Monday, December 3, 2012
The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl
Published June 2006 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: I bought the audio edition of this book at the Friends of the Omaha Public Library weekly book sale
In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club - poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields - are finishing America's first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante's remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor. The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell's punishments from Dante's Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante's literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret." Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer to home than they ever could have imagined.
I've listened to a far number of audiobooks at this point. Some of the readers have all but ruined the book for me (Andre Dubus III's The Garden Of Last Days, for example), others have helped draw me even further into the book (Toni Morrison's a mercy). As narrated, in my (previously unknown to me) abridged version of this book, Boyd Gaines helps put The Dante Club squarely in to the second category. Granted, there were very few female voices for him to try to master (even those he managed just fine), and Pearl's writing makes it less imperative for him to have an absolutely unique voice for each male character. Still, Gaines has managed to do just that.
The Dante Club starts off fast and never lets down (at least not in the abridged version) but Pearl still manages to work in a great deal of detail about Dante and the members of the club as background. Along the way, Pearl throws in enough red herrings to throw the reader off, but also throws in enough clues to help the reader, at least looking back, think "oh yeah, I see that now." I'm a little frustrated to find that I have not read the full book but I also think that, for driving, the six hour length of this edition makes this one easy to follow along.
Labels: book review, historical fiction
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Sounds like a good read. I've been wanting to try Pearl's books for a while. Great review.ReplyDelete
Interesting to see that this one was abridged because the novel isn't terribly long (I don't think). I try to stay purposely dense when reading mysteries--there's nothing worse than figuring out the ending before it finishes! I'll have to move this one up in the queue.ReplyDelete
I love Matthew Pearl. He is so easy to work with, and always has a lot of love for bloggers. I loved The Last Dickens, and think that you should totally read that one. It was awesome. Now you have convinced me to try this one! Great review today, I'm glad you had a pleasant experience with the audio!ReplyDelete
I really disliked this book. I ended up on a trans-Pacific flight with only this to read and it was the wrong choice. Glad you liked it more than I did.ReplyDelete
I like Pearl's writing quite a bit. I've read a few of his books and have liked all of them.ReplyDelete
I'm always looking for great audio books to add to my iPod!! I read on of Pearl's books and liked it for the most part. I love the length of this one..perfect for listening to on a day trip or such.ReplyDelete
I have a paper copy of this review on my TBR mountain which for some reason I keep picking up only to put back down. Great review, I'm now feeling quite inspired to read it.ReplyDelete
I was so excited to buy this book years ago, and it's still sitting on my shelf! Here's to reading it in 2013...ReplyDelete