Tuesday, August 25, 2009

All Other Nights

When I found out Dara Horn had a new novel, I got really excited, then I got sad, because I don't like to buy hardbacks, then I remembered that I work in a library and went and found it.

Horn's other two novels, In the Image and The World to Come are remarkable. They both touch of themes of art, imagery, history, and religion. I would recommend both of them right away to just about anyone.

All Other Nights is quite different than her first two novels. While I liked parts of it, overall, I felt it lacked the intellectualism of her previous books and I had to wonder if this book was a conscientious foray into the world of so-called popular fiction.

The new novel is about a Union soldier fighting during the Civil War and recruited to be a spy behind enemy lines. I generally find All Things Civil War ridiculously boring, so that may be what's clouding my judgment. What is interesting is that Horn's main character is Jewish, and one hears very little about the role of any Jewish persons in that period. Some of the characters and events are apparently inspired by many true stories. There's an "Author's Note" at the end that I'd almost recommend reading before the book.

One of the characters, for instance, is Judah P. Benjamin - the first Jewish Cabinet-member in the US and possibly the first Jewish senator in the US as well (apparently this other guy may or may not have been a Presbyterian?) Benjamin was a high-ranking official in the Confederate (you read that right) - Sec. of War, I believe. A bit incongruous, like a gay Republican... Horn explores the irony of a Jew supporting slavery, but I hate to say it lacks any subtlety.

No comments: