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The Darling

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,342 ratings  ·  285 reviews
The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the Unite ...more
Audio CD, Unabridged, 0 pages
Published October 12th 2004 by HarperAudio
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Average rating 3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,342 ratings  ·  285 reviews

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Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020

My story in all its versions is only a tale of too-late. Maybe at best it’s a cautionary tale. To my sons I used to say, “Be careful what you wish for. Know what you love best. Beware the things that catch your eye.” And this, I tell you as well: “Never love someone who can’t love you back.”

Hannah Musgrave is a reluctant narrator, probably because her conscience isn’t exactly spotless. But she is a compelling one. Whatever misgivings I have about her stated motivations, her personal witness ac
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pub-2004
A white male American writing a book with a white middle aged female narrator reminiscing over the time she lived in Africa seems like a potential minefield. But somehow, Banks pulled it off and didn’t lose any limbs on the mines.

For many mediocre writers Africa seems ripe for picking, full of conflict and tragedy provides the story with high enough stakes to make up for the lack of talent on the writer’s part. But Banks does it well. He doesn’t use the continent as some shitty metaphor. He tal
Jan 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a scarier version of Philip Roth’s “American Pastoral” in which the indulged upper middle class daughter rejects her comfortable surroundings in suburbia and joins a group of radicals to bring about a utopian socialist society in America, with disastrous consequences.

Hannah Musgrave, the errant darling of the ‘70’s, is nearing her sixtieth year in the early 21st century, and is reflecting on where her idealism and search for purpose has led her. Firstly, she is not a particularly s
Jordan Neville
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I wondered if I had lost my mind...I thought, I could be a madwoman. And I wondered if I was standing there in the dark by the side of a narrow, unpaved road in the eastern hills of Liberia because somewhere back there, without knowing it, I'd lost touch with reality. Lost it in small bits, a single molecule of sanity at a time in a slow, invisible, irreversible process of erosion, and couldn't notice it while it was happening, couldn't take it's measure, until now, when it was too late."

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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lena Webb
Jul 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have incredibly disturbing thoughts about primates, and this book didn't help me out one bit.
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
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
Friederike Knabe
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, us-lit
"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
Stephen Wallant
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 becaus ...more
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What starts out with an almost-elderly woman in a pastoral setting on a farm in the Adirondacks soon becomes an African adventure for a young American woman who rebels against her family and her country.

Hannah Musgrave, an unsympathetic character, if a reliable narrator tells her story and a harrowing one it is. After radical bomb-making in the U.S., the young Hannah is forced to flee the country and ends up in a roundabout fashion in Liberia.

Here she seems to abandon her political ideals. It s
Oct 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, 2014, africa
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
Jun 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Seattle Al
The book is well-written and well-paced, and the descriptions of customs and the war in Liberia are fascinating. The descriptions of the narrator's farm life and experiences in the Weather Underground are also believable and intriguing. However, where the book falls down is in the plausibility and likability of the main character (the narrator). Her sexual encounters are not realistic, nor are her reactions to them. More importantly, Hannah is too unlikable to bring the reader to care about her. ...more
Aug 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Ataua
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hannah is ‘the darling’ of American wealth and privilege , and the story charts her life from early anti-establishment activity in the seventies through her life in ,and return to, Liberia in turbulent times. It’s thoughtfully written and holds you captive right up to the end. It has a lot to say about Hannah ,not much of which is good , but it also seems to offer a reading that mirrors her with American Foreign policy in the region. Or am I just reading too much into it? Banks is always worth r ...more
Apr 01, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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."
Julie Christine
A brilliant and devastating work that shows through the fictional life of its female protagonist the real horrors of revolution and dictatorship in Liberia. Banks is a master writer who can reveal both the lovable and despicable in his characters and bring alive a piece of history through a story that is utterly believable.
Dec 28, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sep 20, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
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."
Carla Patterson
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-challenge
I don't know what to think about this book... once I started it, I couldn't put it down, though. What I find most arresting is that I believed the protagonist could exist and, therefore, the things she felt and thought and did held water. No matter how differently she and I perceived things, I took it for granted a woman like her could exist.

Fascinating how Banks sees macro and micro events from a similar vantage point, giving them each more validity whether true (or known) or not. I want to rea
Abby Russo
Nov 26, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF -- this book might raise important issues about American influence overseas and representations of Western African countries like Ghana and Liberia, but no amount of important issues could make up for the selfish, condescending and cruel narrator.
Mar 20, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't finished reading the book, just couldn't get interested in it.
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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

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