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The Darling

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  1,762 ratings  ·  236 reviews
Set in Liberia and the United States from 1975 through 1991, The Darling is the story of Hannah Musgrave, a political radical and member of the Weather Underground.

Hannah flees America for West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends of the notorious warlord and ex-president, Charles Taylor. Hannah's encounter with Taylor ultimately triggers a series of e
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 11th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2004)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,805)
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4.5 stars - a really fabulous book - set in the Liberian Civil War, Hannah, ex-weather..., underground. Banks, who is male, chooses to write about a woman in the first person -- and at first it's a bit weird - but in the end, he makes it work. If you're looking for something contemporary with bite and depth, a book about a life poised over the voids of history... you might like it. Nighly rec'd. Banks writes well -- realism -- yet a fine, fine writer.
Aug 30, 2007 Leslie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: non girly-girl women
the woman's point of view is so well done in this book that it's hard to believe it was authored by a man. i simultaneously loved and loathed the main character. the fact that it's historically accurate, and that charles taylor, who is featured prominently in the novel, has been in the press recently, make it all the more interesting.
Friederike Knabe
"There are certain things about me that I won't reveal to you until you understand...", Hannah Musgrave tells her readers. She is the central axis of this rich and engaging tale of one woman's journey from a privileged childhood to a quiet life on a farm in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The interim period, however, is dramatic and unconventional. She drops out of her middle class life as a young student, frustrated with the comfort of that life and the people around her. Joining ...more
War, massacre and menage a trois (thanks to LC for coining this phrase!). That pretty much sums up this disappointing book by the author of the great "The Sweet Hereafter". "The Darling" is long-winded, self indulgent, and at times, quite unrealistic. The protagonist is a white woman who fled to Liberia after creating and setting off a few bombs for the Weather Underground. We are constantly reminded of her mindset (and her bed mates) and she doesn't come off as an authentic female character, bu ...more
Lena Webb
I have incredibly disturbing thoughts about primates, and this book didn't help me out one bit.
The main character was so despicable!

As I read this book, I wanted to grab Hannah/Dawn and smack her face. What a despicable character....and what a writing genius Banks is, at least in this book, to make me feel this way.

However, I like linear novels, so Banks' jumping back and forth in time is NOT my favorite device. This is not a spoiler: Wouldn't the book have been just as effective if the reader had not known at the beginning that Hannah escaped from Liberia and got back to the States? Wha
Stephen Wallant
OK No. Anyone who says anything about this book is wrong. This book is about this girl in the weather underground, like your parents? And Forrest Gump. So she goes underground. But she's not like the girl in American Pastoral who becomes totally annoying and pisses everyone off. Not that she didn't piss a LOT of people off. So she goes into hiding, and fucks off to Africa. Aggra. Agra. Ghana! Word, I TOTALLY want to go to Agra, Ghana after reading this book.

OK so she's hiding out. And who is she
Dec 19, 2008 Dayna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Dayna by: my boss
This book doesn't take on life until 1/4 way in, when Hannah Musgrave has returned to Liberia (to which she first fled in order to escape her possible imprisonment as a member of the the Weather Underground) to confront certain "ghosts" from her past. Russell Banks, to his credit, keeps these ghosts rather vague - does she return to confront the spirits of the chimpanzees who had fallen under her care and who perished because of her choices? Or to find the sons she had abandoned, the sons who ha ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
There aren't many Liberian authors - something like three, according to Wikipedia - and there aren't many books set there either. If you want a good idea of what the deal is with Liberia, where it is and what happened in its recent history, this is an excellent book for educating yourself.

