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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  461 ratings  ·  106 reviews
The year is 1862, and the Civil War rages through the South. On a Virginia tobacco plantation, another kind of battle soon begins. There, Cassius Howard, a skilled carpenter and slave, risks everything--punishment, sale to a cotton plantation, even his life--to learn the truth concerning the murder of Emoline, a freed black woman, a woman who secretly taught him to read an ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2008)
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Community Reviews

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I was powerfully drawn into this world of Cassius, a slave on a tobacco plantation in Virginia in 1862, Sweetsmoke. He has survived a lot in this twisted world , and though he is privileged to work as a carpenter instead of a field hand, he is in danger of losing his humanity:
He remembered first hand the trauma of separation when his mother was sold. He was raised by Mam Rosie and for a brief time her husband Darby, as Darby was sold soon after. He grew tall and made himself a secret promise tha
I live in the south. Every day, I see relics of days that to some symbolize the glory of the south, to others, a time of great shame for humankind. I was not born into southern culture (indeed, my own family fled from persecution elsewhere to settle in the United States in the days before World War I), but I still feel the scars that the enslavement of African Americans left on our world. When a friend from another country had trouble enjoying a visit to Charleston, saying he could feel the pain ...more
This is a dry-earth book, filled with very fully-realised characters and the sort of incidental details I love in a narrative, the kind Mark Twain would deplore: a drifting scrap of cobweb, the precise way the wind shakes the trees, suchlike things.

The protagonist is an extremely emotionally repressed man, which makes his reactions interesting but imparts a very detached feel to the narrative. A plantation slave wandering Virginia in 1862 has some visceral sights to see, but nothing really moves
By David Fuller
5 stars
pp. 310

Sweetsmoke by David Fuller is a mystery. Sweetsmoke by David Fuller is a character study. Sweetsmoke by David Fuller is a historical fiction. It is truly all of these and more. David Fuller spent eight years researching and writing this novel about a plantation called Sweetsmoke set in 1862 during the Civil War. His work is deeply moving, with prose that brings the reader into the setting and characters which are complex and interesting. Fuller does not shy
Mocha Girl
The advanced praise and publisher's accolades for Sweetsmoke are not unwarranted. David Fuller has penned a rich, full-bodied story that centers on a slave's (Cassius) desire to identify the killer of a free-woman who is endeared to him via bewildering circumstances. To its credit, the novel goes deeper than the average "whodunit." It is the equally complex sub-plots, the noble and conniving characters, the accuracy of the historical content, and the wonderfully imagined social network of life, ...more
Nov 02, 2009 Tony rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jamila
Shelves: novels
I have to admit that this book's basic premise was strong enough to carry me through the story's few rough patches. Set in the midst of the Civil War (1862), the story introduces us to Cassius, a slave carpenter. He enjoys a special status among the slaves at the titular Virginia tobacco plantation -- not only for his skill as a craftsman (which makes him more valuable than mere field hands), but also because he was a childhood playmate of the plantation's master. The death of his wife and child ...more
I initially waivered on whether or not to read this book. The premise -- a slave investigating a murder -- was interesting, but seemed like the kind of plot that could go really, really wrong and become completely unrealistic. I am so glad that I finally decided to read this book, as I really enjoyed it. I found myself interested both in the mystery and the characters themselves. The liberties which the slave Cassius were granted made sense in the context of the storyline and the complex relatio ...more
I finally figured out what made this book so awkward to read. Only the free people's speech was in quotation marks. This left all the slaves' speech out of quotation marks. When some speech is in quotes and some isn't it makes for a very difficult read. It made it hard to tell what was really being said and what was thought process. It was an interesting concept for writing a Civil War era historical fiction novel, but in practice it just ended up being awkward and hard to read.

I ended up skimmi
Kara Huggard
With an abundance of excellent books about the Civil War south and slavery there is no need to read Sweetsmoke. David Fuller's book is part murder mystery, part description of plantation life, and part war novel. Unfortunately because it tries to to fulfill so many roles it fulfills none of them well. By the time the murder mystery was finally solved, I had become distracted by so many other plot lines that I no longer cared who the murderer was. Additionally, with the exception of the main char ...more
Rated 4-1/2 if the site allowed it. David Fuller is a screen writer, thus he has an excellent command of pacing, which was evident in this book. Although this book read like a character-driven novel, there was action at every turn.

