The Book of Daniel

The Book of Daniel

3.6 10
by E. L. Doctorow
     
 

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The central figure of this novel is a young man whose parents were executed for conspiring to steal atomic secrets for Russia.

His name is Daniel Isaacson, and as the story opens, his parents have been dead for many years. He has had a long time to adjust to their deaths. He has not adjusted.

Out of the shambles of his childhood, he has constructed a

Overview

The central figure of this novel is a young man whose parents were executed for conspiring to steal atomic secrets for Russia.

His name is Daniel Isaacson, and as the story opens, his parents have been dead for many years. He has had a long time to adjust to their deaths. He has not adjusted.

Out of the shambles of his childhood, he has constructed a new life—marriage to an adoring girl who gives him a son of his own, and a career in scholarship. It is a life that enrages him.

In the silence of the library at Columbia University, where he is supposedly writing a Ph.D. dissertation, Daniel composes something quite different.

It is a confession of his most intimate relationships—with his wife, his foster parents, and his kid sister Susan, whose own radicalism so reproaches him.

It is a book of memories: riding a bus with his parents to the ill-fated Paul Robeson concert in Peekskill; watching the FBI take his father away; appearing with Susan at rallies protesting their parents’ innocence; visiting his mother and father in the Death House.

It is a book of investigation: transcribing Daniel’s interviews with people who knew his parents, or who knew about them; and logging his strange researches and discoveries in the library stacks.

It is a book of judgments of everyone involved in the case—lawyers, police, informers, friends, and the Isaacson family itself.

It is a book rich in characters, from elderly grand- mothers of immigrant culture, to covert radicals of the McCarthy era, to hippie marchers on the Pen-tagon. It is a book that spans the quarter-century of American life since World War II.It is a book about the nature of Left politics in this country—its sacrificial rites, its peculiar cruelties, its humility, its bitterness. It is a book about some of the beautiful and terrible feelings of childhood. It is about the nature of guilt and innocence, and about the relations of people to nations.

It is The Book of Daniel.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A ferocious feat of the imagination . . . Every scene is perfectly realized and feeds into the whole-the themes and symbols echoing and reverberating.”
Newsweek

“A nearly perfect work of art, and art on this level can only be a cause for rejoicing.”
Joyce Carol Oates

“This is an extraordinary contemporary novel, a stunning work.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“The political novel of our age . . . the best work of its kind.”
New Republic

“Remarkable . . . One of the finest works of fiction.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Stirring, brilliant, very moving.”
Houston Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780394605012
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/12/1984
Series:
Vintage International Series
Pages:
303

Meet the Author

E. L. Doctorow’s works of fiction include Welcome to Hard Times, The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Loon Lake, World’s Fair, Billy Bathgate, The Waterworks, City of God, The March, Homer & Langley, and Andrew’s Brain. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, honoring a writer’s lifetime achievement in fiction, and in 2012 he won the PEN/ Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to an author whose “scale of achievement over a sustained career places him in the highest rank of American literature.” In 2013 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction. In 2014 he was honored with the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sag Harbor, New York, and New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 6, 1931
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
A.B., Kenyon College, 1952; postgraduate study, Columbia University, 1952-53
Website:
http://www.randomhouse.com/atrandom/doctorow/

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The Book of Daniel 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a tantalizing historical fiction peace that answers the question of what ever happened to the children of the Rosenberg's (killed for treason). The book is written in a manner that seems confusing but makes sense--a doctorate student making notes to improve a thesis of sorts.
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paracelsusVS More than 1 year ago
I read "World's Fair" last week, written in 2002(?). Same grandmother right down to a word for word description of her crazy antics in the neighborhood as "The Book of Daniel". Also, a pedestrian killed by a car crashing into the woman and sending her through the school fence spilling milk and blood into the school yard. The basement "Williams" character right down to the coal chunking incidence same as in "WF". Please Mr. Doctorow, give the reader some semblence of intellegence. Remember if we like one of your books we are inevitably destined to read another of your novels. Recycling plastic bottles, bags and glass is honorable. Recycling entire paragraphs from previous novels is contemptable. As an avid reader of late 19th century/early 20th century novels, I often come across similar characters and scenario, but never a blatant word for word diatribe. While I regard "Daniel" as a provokeing novel; inticicing our fundimental rights as humans, while reminding us that we are really all animals at heart, I wish Mr. Doctorow would have spent a few more hours writing a few different characterizations.