Homelandby John Jakes
In the tradition of great writers like Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck, John Jakes crafts a sweeping family drama. In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, the tragedies and triumphs of the Crowns illustrate the power of the/b>/b>
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A monumental American novel about one man’s rise from life as a penniless immigrant to the head of a family empire
In the tradition of great writers like Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck, John Jakes crafts a sweeping family drama. In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, the tragedies and triumphs of the Crowns illustrate the power of the American Dream. As immigrants to America, their turbulent story spans a decade marked by the vicious Pullman Strike, the birth of motion pictures, and the Spanish-American War. Against this backdrop of technological change, industrial-scale greed, and political corruption, the Crowns emerge a true dynasty and one of Jakes’s most fascinating families. This ebook features an illustrated biography of John Jakes including rare images from the author’s personal collection.
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Read an Excerpt
The Crown Family Saga 1890 -1900
By John Jakes
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 John Jakes
All rights reserved.
He thought, where's my home? It isn't here.
From a flimsy shelf beside his narrow bed he pulled a wrinkled paper.
It was a map of the world, torn from a book he'd bought at a secondhand shop with money he could ill afford to squander. He bought the whole book in order to have the map.
He scrutinized various locations as if he were some god-like being, able to choose any place on earth to live. But he was in Berlin, and that was that. Sometimes he loved the city but sometimes, as now, he felt trapped.
He'd come home at midnight, exhausted from work, and lay now under the old duvet, unable to sleep, studying the map. It was almost two in the morning, and Aunt Lotte hadn't yet returned. Out with one of her Herren, he presumed. He worried about her. Once the kindest of women, now she was short with him, as if she disliked him. Hated having him around. She was drinking more heavily than usual. That very morning, before he left, he'd seen her stumble into furniture twice.
His room felt tiny and cramped, like a cell. Barely enough space for his single bed, an old wardrobe with a missing leg replaced by a wood block, one shaky taboret with a kerosene lamp. A night jar was tucked into a corner, beside a wooden box containing some childhood toys. The room was part of a cellar flat; he had not even one window.
Often his room was cold; most of the time it was damp. Aunt Lotte complained that it was messy; very un-German. That could be said of him too. His clothes were almost always awry, his shirttail often hung out, his pockets were constantly stuffed with old pencils, chalk, scraps of paper on which he wrote down thoughts or things to do, rocks, crackers or sweets he forgot to eat, leaving them to crumble or melt.
He was no longer in school; he'd never liked it, and had left it a year ago. Though dropping out was against the law, no one came to find him. No one cared.
Pensive, he touched the map, putting his finger in the middle of America, where his uncle lived.
As they often did at night, painful questions arose. Questions usually buried so deep, he'd never uttered them aloud to another soul. Probably because he feared there were no answers. There were no answers tonight. Slowly he stretched out his hand and put the wrinkled map back on the shelf.
His name was Pauli Kroner.
He was thirteen years old.
Spring rain hammered the streaming glass. Lightning flashed and glared. Pauli peered in the window of Wertheim's on Leipzigerstrasse; window dressers had draped a variety of gentlemen's and ladies' coats around a marvelous globe, multicolored and exquisitely painted. The globe had brass fittings at its axis and rested in a heavy wooden stand, fancifully carved.
The globe's painted seas and continents seemed full of mysteries, possibilities, wondrous sights Pauli yearned to see. If only he had enough money to buy a globe like that
Something hard whacked the back of his head. "Lump." Ragamuffin. "Get away from that glass, you're leaning too hard."
Pauli spun around to confront Wertheim's giant doorkeeper, sodden in his greatcoat with gold shoulder boards and ropes of braid. Rain dripped from the bill of his braided hat.
"I was only looking."
"Look somewhere else. We don't want trash like you loitering around, it scares off the customers."
"Es wird überall nur mit Wasser gekocht," Pauli exclaimed. It was an old proverb, meaning literally, They cook everywhere with water. Pauli meant it to say he was as good as the next man.
"Oh yes?" said the doorman. "You're a good customer? Big spender? Get away from here before I whistle for the police!"
Pauli gave the doorman a hot stare, but the defiance hid his real feelings about himself. The doorman knew him for what he was. Nothing.
He disappeared up the rainy boulevard, hands in his pockets, head down.
On a Sunday morning soon afterward, Pauli walked into the Tiergarten with a block of cheap paper under his arm. Returning from work the night before, he had found Aunt Lotte bemoaning the absence of gentlemen on a Saturday evening. Her speech was slow and slurred. She was drinking strong fermented Apfelwein from a goblet. She had still been asleep when he left this morning; he'd heard her snoring behind her closed door.
