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A Flag For Sunrise

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  686 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
An Astonishing Saga of Politics, War, and Americans Out of Place, by a National Book Award Winner!

Possessed of astonishing dramatic, emotional, and philosophical resonance, A Flag for Sunrise is a novel in the grand tradition about Americans drawn into the maelstrom of a small Central American country on the brink of revolution. From the book's inception, readers will be

Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 29th 1998 by PIcador (first published 1981)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,575)
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Mar 28, 2013 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit
”A scorpion comes up to a buffalo on a riverbank. Please, sir, says the scorpion – could you give us a ride across? No way, says the buffalo. You’ll sting me and I’ll drown. But the scorpion swears he won’t. Why would I, he asks the buffalo, when if I did, I’d drown along with you? So off they go. Halfway across the scorpion stings the buffalo. And the poor Buffalo says, you bastard, you killed us both. Before they go under, the scorpion says – it’s my nature.”

It is the late 70s. America is reel
Jan 10, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
Second Stone I have read after Dog Soldiers; a darker but less cynical updating of Conrad’s Nostromo. It starts off fairly somber with a structure that reminds me of an Altman film; with the book switching between various characters having conversations that slowly are showing the canvas on which this book is drawn, all relating to the fictional Central American country of Tecan (and its neighbor Compostelan). Tecan resembles a disguised Nicaragua but has elements of other moments in the trouble ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Jesse rated it really liked it
“A Flag for Sunrise” is less a novel than an existential exercise in meaning, sacrifice, and cosmic collisions. Set in a fictionalized Nicaragua, the novel simmers over a flame of political intrigue, religious desperation, and maniacal selfishness, until it explodes at the end as all these strands intertwine into a combustible resolution. The plot of the novel pushed way down in the mix and doesn’t really affect the reader in meaningful ways. This of course is good for a review as most reviewer ...more
Feb 15, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing
Just re-read this because I assigned it to a freshman literature class with a varying degree of success. I'm not sure anyone loved it, many of them were interested in it, even if it took them a long time to read. For all its knife-wielding drug runners and revolutionaries and reactionary counter-revolutionaries, it's a book that pivots on the questions of faith; not only whether a character has faith (or even if that has any meaning in the world as presented), but how that faith plays out on the ...more
Nathan Oates
Jun 03, 2009 Nathan Oates rated it it was amazing
This was my fourth attempt to get into this book. My earlier readings were always disrupted by the arch tone of the novel, the dense and (seemingly) over-the-top sentences that one finds in most of Robert Stone's work. Such writing is so out of favor in the contemporary workshop environment of contemporary fiction, that it struck me as old fashioned and even silly. This time, because the subject so closely connects with my current work, I pushed through and soon found that I love this book, that ...more
A dark book of ideas and political intrigue that will kick you in the head, and keep kicking, never stopping until the sun rises over the Caribbean on the book's last page. As a critical picture of American interference in the affairs of other countries, it compares well with The Quiet American. That's not to say it's perfect or entirely original. You will hear clearly the voices of Dostoevsky (deep psychology of evil), Melville (an inversion of Billy Budd, Sailor), and Conrad—particularly Conra ...more
Patrick McCoy
I originally picked up Robert Stone's 1981 novel A Flag For Sunrise, because I enjoyed his first novel, 1975's Dog Soldiers-a haunting novel about a Vietnam vet caught in a drug deal that goes bad. I decided to read it as an homage to the author when I learned that Stone died in January of 2015. This one was equally promising-a political thriller set in Central America. Stone has set the story in a fictional country called Tecan and alternates narration from a compelling and colorful cast of cha ...more
Dec 13, 2011 Drew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started college, I thought I was going to major in "International Studies" or "International Relations" or some such; I could speak French and Spanish and planned to "pick up" other languages (ah, the arrogance!), and basically become, maybe not necessarily a "spook," but someone who worked in many different countries and would be at home in any of them. Not once did I consider the possibility that maybe I would feel at home in none of them. And now, having read stuff like Greene's The Co ...more
Steven Langdon
Robert Stone is the author of "Outerbridge Reach" -- a superbly probing psychological novel of three interacting characters (two men and one woman,) based on the background to and carry through of a single-handed round-the-world yachting race. The people involved are imagined vividly, the plot is taut and unpredictable and the focus of the book is credible and sharp, even as it raises fundamental human questions and dilemmas. It is an excellent novel, that I rate very highly.

