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3.71  ·  Rating details ·  514 Ratings  ·  117 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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Rating details
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Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Michael by: Booknblues
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
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
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mocha Girl
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 18, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dosha (Bluestocking7) Beard
Although it was good, I'm disappointed. The whole story could have been told in half the pages.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War and Slavery

Slavery , at times, and the Holocaust were similar in some ways. This book showed me that slaves were led to believe they couldn't think or reason or even care for anyone. The phrase, "Love brings death," was used. Love a spouse; the owner could sleep with your wife, sell your husband and children, and then blame it on you. It makes me so ashamed to think that perhaps my ancestors owned other humans. This was well written and much research went into this book.
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great story and mystery that also weaved civil war history into the tale.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. It was written well and it was interesting the whole way through.
Eugenia Kim
Dec 02, 2015 added it
Shelves: fiction
David Fuller is not the first white person to write a successful historical fiction from a southern black slave’s viewpoint. William Styron, in THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER proved that any inherent racial controversy could be countered with excellent writing, nuanced characters, a living backdrop of history and setting, and a gripping plot. SWEETSMOKE achieves this quality, presenting a complex story of a slave, Cassius, the layered intriques among his fellow slaves, the personalities and foibl ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Bobbie  Crawford
Oct 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Lorri Sizler
Jun 05, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Gina Marcelin
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
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
Oct 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Martha Rosenthal
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa James
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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