Pauli walked through the Tiergarten with a strong, fast stride. He looked older than his years. He would never be handsome, but he had friendly, lively blue eyes, and wide shoulders, and a sturdy build that enhanced his masculinity. The blood of southern Germany ran in him, and there was a red-haired strain in the family that sometimes gave his brown hair russet glints. Whenever he was feeling good about himself or his circumstances he exuded an air of strength and competence that people noticed.
The great park was green and misty this summer morning. Pauli hurried to a site, and a subject, that had caught his eye. On a grassy hillock, an old gentleman had laid aside his straw boater and his meerschaum pipe and gone to sleep with his belly jutting up like a mountain under his vest. At a discreet distance, Pauli dropped to his knees, smoothed the top sheet of the block and rummaged through his pockets for his charcoal stick. He licked a smear of chocolate off the end and poised the stick over the pad.
He was tight inside, with anticipation and anxiety. He wanted to do a good sketch of the sleeping gentleman, but he feared he'd fail.
He began with an outline of the sleeper, from the side. After four strokes, he rubbed out what he'd done; the proportions were all wrong. Somehow his hand couldn't understand or execute the signals from his eye and mind. Pauli tore the paper off the block and crushed it, cursing. The old gentleman started, sat up and looked at him. Pauli grew red. He jumped up and ran off with the paper block and charcoal, quite forgetting to pick up the discarded sheets he'd left on the grass.
Why did he keep it up? He wanted to draw the marvelous sights and subjects that abounded in the world. But his talent was poor. He struggled and struggled, and every time he came out with nothing. Sometimes it seemed he had no talent for anything.
Once again Pauli was on the pavement outside the great department store, Wertheim's, on Leipzigerstrasse. The doorkeeper was nowhere to be seen. It was late July; the long summer twilight was golden and warm.
Pauli saw an old lady in black emerge from the store with a string bag. Instantly, a bearded man sprang from the crowd and brutally shoved the old woman to the ground.
The old lady cried out as the man snatched her string bag, pulled out two tins of department store tea and swore furiously. He turned to flee through the crowd, in Pauli's direction.
Pauli didn't hesitate. He threw himself on the sidewalk. The thief couldn't stop in time, and tripped over the boy.
Pauli grabbed the frayed hem of the thief's long coat and brought him down. The man cracked his head badly.
The dreaded doorman appeared, but he ignored Pauli, fussing and clucking over the old woman while helping her to her feet and into the store.
The groggy thief tried to rise. Pauli sat on him. Two of Wertheim's store detectives came out to collar the man. Pauli stood up, brushed himself off. A few angry people gathered around, shaking fingers at the robber.
The police arrived. They insisted Pauli accompany them to the station.
"But I'm waiting here to meet my friend." The friend was Tonio Henkel, whose father owned a thriving sweet shop on Unter den Linden.
"No argument, you're coming along." One of the policemen seized his arm to settle the matter.
They took him to a room with dingy yellow walls and the inevitable large heroic lithograph of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Two stern detectives shot off questions like bullets.
"Fourteen, last month, June 15."
Reluctantly, he gave the number on Müllerstrasse. The detectives exchanged quick looks. They recognized a cheap street in one of the workers' districts. Almost a slum.
Pauli spent an anxious half hour repeating his story. All at once a distant bell rang. One detective was called out. When he came back in three minutes his whole demeanor had changed.
"I was speaking on the telephone," he said to Pauli. "You helped a very important lady. Frau Flüsser. The mother-in-law of the store's deputy director. She wants to see you at her flat tomorrow morning. Nine sharp. I think she wants to give you a reward. I'll write down the address."
The other detective patted his head. "Ein scharfsinniger Junge." A quick-witted youngster.
Dazed with delight, Pauli ran out of the building, then dashed toward Unter den Linden.
"And the policeman actually called you that, quick-witted?" Tonio Henkel said. He and Pauli were seated at a back table at Konditorei Henkel.
"Yes, he did," Pauli said with a shrug of false modesty. He stuffed another Othello into his mouth, disposing of it with a few bites.
Tonio smiled. His large, rounded forehead bobbed over the table. His head was too big for his frail body. Pauli and Anton Henkel had become fast friends in Grundschule, which Pauli had quit at Easter a year ago; the end of his seventh term. He had not been transferred to the Oberschule in his fifth year, as many bright pupils were. Remaining in the lower school marked him as one of those who would never receive a higher education at the Gymnasium. Aunt Lotte had made only minimal objections to his quitting; they needed whatever extra money he could earn.