So I expected "A Fla
Geoffrey Fox
Dec 29, 2015 Geoffrey Fox rated it liked it
Shelves: revolution
Stone is a very good conventional novelist, according to some very old conventions: pre-Hemingway, Faulkner or Dos Passos, inter alia. Vocabulary is excessive and too flowery for Hemingway, psychology too primitive for Faulkner, narrative too linear for Dos Passos. Plot stars Frank Holliwell, middle-aged, tall, athletic, an alcoholic with a sinister past with the CIA in Vietnam, married to an independent professional whom he appears to love and is now a professor anthropology in Delaware, also w ...more
Feb 15, 2016 Realini rated it it was amazing
A Flag for Sunrise by Robert Stone

Monumental may sound exaggerated, but that is how I feel about this chef d'oeuvre

Robert Stone had already impressed me before A Flag, but I have to say that the size of the novel and the appearance of a complicated, challenging plot has put me off when I first tried it.
That only proves how shallow and fickle this reader can be.
And what a missed opportunity this masterpiece could have been.
I am not sure if I have read, imagined or I am just making up a comparison
The late 1970s. A remote coastal village in a Central American dictatorship. An army lieutenant summons a Catholic missionary and orders him to dispose of the body of the young Canadian tourist in his icebox. And that is how Robert Stone's Cold War epic begins... Read on!


[two weeks later]

Well it's a shame but the summary verdict is that the book did not fulfill its early promise. Robert Stone takes an awfully long time to get nowhere and when he does get there, he torpedoes his own narrative wi
Streator Johnson
Dec 19, 2015 Streator Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written in a the boldly masculine style of Ernest Hemingway, this book is so set in Reagan era Central American politics that it is hard to believe it was released in 1981. Set in a fictional Nicaragua or Guatemala, it covers a few weeks in the lives of several folks who are so disconnected from rational human interaction, that it is hard to have any empathy for them. While I was strangely captured by the writing and the rather clumsy way the various story lines were brought together in the end, ...more
Michael Shilling
Bloated scenes and characters lecturing each other. Very disappointing.
Jan 24, 2015 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I happened to be reading this when Stone died. I started it before a trip to Nicaragua and finished it up afterwards. The book is set in the late-'70s in Tecan, a mythical Central American country somewhat analogous to Guatemala or El Salvador. Revolution is brewing, the CIA is nosing around, and the country is a magnet for lost souls, deluded do-gooders, and opportunists out to make a quick buck off the turmoil. Oh, and a couple of grade-A psychopaths. Stone follows an anthropologist being pres ...more
BIPL Reads
Jul 26, 2012 BIPL Reads rated it it was amazing
Shelves: skye
Robert Stone is the great American poet of desperation and paranoia, having survived both a seat on Ken Kesey’s magic bus full of Merry Pranksters and life as a stringer for a defunct European magazine in Vietnam during the war years, a period which produced the National Book Award winner Dog Soldiers. A Flag For Sunrise is a later effort, published in 1981.

A Flag For Sunrise is set in a Central American country called Tecan. Tecan is on the brink of a revolution. Three groups of Americans, unk
Frank O'Neill
Jul 13, 2013 Frank O'Neill rated it really liked it
A Flag for Sunrise is the story of four very different people who are brought together by the growing revolutionary conflict in a Central American country that seems very much like Nicaragua nine years before the Sandinista Revolution ousted Anastasio Somoza and broke an eighty year chain of U.S.-backed dictatorships.
• Holliwell is an American academic who spent time in Vietnam before going to Honduras to speak at the university. He is drafted by a pair of CIA agents to come with them to the
Jim Leckband
Jan 10, 2012 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A Flag for Sunrise" is not an easy book. It doesn't have a conventional thriller plot, easily drawn characters or an easy chain of events and motivations to follow. While it has plenty of action (especially at the end) it is like an updated Under the Volcano, where the landscape of Latin America is fully charged with myths and sacred/profane danger.

The main thing I fixed on while reading the book was the necessity and futility of transformation. Everything and everybody is being transformed - t
Eli Bishop
Apr 05, 2012 Eli Bishop rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
This looks at first like a straightforwardly political novel, a fictionalized version of the hideous behavior of U.S. allies in Central America in the 1980s, as witnessed by a well-meaning Yankee academic, a speed-freak sailor on a smuggling boat, and a pair of Catholic missionaries out of Graham Greene. It's not. It sketches in enough of that to feel real, but only just enough; the civil war is represented by a couple of murders, a couple of betrayals, big plans whose outcomes we never find out ...more
Oct 24, 2011 Lou rated it liked it
Recommended to Lou by: NPR radio
I heard a review of this novel on NPR. Sounded good. The reviewer praised the author. An enjoyable novel about South American nation in turmoil, CIA influence, gunrunners, missionaries, big bad USA up North and its influence overall, poverty in the third world, corruption, etc...."Nice Summer read" with some interesting commentary about our priorities and their struggle to survive. Picks up speed midway with all the characters heading towards some meeting point that I havent reached yet....Inter ...more
Agnes Mack
From the first page of A Flag for Sunrise, it was obvious I was dealing with a brilliant and incredibly talented author. Robert Stone interweaves a handful of different storylines very impressively, and his dialog is spot-on. That should be enough for a 5-star rating, but unfortunately his talent seemed quite wasted on this tome. I didn't care about the characters, I didn't care about the plot, and overall it was simply boring.

