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3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  309 ratings  ·  76 reviews

With Exiles, Ron Hansen tells the story of a notorious shipwreck that prompted Gerard Manley Hopkins to break years of “elected silence” with an outpouring of dazzling poetry.

In December 1875 the steamship Deutschland left Bremen, bound for England and then America. On board were five young nuns who, exiled by Bismarck’s laws against Catholic religious orders, were going

Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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such a huge disappointment. it reads like turgid biography: stilted, rhythmically predictable and monotonous, and, well, just hugely boring. i love the idea (about the various layers of exile we suffer/endure), but there's no reason for it to have been so incredibly dull. i don't understand how Hansen could take someone whose inner life was so rich and poetic and spiritual and turn him into such a colorless bore. boo. i honestly don't know where the rave reviews are coming from because this book...more
I've now read six of Ron Hansen's books, and this is my second favorite, after Desperadoes. Switching from an exciting account of a shipwreck off the British coast in the 1870's and the later life of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was inspired by the death of five nuns leaving Germany for America to escape the anti-Catholicism promulgated by Bismarck to write what is considered his greatest poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland.

Though little is known of the actual nuns' lives, Hansen creates i...more
Hansen, Ron. EXILES. (2008). *****. I don’t think that this novel is for everyone, but I thought it was terrific. Hansen has woven into this story the life of Gerard Manly Hopkins, the sinking of the liner Deutschland in 1875, and the deaths of five nuns who were aboard that ship. The event so moved Hopkins that he wrote his famous poem, “The Wreck of the Deutchland,” that, unfortunately, only published after his death. Hopkins at the time was ordained within the Society of Jesus, and was being...more
This book opened me up to the power of G. M. Hopkins and just how far a man can go with words. In his collision of two separate souls--a young nun in the last twelve hours of her life as the boat taking her to religious sinks (within swimming distance to the English shore) and a young man suffering from mania, digestive disturbances, and despair--Ron Hansen reveals to us the toll great devouring genius takes on the sensitive ones of this world.

Listen and drink this in:

"As kingfishers catch fir
John O'Brien
Well I generally only start and finish books I think are very good, and Ron Hansen does not disappoint. He's just such a fine writer, and there are zingers on every page. Yet, as others have noted, this is not Mariette in Ecstasy. First, it is much more biographical in style - both of poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins and of the five German nuns who were the subject of his poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland". As a Jesuit myself I found the description of SJ life in Britain in the 19th century to...more
Jonathan Schildbach
To explain the subject matter of this book makes it kind of a difficult sell: a somewhat eccentric Jesuit student is inspired to return to poetry following the deaths of five German Jesuit nuns in a shipwreck. The poet is Gerard Manley Hopkins, and the whole book is based on actual events. Much like his other historical fiction, Hansen creates believable characters, including complex inner lives, by weaving historical fact in with his imagination. He combines the drama and adventure of a shipwre...more
I was very moved by this work of historical fiction. It follows the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins through his career as a Jesuit priest and his writing of the poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland." His work was inspired by the story of five nuns who were exiled to Missouri from Germany and perished in a shipwreck off the coast of England. Exiles: A Novel describes the interior spiritual life of Hopkins and the nuns, and draws parallels between how they expressed their religious faith, without trivial...more
A Enwright
I had never heard of Ron Hansen until I heard him interviewed about a month ago on the World Over with Raymond Arroyo. He is a wonderful writer. This is the first novel of his I have read and now I am eager to read his other books.