Hannah Musgrove is a well-educated American with a famous doctor for a father and a fluttering, apparently silly woman for a mother. It's the 60s, and just before finishing her medical degree she drops out and
I'd forgotten how much I love Russell Banks. The Darling is complex, sprawling, melancholy, and terrifying, and it taught me more about Liberia than I thought I'd ever learn (and want to know). It's useless to try and summarize the plot except to say that it's about a woman who becomes a traitor to the U.S. in the 60's, moves to Africa, marries a member of Liberia's ruling party, and opens a sanctuary for chimps. Except it's so much more than that. Like his earlier novel Cloudsplitter (about rad ...more
Until the very last page, I wondered why this wasn't called "The Dreamers." A book that melds 1960s radical activism (Civil Rights Movement, feminism, and Weather Underground) and political upheaval in Liberia, there was enough history to keep me reading. Hannah Musgrove was an exasperating protagonist: too self-reflective yet not quite introspective, unable to (openly) love people but willing to commit emotionally to animals, hard on others but somehow letting herself off. The CIA, American rad ...more
I really wanted to like this book, and it was a very good book, but I didn't really like it. As always, Banks's writing is gorgeous. Though the book is written in first person, Liberia was, for me, the central character, primarily because the narrator was so detached from the events she described that I was detached from her. It was quite odd, reading a first-person narrative and feeling so little connection to the narrator. The reading group guide led me to believe I should have gained all thes ...more
This might be a spoilerish review, better read after the book. As we meet Hannah Musgrave, she's an organic farmer in her fifties; a woman haunted by a past that she is finally willing to confront. In a first-person, confessional tone, Musgrave brings the reader along as she returns to Africa; revisiting the climax of her early life. Along the way, we learn that Musgrave was the privileged daughter of a semi-famous liberal activist father and a Junior League/charity works mother; a civil rights ...more

And I thought Rule of the Bone was wack...

Somehow, Russell Banks ties his beloved Adirondack Mountains to subversive Left-wing anti-government activity of the late 60s-early 70s AND throws in a historical portrait of war-torn, bloody West Africa in the mid 70s-early 80s, whips up a frothy stew, and comes up with quite an engaging, page-turning little gem in The Darling. Much like Banks did with Cloudsplitter and John Brown's life, (but with considerably more attention-grabbing bravado), he takes
Who is the protagonist of Russell Banks’s 2004 novel The Darling? Is it Hannah Musgrave, the privileged daughter of a famous New England child-rearing expert? Perhaps Dawn Carrington, the political radical and member of the Weather Underground---a woman who forges passports, builds bombs, and is ultimately forced to flee America to avoid imprisonment? Maybe the novel’s protagonist/anti-heroine is Mrs. Woodrow Sundiata, the wife of Liberia’s Assistant Minister of Public Health? Hannah/Dawn/Mrs. S ...more
I saw Russell Banks read when Affliction first came out. He came across as a very thoughtful man who was a novelist of the human heart--the book is one of his best, though I was also quite fond of Continental Drift. Banks had a mind towards international waters (he said in the Q & A afterwards, when someone asked how much he knew about Haiti when writing Drift, that he only started learning about the place when he decided he wanted to write about it and did not decide to write about Haiti be ...more
Apr 01, 2009 Ryan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: africa
I really, really enjoyed this book, found it very engrossing and well-written. In reading the other reviews I found that people really hated the main character, Hannah, but I found her to be very real. Yes, very cold and detached and definitely flawed, but I found her voice to be shockingly believable and relatable, especially since it's written by a man.