Pauli's departure from school hadn't affected his friendship with Tonio. He liked Tonio's gentleness and good disposition. "I was scared when I got to Wertheim's and you were gone," Tonio said to him.
"Couldn't help it," Pauli said, taking another Othello and devouring it with his usual speedy efficiency. He glanced at the gilded wall clock. Almost ten. He had to get home, so he'd be sure to get up on time.
"When do you see the old lady who wants to reward you?" Tonio asked.
"Tomorrow morning, nine o'clock sharp."
"What do you think the old lady will give you? Anything you ask for?"
"Oh, I doubt that."
Tonio grinned. "Maybe she'll give you a ticket to America."
"Oh yes, I wish," Pauli said in a derisive way. Then: "I'd better leave. Aunt Lotte keeps track of my shifts. She'll be wondering why I'm late."
Tonio followed him to the front, his big head inclined forward like a heavy burden. "How's school?" Pauli asked.
Tonio seemed reluctant to answer. "School. Yes—well—I have bad news."
At the doorway to Unter den Linden, Pauli stopped. Lime trees along the curb swayed in the wind. Smart carriages rattled by. The evening was crisp and breezy; cool weather had rolled in from the North Sea. Pauli saw an uncharacteristic fear in his friend's eyes.
"You know how the doctor inspects us weekly for signs of infirmity or slowness?" Pauli nodded. "Today I was inspected and—uh—taken out. From now on I'm required to go to the special school. Actually they say it's more like a camp. I'll go there in the autumn. The doctor said he was sorry, but it's necessary."
"Tonio, that's awful." When a student was pulled from school because he was lame or feebleminded, there was no appeal. As the school doctor had once remarked when he was examining pupils, "It's the only way to keep up standards. It's the new German way."
If so, Pauli didn't like it much. Perhaps that was why he had such a strong interest in the country to which his uncle had emigrated years ago.
"Tonio, I'm really sorry."
"Yes, me too. But don't worry, I'll get along."
Pauli squeezed his friend's arm and left.
His heels clicked on the pavement as he walked along. Dark leaves rustled in the cool breeze. The streets resounded with the laughter and lively conversations of passersby, the raucous voices and thumped tankards of celebrants in beer halls, the tuneful grind of a street minstrel's Leierkasten, a barrel organ transported on a small two-wheeled wagon. With the appointment looming tomorrow, the night was full of anticipation and magic. Pauli loved Berlin again.
Well, why not? It was one of the world's great cities. A million and a half people crowded its old streets, creating constant noise and turmoil but at the same time a sense of energy, power, importance. The din of carriages and horse-cars wouldn't stop until early morning.
Athens on the Spree, the old residents called it. Because of the smoke, dirt, relentless industrial expansion, Rathenau, the electrics tycoon, called it Chicago on the Spree. Aunt Lotte had other, less flattering names. "This shithole of misery," for one.
On the streets you saw every sort of person. Elegant women and ragged gypsies. Travelers, officers, businessmen, Jews with their beards and hairlocks and long black gowns; Pauli had never spoken to a Jew, excepting those who were shopkeepers. You saw old Junkers in from their country estates, disdainful, and thin as their expensive cigars. Tonio's father said the Junkers ran the country, the new imperial Germany. He said the Iron Chancellor, Bismarck, had brought back something called the old steel and rye clique—the soldiers and the landowners. He said their influence was good for Germany, along with Bismarck's policy of promoting Germany through armed strength.
Yes, Berlin was a pageant, all right. But he was no longer sure that Berlin would be his permanent home. He'd begun to think often of America. Of a particular city, Chicago, and of the uncle he'd never met. The uncle who was a brewer, and rich.
Also, he disliked his job in the kitchen at the famous and elegant Hotel Kaiserhof. There Pauli swabbed the tiled kitchen floor, emptied trays of dirty dishes and smelly buckets of preparation scraps while avoiding the fists and kicks of the short-tempered chefs. Sometimes he worked days, and sometimes half the night, but the drudgery never varied. The single compensation was the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Herr Trautwein, the hall porter, a burly bachelor who crawled into the beds of female guests whenever possible. He was also an enthusiast about modern inventions of every kind, and talked endlessly but interestingly about the new age of mechanization that would enlighten the world in the next century.