It's unusual for me to care about any of that, because I'm typically
Fran Wilkins
Aug 20, 2009 Fran Wilkins rated it really liked it
I listened to the version that is brilliantly narrated by Stephen Lang (Swarthmore graduate with my husband). The novel takes a very philosophical stance regarding Americans that are out of place in places that are out of the way. Set in a banana republic on the verge of a coup, it explores reasons why outside actors interfere in foreign politics. Many of the characters are continuing the interference from their time in Vietnam.
It is very well written and certainly deserving of the
Louis Macko
Mar 01, 2016 Louis Macko rated it did not like it
Both I and the Anglo-Nigerian girl who sat next to me in American Lit. despised this novel.
Eve Kay
May 13, 2016 Eve Kay rated it it was ok
I had a hard time with this:
The two stars are for the dark and twisted characters and some of the crazy sht that went down.
Unfortunately I found this very heavy and the plot didn't flow at all so it was more of a struggle to get through.
There were some excellent insights into humanity and our way of life, it was just brought to my attention in a very tedious way.
May 23, 2015 N rated it did not like it
Forglemmelig eksistensialistisk thriller, men mer eksistensialisme enn plot
Leah Adams
Jul 13, 2013 Leah Adams rated it liked it
The book follows three Americans involved in a fictional Central American country in the 1980's. The plot is sketched in lightly, and the reader has to fill in the blanks. The three characters meet on the eve of revolution. The CIA, American companies, the fictional military government of this Central American country, representatives of the Catholic Church's liberation theology movement, and international mercenaries all play a role. I had difficulty staying with this book. I'm not sure if it w ...more
Carol Stowe
Oct 03, 2013 Carol Stowe rated it it was amazing
Robert Stone expertly blended the lives of six main characters and a number of minor characters together to bring them all together in a Latin American country on the brink of rebellion. Using third person omniscient, he gave each character's thoughts, wants, and needs. Each story had a beginning, middle and ending, and each character got what they wanted in the end, although the reader wasn't sure what was wanted until the ending. I don't read a lot of political intrigue, but I just couldn't pu ...more
Richard Toscan
Dec 05, 2013 Richard Toscan rated it it was amazing
A Flag for Sunrise made me want to go back and reread Graham Greene's novels set in Central America and the islands. The echos of Greene in Stone's writing here go beyond the setting to what seems a shared interest in the question of faith (or more properly, the lack of it) among the laity and clergy alike, especially Catholic clergy, in a country marred by US meddling for economic reasons and a left-wing insurrection. Some 30 years later, this issue continues in Latin America. Stone's novel is ...more
Mar 11, 2008 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: law-and-lit
I believe this was the final book read as part of my “Law and Literature” class in my final semester in law school, designed to reference the period of the 1980s.

The novel is set in a fiction Central American country predictably run by a right wing military regime. The usual cast of characters exists - the whisky priest, the nun, the CIA, the bad guy priest, the American abroad. Bad things happen and people are more complicated than they initially appear. Don’t remember too much about the book
Geoff Wyss
Jul 07, 2013 Geoff Wyss rated it liked it
An action novel with literary pretensions. A lot of over-conceived plotting, too many characters borrowed from pulp fiction and B-movies (e.g., the dashing, sadistic Central American army lieutenant with mirrored sunglasses), everything twisted up to too high a pitch. The book is often astonishingly well written when it sticks to movement, surfaces, weather, textures. But when Stone tries to 'do theme'--and you can never mistake those passages when they come--he is very, very awkward. The last 5 ...more
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ROBERT STONE was the author of seven novels: A Hall of Mirrors, Dog Soldiers (winner of the National Book Award), A Flag for Sunrise, Children of Light, Outerbridge Reach, Damascus Gate, and Bay of Souls. His story collection, Bear and His Daughter, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and his memoir, Prime Green, was published in 2006.
His work was typically characterized by psychological compl
More about Robert Stone...

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“He had undertaken a little assay at the good fight and found that neither the good nor the fight was left to him . . . he had gone after life again and they had shown him life and made him eat it.” 2 likes
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