The book is about a woman who has had 3 lives - first as the privileged daughter who joins the Weather Underground, second as the American seek
i did not understand the narrator one iota. now, that is not always necessary for me to enjoy a book. but this person did not feel real, feel human. she was a person with a story that might have happened - but this narrator was an empty shell. this story could not possibly have happened to HER. maybe that was what the book was trying to say (she was incredibly detached?) - but if so - i never felt like that dynamic was explored. i also found her annoying. again, this doesn't doom a book for me. ...more
I found The Darling to be a political-historical narrative of great scope and range. The "darling" of the story is Dawn Carrington, neé Hannah Musgrave, a political radical and member of the Weather Underground forced to flee America to avoid arrest. At the time of the novel, she is 59, living on her working farm in upstate New York with four younger women, recalling her life in Liberia and her recent return to that country to look for her sons (Amazon).
I listened to this book on audio and was c
Big fan of all of Russell Banks' work. This one gives great insight to the history of Western influence/exploitation of Africa and how it's ramifications are really coming to a head today. The protagonist is an unsentimental former SDS and WU radical who expatriates to Liberia and marries into the highest tiers of government. Charles Taylor is a significant character in the book which goes on to describe the revolution of which he took over. Particularly interesting in light of Liberia's recent ...more
Apr 01, 2008 Marguerite rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Marguerite by: NYT?
What a weird experience this book was. What a weird experience this book was. It was on one of those best-of lists, and I brought it home dutifully and read about 100 pages ... only to realize I'd tried to read it before, but just couldn't get into it. The problem was, it wasn't memorable enough to register on my consciousness, either positively or negatively. This is my literary "Groundhog Day."
Rachel Bell
I love Mr. Banks. This book was an interesting read because of the historical events the story is wrapped around. However, I had a difficult time believing that the main character, a mother, could be that detached. It is some how believable when he writes about men but his foray into writing from a female voice I think falls short.
Protagonist was completely unbelievable as a woman or mother. Doesn't seem as though the author's research on Monrovia was thorough. Please - especially if you are a friend of mine looking for information on Liberia - do not read this. Read The House On Sugar Beach, which is a much more accurate description.
Ayelet Waldman
I usually shy away from books about Africa. Something about them -- the light is too harsh. I know that sounds insane, but it's the best I can do to describe how I feel. But this book was mesmerizing. Shows the power of good writing to overcome any bias.
An interesting story, very timely as we listen to news of Charles Taylor's trial in the Hague for war crimes while ruling Liberia. THe disapointment is that the protagonist is a very un-maternal female, created by a male and somewhathrd to relate to.
This author's most spectacular failure to date. The main character is whiny and strange, and the minor African characters with whom she interacts are inscrutably vicious stereotypes of the "uncivilized other."
The story is of this only child that has a father that is a famous pediatrician that writes child rearing books. She has been his social experience.
She has grown up to be a rebel and join the Weather underground. She is a bit player but must (or so it seems) escape the country. She escapes to Africa and makes a life there.
I did not like this character. She was not at all sympathetic. Her maternal instincts (if she had any) were glossed over. Her focus was her chimpanzees (her dreamers) but even
It's not often that you get a book set in Liberia, and even more improbable to find it tied to the SDS and Weather Underground movements of the 60's and 70's but that's what happens here. A very entertaining read and very informative on the development of Liberia and its first civil war but for me, there was one defect, all too common in a book where the author writes in the voice of the opposite gender and that was that the narrator sounded a little flat to me. Instead of empathizing with the p ...more
Banks does an extremely convincing female voice as narrator, not just in the good ways. It can be a little scatter brained- wandering off on every emotional tangent on every detail in every scene.

Be prepared for a pound of philosophizing, psychological introspection, social responsibility/awareness, and flowery metaphor for each tsp. of plot or setting. Not only is it flowery in its language, metaphors, and symbolism, but even its logistics. Much of it is a credit to the author, but it may be j
Kevin Murray
I like Russell Banks a lot and am very interested in stories about what happened to Weather people after that experience. There is a lot to like in this one, but, in the end, it came up short for me. Hannah/Dawn is a well-drawn, if not completely believable, character. The Africans, however, seem wooden and srereotypical. That may be a product of the fact that they are all seen through her quite detached eyes, but it didn't work for me. This story needed real Africans to match some of Banks' oth ...more
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Russell Banks is a member of the International Parliament of Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes and awards. He has written fiction, and more recently, non-fiction, with Dreaming up America. His main works include the novels Continental Drift, Rule of the Bone, Cloudsplit ...more
More about Russell Banks...
Rule of the Bone The Sweet Hereafter Lost Memory of Skin Cloudsplitter Affliction

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“my blue eyes peering into their brown eyes and seeing there some essential part of myself, some irreducible aspect of my being, which in turn gave them back the same reflected version of themselves” 2 likes
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