Jonathan Fretheim's Reviews > A Moment in the Sun

A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles
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's review
Jan 24, 2012

really liked it
Read from December 28, 2011 to January 24, 2012

This book is about America and the things that influenced it in the years around the turn of the 20th century.

The influence of the press over public opinion. The advent of moving pictures. The swirling mess of New York City, and hard resistance to change in the south (in particular, the Wilmington massacre in 1898 in North Carolina where white supremacists organized and carried out a coup d'etat of local government, mounting a Gatling gun to a wagon, murdering black citizens, and driving many away from their homes permanently).

The book follows characters through the Spanish-American War (both in Cuba and The Philippines) and the taste of opportunistic imperialism that followed; McKinley's assassination, the Yukon gold rush, and hard life working for mine bosses in the west.

Perspective shifts globally section-by-section throughout the book. An educated Philippine freedom-fighter, first helping to plot the overthrow of the Spanish, then later struggling for sovereignty against the American occupiers. Black enlisted men (professional soldiers), proving themselves as worthy defenders of the flag, and the more rag-tag white volunteer army companies--young men riled-up to join by newspaper accounts of the sinking of the USS Maine in Cuba. A sick boy selling newspapers in New York City, the family of a black doctor exiled from Wilmington struggling to stay afloat in the North--his refined daughter reduced to scrubbing floors when she can find the work.

Everywhere around the world, there are Chinese people willing to do the hardest work for the least pay.

The stories of the characters are moving. War is ugly, love is beautiful but sometimes tragic, and family is complicated. The book is long and I really enjoyed reading it.

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