A Novel

Book - 1998
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Baker & Taylor
Offers a fictional re-creation of the turbulent landscape of pre-Civil War America and of John Brown's 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, as narrated by the enigmatic abolitionist's son, Owen

Blackwell North Amer
Cloudsplitter is narrated by the enigmatic Owen Brown, last surviving son of America's most famous and still controversial political terrorist and martyr, John Brown. Cloudsplitter vividly re-creates the antislavery movement of the 1840s and traces it through the brutal guerrilla warfare of Bloody Kansas, culminating in a powerful re-creation of Brown's insurrectionary raid on Harpers Ferry.
Cloudsplitter is a moving account of one principled man's tragic passage from antislavery agitator and activist to guerrilla fighter to terrorist to martyr. It is the story of how a political cause deemed holy controlled and ultimately destroyed the life of an entire family, and how in the process it became the catalyst for the greatest conflagration in our nation's history. John Brown, as portrayed by his ambivalent, reflective, guilt-ridden son Owen, begins as a conventional middle-class Christian family man of his time, a Yankee tanner, a failed wholesaler of wool, a small farmer and inept land speculator. Yet by middle age he exists at the precise locus where the exalted sentiments of his fellow abolitionists, the New England Transcendentalists such as Emerson and Thoreau, cross over into revolutionary action. He has become the trusted cohort of African-Americans like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, the leader of a zealous band of antislavery terrorists, and the creator of the most daring, radical plan to free the slaves ever imagined.
Historians have long argued whether Brown was a religious fanatic or merely a horse-stealing charlatan or the only important white martyr in the history of racial conflict in America - or all three. What cannot be argued is that the course of the Civil War and all subsequent American history would have been radically altered if not for John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.

& Taylor

The award-winning author of Continental Drift offers a fictional re-creation of the turbulent landscape of pre-Civil War America and of John Brown's 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, as narrated by the enigmatic abolitionist's son, Owen. $125,000 ad/promo. Tour.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, 1998.
ISBN: 9780060168605
Branch Call Number: BAN
Characteristics: 758 p. ; 24 cm.
Alternative Title: Cloud splitter.


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Feb 28, 2015

"So we were going off to Kansas to be good at killing. Our specialty would be killing men who wished to own other men."
Russell Banks, known for his harshly realistic novels like "Affliction" and "The Sweet Hereafter," delves into American history, which in his hands is something complicated, dark, and bloody. This ambitious, sprawling (over 700 pages), and intense book is the story of John Brown and his war on slavery. Told by his conflicted and uneasy son Owen, who survived Harper's Ferry, Banks brilliantly recreates the mood and feel of the mid-19 century and the divisive force of slavery. John Brown, a religious zealot who felt called by God to start a war on slave owners, is an easy figure to respect, but a much harder one to like. Banks doesn't shy from his difficulty, but he does make him, if not exactly sympathetic, a compelling character who truly believed slavery was a great evil. Historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Harriet Tubman make cameos. An impressive achievement that should have won the Pulitzer in 1999, rather than Cunningham's rather mediocre "The Hours." Also see James McBride's John Brown book "The Good Lord Bird" and Styron's "The Confessions of Nat Turner."
"Freedom! The bloody work of the Lord!"

Dec 29, 2008

Russell Banks won readers' hearts in 1991 with "The Sweet Hereafter". He tackled painful subject matter and a cast of damaged, thorny characters, and wrapped it with a troubling conclusion that somehow had a perverse sense of redemption.

A reader might be predisposed on the basis of that fine accomplishment to assume that only Russell Banks could take on the towering figure of real-life abolitionist John Brown and take him beyond history textbook admirable, and make him understandable and even sympathetic. Unfortunately, "Cloudsplitter" is told from the reluctant and spiritually browbeaten perspective of Brown's son Owen, and the result is ponderous and lugubrious. The good that John Brown so determinedly strives for is powerfully overshadowed by his sanctimony, radicalism and religious fanaticism. The reader is left feeling as battered as the narrator.

Dec 06, 2007

Finalist of the 1999 Pulitzer prize for fiction.

Dec 05, 2007

Finalist 1999 Pulitzer prize.


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