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A Moment in the Sun

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  735 ratings  ·  188 reviews
It’s 1897. Gold has been discovered in the Yukon. New York is under the sway of Hearst and Pulitzer. And in a few months, an American battleship will explode in a Cuban harbor, plunging the U.S. into war. Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, this is the unforgettable story of that extraordinary moment: the turn of the twentieth century, as seen by one of the gre ...more
Hardcover, 955 pages
Published May 17th 2011 by McSweeney's Publishing
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  735 ratings  ·  188 reviews


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Seamus Thompson
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
True story: whenever I finish a book that I have not simply enjoyed but have truly loved reading, I follow the same simple ritual. I slowly close the book, hold it in both hands so I can squeeze the pages together between the boards, and then press my lips to the front cover. It has been awhile since I kissed a book but I planted a big smacker on John Sayles’ latest novel A Moment in the Sun.

What can I say about this incredible, accomplished novel that won’t sound like the usual book jacket bull
...more
Jonfaith
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There was an element of Papa's dictum in my reading of John Sayles' doorstop qua cinder block of a narrative, it sat gradually until suddenly I devoured its 1000 pages. My cheekiest nod to the novel is that its as if the Chums of Chance (Pynchon's creations in Against The Day) chose to chronicle American Race and Imperium. That said, Sayles never appears overwrought nor resigned to types or constructs in establishing his dramatic web.

As many may know, I once considered African-American history t
...more
Ron
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This will be the briefest review of one of the longest books I’ve ever read. At 955 pages, Sayles’ novel set at the turn of the last century comes in just short of Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. The difference between the two is that there’s not a single long-winded passage in Sayles. And there’s more packed into it per square inch even than McMurtry’s multi-character, multi-plotted cattle drive novel.

Like Lonesome Dove, I read this one because it comes square in the middle of a historical peri
...more
Oriana
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wow you guys. This one, too, is going to blow your minds. It's tough not to compare it to The Instructions , the last 1000-plus-pager from the inimitable McSweeney's, but such a comparison would be meaningless, as I think it would be pretty difficult for these books to be more different. It's still way pre-pub, so I don't want to spill any secrets, but obvs this book, like everything McSwy's does, is phenomenal. Get it on them to-read shelves already!!

***

Whoa, William T. Vollmann reviewed thi
...more
Richard
Jun 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
I really admired this book. The topic, late 19th/early 20th century US, is fascinating and highly relevant today's political and cultural landscape and it needs to be examined more closely: the Spanish American War and the resulting occupation of the Phillipines, white southerners re-taking control of government after Reconstruction in an attempt to push back nascent African American political power, labor organization and rebellion as a response to the exploitative relationships inevitable in u ...more
David
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
Sorry, it's July 2020 and everything I write has to start with pandemic.

In late March of this year, when it became clear that everything was going to be shut tight for a while, instead of running to the Costco for a 96-roll-package of toilet paper, I stopped by the library, anticipating a suspension of return deadlines and overdue fees. I picked up this monster of a novel with satisfaction. I felt like the pandemic would be like the pre-Internet times when I lived in remote, quiet places and rea
...more
Peter
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an unforgettable book about America at the turn of the last century. Skillfully told and breathtaking in its scope.

I must say that the first half was totally engrossing, but it got a little tougher in the second half. I think whole chapters could have been left out. And yet the breadth of it is amazing, it's like you are soaking in the era. Gold rush, Spanish American War, yellow journalism, Cuba, the philippines, African American culture post Reconstruction, the white overthrow of the e
...more
James Murphy
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Moment in the Sun is a big sprawl of a novel at 955 pages focusing on s sliver of time at the turn of the last century, the era of the Spanish American War. At the heart of his story is American imperialism and racism. It seems to be his intention to illuminate American traits of the past we'd easily recognize as those of today. For the period around 1900 was the seedtime of American imperialism, manifest destiny spilled over the west coast into the Pacific. The sections of the novel dealing w ...more
Chris Blocker
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Chris by: Joseph Michael Owens
A Moment in the Sun is an epic novel that covers much ground. I agree with my friend David for his notion that “Tolstoy himself would have to be proud of Sayles for this one.” A Moment in the Sun certainly mirrors War and Peace in scope and subject (although I'm sure Tolstoy—especially in his later years—would have grave objections with some of the vulgarity in Sayles' work).

