Banished Children of Eve: A Novel of Civil War New York

Overview

Banished Children of Eve, a novel of America struggling to become a melting pot, marks the debut of a gifted storyteller. It is New York City, the time of the Civil War. The war has just entered its third bloody year, and the North is about to impose its first military draft, a decision that will spark the most devastating and destructive riot in American history. Quinn gives us these events through the eyes of people drawn from every part of the city's life - minstrels, street gangs, servants, soldiers, and ...
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Overview

Banished Children of Eve, a novel of America struggling to become a melting pot, marks the debut of a gifted storyteller. It is New York City, the time of the Civil War. The war has just entered its third bloody year, and the North is about to impose its first military draft, a decision that will spark the most devastating and destructive riot in American history. Quinn gives us these events through the eyes of people drawn from every part of the city's life - minstrels, street gangs, servants, soldiers, and clergymen, Yankee, African American, and Irish. It is the New York of Jimmy Dunne, a streetwise Irish-American hustler in search of the big score. Of Eliza, an African-American actress seeking her place in a city where her family has lived since colonial times. Of Jack Mulcahey, Eliza's lover, who escaped death in the Irish famine of the 1840s, and is struggling to hold on to his position as one of New York's leading minstrels. At the heart of Banished Children of Eve is the American search for the Promised Land. Along with Jimmy, Eliza, and Jack, it is a search shared by Charles Bedford, a scheming and ambitious stockbroker, and by Margaret O'Driscoll, an immigrant servant girl in Bedford's home. There are two other shadowy presences. One is a drunken and broken drifter, Stephen Foster, who has given away all his songs, but who can still remember the music, which becomes the music of the novel. The other is the Civil War itself. Through the stories of these disparate lives, all brought together in the cataclysm of the Draft Riots, Quinn spins out the fates of his rich and vital characters as he brings magically to life a pivotal period in this country's history.

It's the third year of the Civil War and the North is about to impose its first military draft, sparking in New York City the most devastating and destructive riot in American history. Quinn brings to life a pivotal period in this country's history through a myriad of characters.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Set in New York City during the Civil War years, this first novel echoes with Stephen Foster songs and the disparate voices of its teeming throngs of citizens while focusing on the experience of Irish Catholic immigrants. Quinn offers a strong, imaginative, and well-researched examination of the life of common people in that time through portraits of hucksters, minstrel actors, speculators, soldiers, and domestic servants whose lives touch. Their stories, set against a background of emigration, war, gangs, racism, stock exchange crashes, shanty towns, draft resistance, prostitution, strikes, and the manipulation of the uneducated masses to embrace a national interest, suggest that characterization of any past as ``the good old days'' is always a matter of who's doing the talking. Thoroughly enjoyable, educational, and highly recommended for fiction collections.-- Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140230031
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 624
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 1.12 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2001

    Outstanding

    I could not put this book down. Quinn does a wonderful job. He portrays the struggle of African-Americans and the Irish in New York in 1863. He combines fictional characters with historical people.I felt like I knew these people.

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