Bill's Reviews > Shadow Country

Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen
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's review
May 25, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2009

This is a work of historical fiction about the life and death of an actual figure, E.J. Watson, who was killed by an angry mob in the Florida Everglades in October of 1910.

Epic in nature, the novel covers the time period of the reconstruction through the great depression. Readers will be made well acquainted with the horrid state of race relations during that period of time, the reconstruction, institutional small-town injustice (which led to institutionalized lynch mob "justice"), the history and development of state of Florida, the effect of capital enterprise in a frontier state, and the wanton depletion of our nation's environmental resources.

Be forewarned that this book is very adult material. It contains graphic depictions of numerous murders, frank depictions of racism (w/ racial slurs galore), and depictions of marital infidelity, sex, rape, and incest. It should be noted that I did not feel that these were gratuitous per se; the author was trying tell a story- not to sensationalize the book by slopping the adult material on top.

The style is best described as poetic prose. Well written, with the artistic weight of a Faulkner, or a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. This may well be a book that our grandchildren may be asked to study in their freshmen literature courses.

Personally, this book was view changing for me. First, It gave me great insight into the poverty and starvation experienced by most of the South during the Reconstruction. Secondly, it was more effective than a half dozen history courses I had at expressing the horrible conditions, hopelessness, and despair that African Americans living in the South faced from the reconstruction through the great depression.

My rating of this book is based largely on the artistic weight and the deep impact it had on my views. However, I cannot in good faith recommend this book to anyone because the adult content was over the top.
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