AMitS brings to fiction one of the more interesting time periods of American history. It begins n 1897, shortly before
...more
John Strohm
May 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
Sayles did too much research for this book. Then he felt compelled to work all of it into a single novel; the result being that it's totally unwieldy. Sayles chooses to spin several concurrent plot threads which only loosely intertwine with each other. As one story gets interesting, you're shuffled off to another part of the world and a completely different cast of characters who you don't care about, or maybe can't remember since it's been 80 pages since you saw them last.

It's a shame that a bo
...more
Harry Heitman
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great sweeping look at the beginnings of the 20th century through a broad array of characters.
Rousing, robust historical fiction that puts you in the center of some of the great events in North America. Not only is John Sayles a great movie director, he is a talented writer.
Tim
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"A Moment in the Sun" takes a fascinating, often spectacular, low-angle look at the underbelly of America in its growing pains as it heaves and flexes into the 20th century.

There. I did it. A first paragraph without mentioning author John Sayles' other, more well-known, job. But now it can't be helped. For those who didn't know, Sayles is a top-notch movie writer/director, producing such fine films as "Eight Men Out" (my favorite), "Matewan," "Lone Star" and "Sunshine State." "A Moment in the S
...more
Martin
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011books
You say: Epic. I say: Endless.
You say: Sweeping. I say: Scattered.
You say: Rollicking. I say: the Opposite of Rollicking.

I can't explain how excited I was to find a copy of John Sayles' acclaimed new novel at a book fair in downtown Chicago for a reasonable price. It is both a huge and beautiful book -- kudos to the reliable McSweeney's Publishing house. (Although just about everybody who saw me reading had the same quip: "is that a Bible?") It's exciting to heft a big, epic, summertime book and
...more
Michael
Aug 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I had this rated a four (because I never give anything a five) but changed to five because I don't like when people criticize John Sayles and I didn't want to do it. He essentially does exactly what I want in popular history and tries to appeal to the mainstream at the same time, and people just look for excuses not to read him or go see his movies. Yes the book does have many characters and plot lines, but you never get lost. It is long, but fun and not difficult. One negative review I read sai ...more
Tuck
Jan 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Author is a master of the big picture saga, and this new one does not disappoint. Encompasses 4 story lines, and what is most impressive is that author takes the “little guy’s” perspective, that is working class, blacks, women, those trying to what? Succeed? Survive? Has some damn dignity? So no big high faluting art galleries, captains of industry, or other bourgey pretenses (well there are some, granted, but in the black and passing community of Wilmington north Carolina, who were all run out ...more
Sundry
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a great read. I heard about this book when John Sayles interviewed by Michael Silverblatt on his KCRW show Bookworm, and was instantly intrigued. http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/bw/b...

Sayles talked about the Spanish American War being one that our history books say we won, but which we don't brag about much...which made him suspicious.

