National Book Award, Fiction, 2008Inspired by a near-mythic event on the wild Florida frontier at the turn of the 20th century, Shadow Country re-imagines the legend of the inspired Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw E. J. Watson, who drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him, in a killing that obsessed his favorite son.
Shadow Country transverses strange landscapes inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of archaic racism that "still casts its shadow over the nation."
©2008 Peter Matthiessen; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[G]ripping, shocking, and brilliantly told....as powerful a reading experience as nearly any in our literature." (New York Review of Books)
"Magnificent and capacious....the book took my sleeve and like the ancient mariner would not let go....a breathtaking saga." (Los Angeles Times)
"[Watson] comes across as nothing short of iconic....it's difficult to find another figure in American literature so thoroughly and convincingly portrayed." (Publishers Weekly)
Depends on the friend's reading tastes... If you are more interested in whodunnit, then this drawn out account is probably not for you. If you appreciate truly excellent writing alongside many unravelings of exactly the same events, then yes, I very highly recommend this book. And if you are likely to appreciate a most remarkable reading/rendition in terms of accents and eccentricities and atmosphere, then yes, I highly recommend this book to you.
When the older brother writes about the day of the double murders to his younger sibling. Almost every single description of Watson is memorable. All those downtrodden women are memorable. The overall impression of the islands is amazing too. Of course, the racism is gut wrenching and most revealing of place and time.
I am not American, so I should probably not attest to accents, but to my ear they were authentic, real - that's what I think people in the deep South sound like. His reading was astonishing, not an easy task considering the quirkiness of characters. Perfect all in all. He definitely draws one in and keeps one present in ways the printed book cannot achieve.
EJ Watson, by far, but it is the other characters that make him compelling. I suppose I wanted him to come out of it okay, not a murderous swine. Those were hard times, the place was harsh, clearly, and all the men seemed ... hard? So within those parameters, and even though I knew Watson had done some terrible things, I didn't want him to be merely evil. I also think his sense of humour was too intelligent for his neighbours to grasp. :-)
I love Peter Matthiessen's work. And I would love to see more of his books on Audible. "In the spirit of Crazy Horse" was just as astonishing in terms of vast research and intelligent writing and gripping story-telling.
I would have enjoyed this tome much more if the last section in which EJ Watson talks about himself came first. For me this would have made views about him in the first two sections more readily understandable and would have helped me keep track of the myriad of realtives, friends, and enemies. Without a book in front of you, be prepared to write down names.
I guess the whole thing was worth it. The narrator was exellent and the saving of the Everglades is worth understanding as is a last frontier history burried under the Wild West. A lot of Nigger-talk for those sensitive to it, but the story could not be told without it.
I've listened to 4 of 5 sections of this audio book. Peter Matthisen is a gifted writer and the narrator does an excellent job. The thing is, the main character is such an evil, despicable character that I can't find the energy to care enough to finish the book. What I will do is go listen to the last chapter and not put myself through the rest.
I had a hard time with this story. At one point, I had several pages of notes trying to keep all the characters and their relationships to each other straight. I finally gave up. Then I thought I must have listened to it out of order, since it skips around. I wanted to get the story, but this would be better if you also had the hard copy to refer back to.
I liked the book but had to abandon it...the audio quality was too inconsistent.The voice intonations shifting from barely audible to sharply loud...too many times to count it actually hurt my ears.It was just too frustrating to keep messing about with the volume.
this is basically a compilation of 3 books in one edition. the first is told interview-style from the perspective of numerous residents of the ten thousand islands detailing the events leading up to the death of Edgar Watson, the second picks up where the first left off and is told from the perspective of Edgar Watson's son, and the third is a first-person account by Edgar Watson filling us in on what really happened. first, while the story is fundamentally good, hearing parts of it three times over really dragged. second, the many characters interviewed in the first section are all very similar in dialect, tone, etc, and it's impossible in an audio book to keep track of everyone and figure out why they're important. the narrator is good and with his voice and accent paints a clear picture of west Florida, but there seems to be a problem with the volume in which the book was recorded, and I had to turn the volume on my player up to the maximum to hear. the prose is nice and the book is well-written. all in all I might recommend this as a regular book but not as an audio book.
A long audiobook but I was pretty engaged throughout. I did miss some parts of the first book but by the time I finished all three I started right over and listened to the first book again, comparing the different accounts. Ultimately, a Great American Novel (yes, I know) in that it captures the complexity and contradictions of our history, the violence, the ambition, the fortitude, the failings. Also a challenging meditation on the nature of experience, and how we perceive one another.
Probably - but not for a while. I actually went back a number of times to "re-listen" to stretches - got lost on names and events and such
The death scene - that happens more than once is obviously the key to the whole thing
As the book draws to a close - the end of the third part - Watson reveals both his strong will and sense of humanity - the desire to be someone - to make a mark - to be more than just a human - but the realization that in the end being human is the best we can aspire to.
No - too complex - I needed to ration this out - 2-3 hour chunks. It all ties together and works very well - but I needed to time to reflect and sort out things.
This is an epic achievement done complete justice by the superb narration by Anthony Heald. Frankly, he is the best narrator I have ever heard and will purchase more of his titles. The story itself is transcendent: so heartbreakingly sad yet such a complete picture of a man, a time and the devastating effect one man can have on so many others, including himself.
After all the rave reviews I read, I found the audiobook to meandering, slow and dull. I did not connect with any of the characters and found the jumping around between accounts to be jarring and made it tough to follow.
Don't waste your credits, unless you have some real investment in this story.
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