to a head during the creation of a statue of Ben Clayton, who was...more
Paula Hebert
I'd actually give this book an extra half star, if I could. it's so layered and deep, it examines the lives of two men, two fathers, one wanting a statue to memorialize his son, killed in france during ww1, and the other the sculptor he hires to do the work. both men have compicated pasts, and complicated relationships with their children. it takes you from the bloody warfields of europe to the rough and ready life of the early settlers of texas and the indian wars. it's a story that stays with...more
Barbara Daly
I liked this book. As Stefon would say, "It has everything". It's a story about love, war, art, history and the complicated relationships between family members. In the novel, the main character is commissioned by a grieving father to sculpt a statue to remember his son, who was killed in World War I. The author's idea for the book came from an autobiography of the sculptor Pompeo Coppini who was commissioned to do something similar. The statue stands in the courthouse square in Ballinger, TX. R...more
While this started off a little slow, it's just amazing. The relationships between the characters are so real and the details of Texas in the 1920s bring you back to a different world.
A few years ago, I heard the book's narrator, George Guidall, speak at a conference where he mentioned recording this title and enjoying it a great deal. I finally got around to listening to it and just as he said, I loved it.

Surprisingly, the author somehow succeeds in combining the seemingly unrelated topics of World War I, the Wild West, the art of sculpting, and the role of women after the turn of the century into a wonderful novel.

Guidall, has long been one of my very favorites, and this...more
This was an interesting book covering a very broad swath of history from the Civil War through the Indian Wars in Texas through the First World War. Francis "Gil" Gilhearney is a sculptor who is hired by Lamar Clayton to create a tribute to his son, Ben, killed in France. Gil's daughter is also an artist, hired by a panel in San Antonio to create sculpture to honor the "Spirit of the Waters." This book examines how the lives of parents impact their children even when there is no intent to do so.
I picked this up after reading an interesting excerpt in a newspaper section highlighting Texas writers. I'm so glad I did! Beautifully written, this novel examines a difficult and increasingly-forgotten time period: WWI and the flu epidimic. We are introduced to the art of sculpture, horrific Indian raids, Texas ranching, and a war-torn France, all without realizing we are immersed in a fascinating history lesson. I will definitely look for more from author Stephen Harrigan.
The first amazing book I've read this year. I was a bit apprehensive I would be let down reading this as I remember Gates of the Alamo being so terrific but Stephen Harrigan did not disappoint. He has a way of making his characters so real and understandable. I also really enjoyed his setting, both the time period of just after WWI and the cities in Texas. This is one of those novels that is engrossing. Don't rush through it but savor every word!
Excellent writing style and attention to detail carry a pretty good story. Harrigan can seriously pen a good book. I've also read his "Gates of the Alamo" and Ben Clayton is right there with it. If you're into historical fiction, you'll dig this one. It takes place around WWI with scenes that travel from France to Texas to New York. The characters are well developed when necessary, the dialog is honest, you'll turn the pages easy on this one. Enjoy.
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Stephen Harrigan was born in Oklahoma City in 1948 and has lived in Texas since the age of five, growing up in Abilene and Corpus Christi.He is a longtime writer for Texas Monthly, and his articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of other publications as well, including The Atlantic, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Audubon, Travel Holiday, Life, American History...more
More about Stephen Harrigan...
The Gates of the Alamo Challenger Park Jacob's Well Aransas The Eye of the Mammoth: Selected Essays

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