The story basically parallels the life and death of the 5 nuns leaving on the Deutschland for America (because of persecution under Bismark) with that of the life and death of Gerard Manley Hopkins. Among other themes it explores the themes of vocation and transience,...more
Douglas  Donaldson
I bought this book after hearing Teri Gross interview the author on NPR. The book explores issues of grace and meaning at work in the life of the poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as in the lives of five Catholic Sisters exiled from Germany, who died in a shipwreck off the coast of England while on their way to America, This tragedy inspired Hopkins, a Jesuit priest, to resume his vocation as a poet. In his life time, his work was derided by his friends and critics, but--much like Emily Dicki...more
In December 1875 the steamship Deutschland left Bremen, Germany, bound for America. On board were five nuns, exiled by a government ban on religious orders, hoping to begin their lives anew in Missouri. Their journey would end when the Deutschland ran aground at the mouth of the Thames and all five drowned. Ron Hansen tells their harrowing story, but also that of the poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins, and how the shipwreck moved him to write a grand poem, a reveletory work read throughout th...more
Hansen’s eighth novel, Exiles, is slim but has a complex story, the parallel account of five nuns who perished when the Deutschland ran aground off England in 1875 and the English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who wrote the posthumously famous “The Wreck of the Deutschland.” Hansen has gone back in time successfully before, often even to the 19th century. He has also explored the interiors of spirituality successfully before (Mariette in Ecstasy). But whether it’s the alien places and cultures (Eng...more
As in an earlier novel, Mariette in Ecstasy, in Exiles Ron Hansen traces the agonies and ecstasies of a devout Catholic--in this case, the 19th-century poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins--illuminating the attractions of the religious life without minimizing its painful restrictions and cruel sacrifices.

Hopkins's narrative poem "The Wreck of the Deutchland"--his first lengthy experiment in "sprung rhythm," as well as one the great poems that never saw print in his lifetime--is the centerpiece...more
EXILES by Ron Hansen is a novel which examines the mystical ties between the challenges experienced by poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins and the deaths of five German nuns in sea disaster. Hopkins' poem "The Wreck of the Deutschland" is woven into the narrative. The first chapters of the book I found riveting for the realistic descriptions of Hopkins' life with the Jesuit scholastics; it was so beautifully written that every line needed to be savored. However, as the book progressed,...more
Gerard (not Gerald) Manley Hopkins died on June 8th—the same day I finished this book. As I was reading the Epilogue last night and noticed he was buried on June 11th, I went back to check the actual day of his death (which I did not know) and felt a chill and thrill of communication as I realized that in concluding this book about him I was commemorating his death 123 years ago. Does this happen to you very often? It does to me!

I’m not really a fan of poetry* and I began this book with virtuall...more
I had high hopes for this book--when I heard it was about Gerard Manley Hopkins and his return to writing with "The Wreck of the Deutschland," I was interested to see how a novelist would imagine the thought process and tensions behind such a choice. However, this book was a big disappointment for many reasons. In part, because of Hansen's dutiful research--so many details seemed placed merely to show that he'd found them through careful poring through documents. In fact, at one point, when one...more
Superbly written and completely engaging. I am neither Catholic nor have a background in Jesuit doctrine, and have only a passing familiarity with the poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but Hansen's portraits -- of Hopkins, the nuns who are the subject of the epic poem (included as an addendum to the book) and the parallels between the various exiles of the title -- are insightful, powerful and moving. It's also a short and accessible read, especially given that it is literary fiction of the first...more
What an interesting story! The author did a very good job about weaving together two distinct stories and how one impacted the life of another. One of the stories involved five German sisters who were exiled to the U.S. from their country due to religious persecution. They were on their journey to America when a tragic shipwreck occurred. The second story involved a Jesuit priest who reads about their shipwreck and is so moved that he writes a poem about it. I had no idea about the religious per...more
In Exiles, Ron Hansen deftly pairs the interior emotions of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the nuns he memorializes in The Wreck of the Deutschland with the storm at sea which seals the nuns fate.

Who has not harbored an ecstatic longing for a world without boundaries, safe within the unconditional, all encompassing, loving arms of God?