Cassius is a 30-something slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation, Sweetsmoke, owned by Hoke Howard, who has been his only owner and had named him at birth. The whereabouts of his parents is never discussed, but he was raised by old Mam' Rosie, who also raised Hoke's c
Wisteria Leigh
Sweetsmoke, is the name of a fictitious southern plantation owned by Hoke Howard. The story takes place sometime during the Civil War when the roles of owner and master are hanging in the balance. Slaves are running to taste freedom and owners are desperate to maintain the status quo by creating horrific examples of those who dare to flee. Both master and slave are afraid, for the future is precarious and unknown.[return][return]Hoke Howard is the owner of Sweetsmoke consisting of the land, toba ...more
Sweetsmoke is an evocative title. It draws in the senses and sets a mood. The novel does the same. It draws us into the life of Cassius, a slave on the Sweetsmoke plantation during the Civil War, and gives us a sense of the sights, sounds, and smells of that life. Even more importantly, though, it imparts, more effectively than any book that I've read, what it means to be a slave, what it means to be an intelligent adult treated as a child or property.

I love historical fiction and this book has
I've never been a big fan of Civil War fiction, but the unusual description and beautiful cover art drew me to this book, and I'm so glad for it. The story follows a slave, Cassius, who works as a carpenter on the Sweetsmoke plantation and enjoys a relative amount of freedom, at least compared to the other slaves. He has also experienced more than his share of tragedy, losing a son to the slave traders, a wife to suicide, and a mentor to murder. It is the final tragedy, the murder of the free bl ...more
David Fuller's first novel follows Cassius, a slave on the Virginia tobacco plantation Sweetsmoke. As the American Civil War rages on the periphery, Cassius spends his days tending to carpentry needs on the plantation and taking advantage of the small amount of freedom granted to him by the plantation master, Hoke Howard.

After a close friend is murdered, Cassius vows to find the killer, even though he risks the few things he holds dear in the process.

At its core, Sweetsmoke is a decent novel, es
Todd Stockslager
First-time novelist puts his screenwriting background to good use in "Sweetsmoke". While historical fiction about the Civil War is a crowded genre all by itself, "Sweetsmoke" harvests new fields by focusing on

--a plantation in Central Virginia, not the Deep South or Virginia Tidewater settings more often chosen.

--1862, a year early in the war, before events reached an ebb tide of inevitability that often overwhelms Civil War novels.

--events on the plantation, not on the war. The war is barely-no
Gina Marcelin
I read this book, and it along with others is the reason I doubt that White people can write from the Black perspective. Whenever I read where a Negro character wants to perserve his place in slavery because they have it so good, I always look up the author and invarabily it is a White person. This book is no different and it ruins my ability to enjoy the book. While I don't think every book should be about the horrors of slavery, I do think that writers should do research and write characters w ...more
The hardest thing to get used to while reading this book, is the author chose not to use quotation marks to denote when the slaves were speaking, only the white people and freed slaves conversations were separated by quotes. I found myself having to reread sentences as I realized they were verbal comments. But the adjustment is quick.
My review of this book is not nearly as positive as many of the others I've seen. I found Sweetsmoke to be uninteresting, and it caused my reading pace to come to a screeching halt; I really should have given up on it when I realized that I had no interest in going back to it after weeks on end. It is a murder mystery, framed as an historical fiction story that follows Cassius, a tobacco plantation slave, as he tries to solve the murder of fellow slave, Emoline Justice. The character of Cassius ...more
Jun 22, 2008 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Mary K. talked about this one Sunday night. Pubbing in October, we now have multiple ARCs, so please give it a read and add to this review.
Available in stores and online Aug. 27th - SWEETSMOKE by David Fuller is being praised by celebrated authors and readers:

"David Fuller vividly and movingly describes the life of Cassius, a slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Sweetsmoke resonates with unforgettable characters and a gripping story of loss and survival." --Robert Hicks, author of Widow of the South

“Sweetsmoke is a fascinating and gripping novel about the Civil War. The slave, Ca
Bobbie  Crawford
Oct 18, 2008 Bobbie Crawford rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Written By: David Fuller
Published By: Hyperion, 2008, First Edition, 320 pages, hardcover, ISBN 978-1-4013-2331-8

Sweetsmoke is a poignant novel that leads you through the life and mind of a black slave and the worries and difficulties he faces as he goes ‘on a mission’ to find the person who murdered his one, true friend.”BCM

Cassius is a slave-carpenter who is owned by the Howard’s of Sweetsmoke plantation. His life, like that of other slaves in the South, is controlled and manipulat
Eric White
This was a book I was reluctant to read because of the history and abuses endured by African Americans during slavery in this country. The book focus on life on a slave plantation. We get to learn about the workings of a farm, the relationship of the planters to each other, the day to day existing enslaved people had to go through and the economics and the politics of what kept the slavery system alive. What kept me interested in the book was David Fuller, the author, ability to tell the story. ...more
Catherine Stickann
I am particularly drawn to new authors. My husband is a writer and I know the long process of birthing a book. Though there are some "first book" aspects to this novel, it makes up for that in the rich characters Fuller introduces to the reader. This is a wonderful novel of a southern plantation and the people that inhabit it. Though it is a mystery, I really found it to more of a character study of the people of the time. David Fuller gives us several southern white personalities, and a variety ...more
Lorri Sizler
A good story about a slave during the Civil War and a murder he was trying to solve within the constraints of how he could and couldn't travel and where he could and couldn't go. Clearly, he was the plantation (Sweetsmoke) owner's favorite but there was a lot going on and the story got pretty involved unraveling the back story lines. This book gives a lot of insight into plantation life during the Civil War - we're all familiar with the antebellum period but not so much during the war when all t ...more
Lisa James
Written from the perspective of Cassius, a slave, back during the early days of the Civil War, this is a very nicely done tale of just how intertwined the lives of the slaves & their white owners/families were. Cassius is a slight step up from the rest of the slaves, because he is a carpenter, a man with a trade, so he has more liberties than some of the rest of them, & he seems to get away with more sass because he is the favorite of his master Hoke. Through Cassius' travels, & the ...more
Casey Nichols
This is a murder mystery wrapped inside a Civil War period piece depicting plantation life on Tobacco Road. Often the mystery takes a back seat to revealing the life of slaves during the late Antebellum Era. You are drawn into the life of Cassius as he discovers what freedom might mean.
Martha Rosenthal
As someone else said, if I could, I'd give this 4 1/2 stars. It is rich with period detail and well-written. The main characters are multi-dimensional to the point where the reader gets a sense of the complexity of the relationships between white "planters" and "their people" as well as relationships among the planters, and relationships among the slaves. One especially gets a sense of the complex legacy of slavery itself. As a murder mystery it held together well with Cassius's determination to ...more
Oct 21, 2008 Rose rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historical fiction lovers
Recommended to Rose by: J.R.
Wonderful story...has a little bit of everything in it. History (Civil war), anti-war message, slavery, plantation life, love story, detective, murder mystery, and all the while you are learning about a truely awful time in our history. It's bad enough about slavery, but imagine for a moment being a slave and having the intelligence that can outwit everyone around you, including your "master". Although it was difficult for me to get into the heads of the white plantation owners. I just could not ...more
Carole Sojka
I thought this would be another slave narrative, but the protagonist,a smart and rather cocky slave named Cassius, is perceptive, and the story, which allows him to interact not only with the white slave holders who own him, but with others as he journeys north, is structured to allow us to see the relationship of different classes of people to slaves. A minimal mystery--who killed the woman who saved his life--creates tension but more importantly, lets him travel through the south with free bla ...more
Amie Meyer
Very slow to get into. Started to pick up after I was about 2/3 threw the book. I've finished every book I've ever started but this one was painful to finish. Glad it's over.
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