Banished Children of Eve: 2a Novel of Civil War New York

Peter Quinn, Author Viking Books $22.95 (624p) ISBN 978-0-670-85076-1
This remarkably accomplished and ambitious first novel, by the chief speechwriter at Time Warner, is a historical saga set in a New York that is as vividly realized for its period (the Civil War) as Bonfire of the Vanities was for the 1980s. It also has much the same narrative drive and broad range of characters, and is as grandly cynical about most human activities. It follows a motley group of New Yorkers through a few days in the terrible summer of 1863, when anguish at the dragging war, the boiling rancor between the invading Irish immigrants and ``True Americans,'' the hatred of both for the blacks they feared would take away their jobs, the festering resentment of the poor against the new rich, and the all-embracing new draft laws combined to set the city ablaze. The Draft Riots form an unforgettable climax, but the book never lags for a moment on its grinding progress toward apocalypse. We see an Irish con man at his work; a young actor who is an early minstrel star (audiences laugh at minstrels and weep at Uncle Tom's Cabin even as their behavior to the black people among them is appalling); a beautiful young mulatto woman making her delicate, dangerous way through life; a child runaway who becomes a successful broker, only to face losing his fortune if he bets wrong on which side will be victorious in the war; and poor Stephen Foster, his songs on everyone's lips but reduced to plundering what little is left of his talent to pay for the oblivion of drink. It is a vast, compelling panoply of human misery and greed, with a keen sense of how New York looked, felt and smelled 130 years ago. Quinn's is the best kind of historical novel, providing both the compelling detail and the broad understanding that makes a past age both believable and comprehensible. 50,000 first printing; $40,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
Paperback - 624 pages - 978-0-14-023003-1
Paperback - 612 pages - 978-1-59020-057-5
Open Ebook - 624 pages - 978-1-4683-0511-1
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!