In this tale, Hopkins' God is all powerful but not demonstrably kind. God's power is awesome and seductive. God's ways are inexplicable, as unknowable as the vicis...more
Mar 08, 2009 Guy rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Only those truly obsessed with 19th century poets, fans of multiple violent deaths
What was most bothersome to me about this book was the gruesome chronicling of each death. Who would think there was such a variety of ways to expire on a sinking ship? Up until I reached that part of the book, I was merely bored and depressed with the story. It's not quite a biography, but it lacks the plot of a true adventure or historical novel. Since the author has chosen to populate half of the story with characters with imagined backgrounds, the credibility of the other half of the story s...more
Sep 07, 2008 Lynne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poets, admirers of Hopkins
Recommended to Lynne by: review
This is an interesting book about poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the disaster that led to his ground breaking poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland," included in its entirety in the appendix. It reads almost more like a biography than a novel. The author, fascinated by religious life (Mariette in Ecstasy), reveals Hopkins, a convert to Catholicism, a Jesuit priest, as a tortured yet ecstatic soul...worn out by his duties, despairing at not being able to write, yet forging a new direction for modern...more
Aug 15, 2008 Bart rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in theological horizons in fiction
Recommended to Bart by: advertisement in NY Review of Books
Shelves: literary-fiction
I adored this book; it's a truly remarkable work. I enjoyed every page of it, wished it were longer, and was sad to see it end. It's an odd book, made up of two separate stories--the first that of five emigre German nuns en route to the US who are killed in a shipwreck and the second that of poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.--that are unified only in the priest's writing of a poem about the nuns. Their stories are small but oddly heroic. And Hansen recounts them in a way that is deeply respec...more
I first discovered Ron Hansen when I stumbled across his 1992 title, Mariette in Ecstasy, an exquisitely evoked novel which takes place in a convent in rural upstate New York just after the turn of the century. In Exiles, Hansen returns to a portrayal of religious community, presenting an interwoven tale of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the five exiled nuns whose deaths compelled him to write his poem, The Wreck of the Deutschland. I loved Exiles. It is at once the drama of a shipwre...more
Thoughtful novel about the life of Gerard Manley Hopkins and the background for his poem "The Wreck of the Deutchland". The poem is included at the back of the novel and is a challenging read because of Hopkins clever rhyme scheme.

Ron Hansen's prose is very effective and moving. You get caught up in the nineteenth century. You learn why ship wrecks were so common in those times. The stories of the five nuns who perished in the wreck is also moving. Hansen does an excellent job of integrating his...more
Ron Hansen's blend of biography and novel makes for an interesting read that opens up a little-known (at least to me) tragedy peopled with fascinating characters. The people, of course, make the book worth reading, especially the five German Franciscan nuns who were exiled to America but died in a horrible shipwreck before they could get there. Their individual personalities shine from beneath their austere habits in ways that could indeed inspire poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to pen a 35-stanza od...more
Margaret Mary
Sad story all around, but interesting portrayals of the value of sacrifice and humility. It was very interesting to learn more about Hopkins.
Andrew Pritchard
A novel about Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit period of his life, his interest in the sinking of the Deutschland which gave rise to his poem The Wreck of the Deutschland and reflections on the lives of the five nuns who lost their lives in that wreck. I enjoyed and learnt a lot from this book. Kapiti Library Feb 2014
Nov 29, 2008 Gordon rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: David Liss
Recommended to Gordon by: Jo Piltz
Shelves: school
This is the story of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the great poet of "God's Grandeur" and the nuns who perished on the Deutchland and were memorialized by him in the great poem. It traces their lives of sacred duty that intersect on the cold bank in the Thames estuary. For anyone who is interested in value of faith and its ability to overcome the brute force of life, this book is for you. It isn't about a honey sweet world. It's about resolve in the face of vicissitude.
Katherine Willis Pershey
This is a novel based on historical events, and even though the author clearly articulates in the beginning that this is a work of creative fiction, my biggest complaint about the book is that it didn't feel enough like a novel. It felt more like biography and/or historical account, complete with relevant quotes and excerpts from letters.

Other than that, I liked it. Impeccable use of the English language. And it made me want to read more Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Angela Hathikhanavala

Hopkins is the only English poet of his era that I truly love -- a Modern writing in the Victorian era. He really knew how to use sound.

However, I actually found the imagined stories of the 5 real nuns (who, by perishing in a shipwreck, inspired Hopkins' return to poetry) more moving than the mostly factual story of Hopkins, which was surprisingly dry. I guess that's why fiction exists -- perhaps a few more liberties should have been taken!

Gerard Manley Hopkins, silenced from his beautiful poetry for religious reasons, is jolted back to his writing life when he learns of five nuns who drown in a shipwreck at sea. This book came to me at the wrong time, when none of it made sense to me. I'm going to pick it up again a year from now, because the combination of Hansen's voice with Hopkins's poetry, religious straining, grief, drowning and literature must be great. Probably just the time.
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Hansen was born in Omaha, Nebraska, attended a Jesuit high school, Creighton Preparatory School and earned a Bachelor's degree in English from Creighton University in Omaha in 1970. Following military service, he earned an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1974 and held a Wallace Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University. He later earned an M.A. in Spirituality from Santa...more
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