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The Devil's Dream

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  960 ratings  ·  73 reviews
"She writes lyric, luminous prose; her craft is so strong it becomes transparent, and, like the best of storytellers, she knows how to get out of the way so that the story can tell itself."
Moses Bailey, a preacher's son, forbade his fiddle-loving wife Kate Malone to play. But while he was gone on his travels, looking for God, Kate couldn't help herse
Paperback, 320 pages
Published June 1st 1993 by Ballantine Books (first published 1992)
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4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  960 ratings  ·  73 reviews

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A multigenerational saga about a family of country music fiddlers and song artists. We begin in the 1800s and conclude in the 1960s, with the country music star Katie Cocker. The pull of music is strong in the family. Religion equally so. We meet six generations of the family. As the years pass, we move from casual attachments of the heart and love affairs to flagrant adultery, drugs and the treacherous dealings of the music industry and infatuation with stardom. Eating, singing, fiddling progre ...more
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I finally finished reading The Devil's Dream. I've enjoyed reading Lee Smith's other novels. This one is no different. I liked the old country music artists she mentions. The different voices narrating the story works well.
I fell in love with Lee Smith when I read Fair and Tender Ladies, and I have been hoping that I would find another Lee Smith book that would come close to touching it. I have found it. It is The Devil's Dream.

When Moses Bailey, a strictly religious man, marries Kate Malone, a girl who loves fiddling and singing, he tries to suppress her love of music and shut it out of her life. He is not successful, for the music rises in her like water bubbling from a stream. Their story is an unnecessary tra
JG (The Introverted Reader)
It all starts when Moses Bailey marries young, beautiful Kate Malone. The Baileys are known to be a strict, religious family and the Malones are known to be a fun-loving, party family. This dichotomy continues throughout Moses and Kate's family tree. Some of their descendants are fiddle-playing musicians and some are devout church-going folks who frown on their more-popular relatives. The book mainly follows the lives of five different family members. Each one has something to contribute to the ...more
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful intergenerational tale of music, family, religion, the Appalachian south and all the complications thereof! I've been reading some of Smith's earlier works lately, where she's starting to find her groove, and in this novel, she totally found it!

The timing is perfect, as she seems to pace each generation's story in just the right way, and I felt drawn to every character in the book.

This is definitely one of those novels where the family tree on the inside cover is a must. At fir
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
A wonderful novel about the history of blue grass and country music. It's easy to read, and it's so interesting to compare all of the characters to thier real-life counterparts. I read this as Drew and I were taking an Appalacian Music History class. If you love music, this will be a great read for you!
Apr 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: swooningly-good
This book is a very loose re-telling of the story of the Carter family (in itself a fascinating subject) and the effect of one family's musical talent on the whole of country music. By turns funny, sharp and even creepy, this is definitely for anyone who is interested in the history of country music. Of course, it's FICTION (don't be mislead), but see if you can pick out the A.P. Carter character!
Kristina Cole
Mar 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
if you are looking for a great story, lee smith's novels are an excellent place to go. she has a style that is at once lyrical and intimate. this is my favorite of the lee smith novels i've read--it's a story that spans several generations of an appalachian family. from a technical standpoint, i love the switches between narrative styles as the story evolves. from an entertainment standpoint, i was immediately drawn in by the characters and their lives.
May 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
I believe that Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies is considered her masterpiece, but for myself, The Devil's Dream is close to perfect.
I can hear the voices of these characters as they relate the stories of the descendants of Moses Bailey and Kate Malone. I love the people, their strangeness, their humor, their obsessions with life, God, love and music.
Sep 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
My fave author. Recent books are three or four stars compared with first ones, which are all 5. Oral History is a classic for all women to read, all literature and writing students to study.
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lizz, Jess, Cori, Kim
Recommended to Sarah by: Rebecca
I so loved the world that Smith creates in this novel and the family that encompasses that world, that I rationed my reading to one chapter a day, a self-discipline I was not able to keep in the end. Each chapter is a short story in itself, each section a novella, and the complete oeuvre an intricate entwining of stories and generations. Not only is the story riveting, but Smith's writing skills are astonishing. Each narrator (and the novel has many) has their own distinct voice, point of view, ...more
Katie J Schwartz
Lee Smith's The Devil's Dream tells the story of the country-musically-inclined Bailey family, over the course of several generations. The tale is loosely based, I'm told, on the Carter family (For anyone who doesn't know, the most recognizable name from the Carter family is probably June Carter, aka June Carter Cash). The novel is set mainly in and around the Appalachians. It begins with Kate Malone, a young mountain bride whose overly religious husband forbids her to play the fiddle because fi ...more
Jeannette Barnes
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have read almost everything Lee Smith has yet published, have had the privilege of meeting this lady, who's friends with a friend and old colleague of mine from Auburn days. Let me tell you, people, Smith shines like the sun, both in person and in prose.

If I have to choose, _The Devil's Dream_ is my absolute favorite Lee Smith novel. Resonates for me like a good guitar, like the fiddle music haunting the souls of this gifted, tormented mountain-music family for the 200 years it takes to tell t
Jeanmarie Nielsen
Jan 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Compelling read that moves along at a pretty good clip. The first two-thirds meanders through a couple of generations of a family, plus extended family and assorted strays. There are many names to keep track of and, after awhile, it doesn't seem to matter because the story line zeroes in on one particular group. The main character, then, is crystal clear and the last one-third is told in her voice. It's Katie's one-sided conversation, told to you in common dialect, with little backtracks to fill ...more
Patricia Kitto
I read this in preparation for our book club's field trip to Nashville in hopes of getting a flavor for the history of country music. The book was loosely based on the lives of the Carter family and I ended up wishing I was reading a biography of the Carters rather than a fictionalized account.

