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

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

by Peter Quinn
 

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140230031
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
03/28/1995
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
624
Product dimensions:
5.58(w) x 7.72(h) x 1.12(d)

Meet the Author

Peter Quinn is the author of the novel Banished Children of Eve (winner of an American Book Award) and previously served as speechwriter for New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. A third-generation New Yorker whose granparents were born in Ireland, he is currently Editorial Director for Time Warner and lives in Hastings, New York.

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