Tim's Reviews > Shadow Country

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
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's review
Jan 23, 2009

really liked it

"Shadow Country" is one of those books I describe as "nearly great." (For our purposes here, that would translate to 4.5 stars if the rating system allowed). I owned the first book in the original trilogy that this book distills/subtracts from/adds upon, but never read it. I suspect I'm not missing a lot, as good as this novel is.

Matthiessen comes at the story of turn-of-the-century southwest Florida legend Edgar Watson from all angles -- in Book I, first-person narratives that don't include Watson; in Book II, one of his sons researches the legend; in Book III, Watson tells his own story.

As Matthiessen presents it (and he should know as well as anyone), Watson's reputed bloodthirstiness was greatly exaggerated and resulted mostly from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Matthiessen described the second book of the original trilogy as (I'm paraphrasing from memory) the saggy middle of one of those wiener dogs. That's still the case in this re-imagining. Book II occasionally drags, and the motivations of some of the characters aren't always clear.

Although "Shadow Country" consists of 892 pages of coming at the same events from different angles, he writes so very well that most readers of high literature will be riveted. I was. This is like more-accessible Faulkner.
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Lynne I like your analogy "more-accessible Faulkner." It fits.

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