3 stars for the myriad of characters. 3 stars for the jumble of stories that were a bit of a chore to keep straight.

Enjoyable enough and piqued my interest in the Carter family enough to put Mark Zwonitze
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american
What a great book! What a great storyteller!

She lets each character speak for his or her self and I was convinced by all of them!

Goes from 19c to today, the ''hillbilly'' singing up in the mtns in Virginia. Along the way you hear about food they grew, food they cooked, how they dressed, the scenery, family relations, love, rebellion, liquor.
And the Nashville scene of commercial country music.

I have several of her novels waiting to be read, it loooks like I will be enjoying them too!
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book so much! Starting out in the mountains of Virginia, this family saga follows five generations of the Bailey family and their strong musical ties from the early 1830's traditional Appalachian ballads right up to country music of the '60's. This new-to-me author brought a smile to my face quite a few times, the first being when someone was fixin' to cook a mess of beans. She also brought a few tears to my eyes, but then, isn't that what those old country songs are supposed to d ...more
Oct 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, novel, music
I've been spending my time knitting instead of reading, but I did finish THE DEVIL'S DREAM by Lee Smith. It follows several generations of a Southern family living in the Appalachians. From simple hymns, old-time medicine shows, radio barn dances, sleazy rockabilly joints, primitive recording sessions, to the Grand Ole Opry and tales of growing up in the Appalachian south. Lee Smith is a wonderful story teller and the lure of music is something I think anyone can identify with.
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
"There once lived a fair maid name Kate Malone
You could not help but foller,
Fell in love with the preacher's son
Way down in Cold Spring Holler."

"Soon Kate she lost her merry laugh,
She was like to lose her beauty
Tied back her hair of purest gold,
Bore three babes out of duty...."

Feb 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Loved the story, but could not keep up with the characters due to the way it was written (in chapters telling stories from various characters' points of view).
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have always thought Oral History was my favorite of Lee Smith's books, but it may now be The Devil's Dream.
Becky Baldwin
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book to my music loving friends
its great
Carole Sparks
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Appalachian fiction and/or country music history
"It took me a long time to understand that not a one of us lives alone, outside of our family or our time, and that who we are depends on who we were, and who our people were."

Part history of country music, part epic saga in the line of James Michener, part expose of Appalachian life, this book sucked me in and refused to spit me out until I finished it a day later.

So many of us try to reject our family history or deny our roots, but Smith demonstrates that the better path is always to own it,
Catherine Treadgold
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
At one point I read everything I could by Lee Smith, so my bar may be set too high. She’s a brilliant storyteller, no doubt. But with these stories, I sometimes got confused as to who is doing the telling, and there is a certain sameness to the first-person narratives. Quirky women, men with wanderin’ eyes. A lot of alcohol and cigarettes. There is music in the language, but I’m not sure the actual country music thread works, though it does give you a feel for how the music business was born in ...more
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about a family of musicians something like the Carter family. I raced to finish it...
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of Lee Smith's best novels!
Jim Collins
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Smith uses a multi-generational approach to show us the uneasy relationship between popular traditional music and religion in the Appalachian area. Beginning in the 1830s with the marriage of a preacher and a woman from a fiddle-loving family, Smith gives us vignettes narrated by members of successive generations, that show how the times changed and the people changed with them. Most of the viewpoint characters are women, and most of the men are either repressive patriarchs or irresponsible bad ...more
Sharon Todd
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars, audiobook
The title is never explained, and probably discourages people from reading it...but it is by Lee is my favorite, even better than "Fair and Tender Ladies".

It relates the family history over about 150 years: not only deaths, births and marriages, but how stories are forgotten, families divide over issues, quit talking to or even about each other, someone dies young, the kids don't hear the stories of their grandparents, etc. Blonde hair keeps appearing, and its source is a mystery eac
Rebecca Brothers
Oct 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful read. I lived in Nashville for eight years and grew up surrounded by country music. Lee Smith's portrait of country music begins with an elegant, hand drawn family tree, and her ability to trace the roots of one modern country singer through all those tangled, gnarled branches is amazing. She does a fascinating job of intertwining two mountain schools of thought when it comes to music: either it is pure human voice in a cold country church, lifted to God, or it is the devil's ow ...more
Mar 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
This book dragged on and on. I did not like how the author abruptly changed the story through the eyes of the characters. I've read other books by other authors that do that, but this time it seemed out of place and was disruptive of the story. I had to think hard between the chapters to figure out who was speaking and what their relationship to the previous person was.

I quit reading part way through when an extremely rough character began swearing and doing all manner of awful things. Not my s
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Discussion questons 1 8 Jan 26, 2011 12:22PM  
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Growing up in the Appalachian mountains of southwestern Virginia, nine-year-old Lee Smith was already writing--and selling, for a nickel apiece--stories about her neighbors in the coal boomtown of Grundy and the nearby isolated "hollers." Since 1968, she has published eleven novels, as well as three collections of short stories, and has received many writing awards.

The sense of place infusing her