Sayles introduces a lot of characters in the first chapters, and you have to just let it flow over you a bit and trust that you'll recognize the key p
...more
Shawn Towner
Jun 04, 2011 rated it liked it
A book that I've often seen described as Pynchonesque, but I think it's more like Dickens: lots of characters, lots of digressing subplots, and a sympathetic view of the lower classes and downtrodden. Unfortunately, not all of the characters and subplots are really all that interesting. I couldn't stand the Philippines parts, which is a shame because a trio of most enjoyable characters were crammed into the plot, rather than being able to operate on their own. Also, I just couldn't get into Sayl ...more
Anoosh Jorjorian
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My recurring question as I read this whale of a novel was, how many research assistants did Sayles hire? This book is epic, and the only other novel I've read equal in its scope is Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy. Sayles has written a bildungsroman for the U.S. that encompasses the major themes: capitalism, war, imperialism, racism. Nevertheless, he renders these themes effectively at the level of his characters, caught in the cogs of history. His ear for dialog is remarkable. This book looks formi ...more
Kimberly
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
MANY THANKS to the fine proprietors of ATOMIC BOOKS, Benn and Rachel & their employers, who were kind enough to ask John Sayles to sign a personlazied, signed copy of this book for me, when I called & requested that because I was ill that night & could not make it to the Reading and Signing. Thanks guys and gals! :-)
Andrew Skelton
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stacia
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, north-america
A modern American epic.
Jim Harris
Great historical fiction tracing the lives of ordinary people with at the turn of the 19th into 20th century. Thoroughly enjoyable storytelling.
Linda
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Don't read this book if you are an impatient person. It's nearly 1,000 pages long and not with the "big" print of books by Follett or the Game of Thrones. But it's a good book. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is that it got tiresome after a while.

Unlike my favorite Mallon and more like most historical fiction, these characters are actually experiencing historical events: the invasion of Cuba and the Philippines, the racist coup in Wilmington, North Carolina, the assassination of Presiden
...more
Eric Malone
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Set at the turn of the 20th-century, A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles weighs in a hefty 950 pages. One might think a historical novel of this length might be a little tedious to read, but this is not the case with A Moment in the Sun. Sayles' writing is clear and engrossing, and you can certainly tell this novel is written by someone skilled with writing film screenplays.

That is not to say that this is a light, feel-good read; the characters are repeatedly subjected to the harshest treatment i
...more
Anandi
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about the Spanish American war, I appreciated the author's glee in using his copious research into period slang, I grew to care for the characters... but I also had some issues with content. The thing is, I get that pretty much the point of this book is that it's about the racism of the period, and about how racism is bad. And I get that the inclusion of nuanced intelligent characters of color and ignorant white people was meant to further drive this point home. But even so, afte ...more
Ryan Mishap
Feb 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Despite the girth, this is not dense nor unruly and unmanageable, but a magnificent foray into the past through the lives of multiple characters across the county and the world. Whether the prose is beautiful, arch, stark, bemused, insistent, off-hand, or particularly descriptive, it was nearly always captivating.

The United States is exposed in all its side-show glory; a nation of hucksters,thieves, boasters, racists, jingoists, and psychopaths who view violence as an easy tool to get what one w
...more
Carol
May 17, 2012 rated it liked it
My rating for this book went from a 4 for fine writing, to a 3 for holding my interest, to a 2 for getting bored, so I settled on an average of 3 stars. First off, I must admit, I have a hard time with 900+ page books. I am over-eager to learn the conclusion quickly; I also like page-turners, that make me want to find out what happens next. This book rarely had me anxious to see what the next page brought.

I had hoped to learn more about the Spanish/American War, which I did, but it was not pres
...more
Judy
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This, dear readers, is how you write historical fiction. John Sayles brings every bit of the extraordinary talent he exhibits in his filmmaking (Lone Star, Eight Men Out) to this epic novel about the world at the turn of the 20th century. In particular he focuses on the Spanish-American War in Cuba, the Phillipine-American War, and the Wilmington (N.C.) Insurrection of 1898, but along the way he touches on the Yukon Gold Rush, the Boxer Rebellion, the Boer War, Coxey's Army, the McKinley assassi ...more
Nick
Apr 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So after renewing this book twice at the library, I had to return it after finishing only a bit over half. It's great, sprawling in every sense-language, characters, geography. I can't help but think it a little overwrought in some places. Some characters added only for color (and maybe to show off Sayles regional colloquial chops). Perhaps this shortcoming should should fall on the editor. All in all, this book coupled with We, The Drowned which I read right before this one, has really renewed ...more
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John Thomas Sayles is an independent film director, screenwriter, novelist and short story writer who frequently plays small roles in his own and other indie films.

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