In Müllerstrasse, the sanitary workers—women—clanked the lids of the sewer tanks as Pauli approached. Someone leaned out a window to complain about the noise. The reek of waste filled the drab street. Only the warm hearty smells that blew down from the Norddeutsche Brauerei several blocks away relieved the pervasive stench of dung and dirt.
The bell of the Catholic church on the next street sounded the quarter hour. Pauli hurried down the steps to the door of the cellar flat he occupied along with Aunt Lotte and her innumerable Herren. For a long time, before Aunt Lotte made a decision about entertaining Herren, a corner of the sitting room had been occupied by one or two Schlafburschen, renters who came and went by day and slept behind a temporary curtain at night. Now every guest wound up in Aunt Lotte's room.
Pauli let himself in. The flat was small, with a painted plaster ceiling that pressed down oppressively. The inevitable yellowing lace curtains masked what few windows there were. Dark furniture crowded the sitting room, where Pauli found his aunt in her best flowered wrapper, together with her visitor, an American who showed up about every six months.
"You're late, where have you been?" Aunt Lotte said. "You look even messier than usual." Lotte was forty-three, a handsome and full-bosomed woman with auburn hair like a tight cap of curls, pale blue eyes, and a deformed left foot. Her shoe had a sole several inches thick, and when she walked she exerted enormous effort to avoid listing from side to side. Pauli always thought it was the foot that had robbed her of a good life. Of course she was willful too; very independent and full of herself, which he found strange for someone in poor circumstances.
Intimidated by her question, Pauli didn't know where to start. Lotte waved her glass. "Well, come on, what's the explanation?"
"I was held awhile at the police station—"
"Police!" she cried. "My God, what have you done now?"
"Hey, let the kid explain," said the guest. He rose to pour himself another glass of the champagne he always brought. Phil Reynard traveled through Europe selling Globus sewing machines. He was a gangly, paunchy man who used dye to keep his hair a sleek glossy brown. His German was excellent.
"Explain, then, and be quick about it," Aunt Lotte said. Pauli told the story.
"Not bad, not bad. Got a reward out of it," Reynard said, chuckling.
Aunt Lotte poured herself more champagne. "All right, I guess you did the correct thing. It doesn't excuse the fact that you could have been injured. Don't make a habit of interfering with criminals, Pauli. One more thing. Tomorrow, if the nature of your reward is open for discussion, ask for money. Now go to bed and leave us alone."
Pauli walked down the long dark corridor to his room. There he lit the lamp—no electrification for this cellar yet. He shut the door and latched it with a hard push.
Excerpted from Homeland by John Jakes. Copyright © 1993 John Jakes. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
John Jakes (b. 1932), the author of more than a dozen novels, is regarded as one of today’s most distinguished writers of historical fiction. His work includes the highly acclaimed Kent Family Chronicles series and the North and South Trilogy. Jakes’s commitment to historical accuracy and evocative storytelling earned him the title of “the godfather of historical novelists” from the Los Angeles Times and led to a streak of sixteen consecutive New York Times bestsellers. Jakes has received several awards for his work and is a member of the Authors Guild and the PEN American Center. He and his wife, Rachel, live on the west coast of Florida.
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I've just started reading this book and I'm about 1/3 of the way through it. It gives a lot of background information about that period of time in that location of the country. It loosely follows several families' experiences, but mostly it is based on the history of that era. I would recommend it.
I'm a long fan of the NOrth and South trilogy and when I read Homeland I realized just why I love John Jakes so much. The length of the book can be intimidating but once I started, I couldn't stop reading. I found myself wanting to know whatever I could about the Crowns, even the minor characters.
This was one of the most memorable books I have read. I read it nearly six years ago and have never forgotten it. In fact, I've read all John Jakes books but this was my favorite. I would recommend to anyone interested in a weave of history and good story writing. I just got a nook and was looking to add books to my library that I have loved and own in paperback so I can pass those on. This is a definite I will be adding!
A great book!
At a time when the world stood on the brink of a new century, America struggled to find its place upon the global stage, and huddled masses of immigrants streamed across its borders with little more than the clothing on their backs and a yearning to breath free. It was a time of innovation and invention, a birth of a new technological age, when labor collided violently with management; fathers with sons and America found itself in a war to set a country free. ¿Homeland,¿ John Jakes¿ epic tome is not set during the turbulent decade of 1990¿s (as one might expect after having read my introductory paragraph) but rather a full century earlier. Beginning where his ¿Kent Family Chronicles¿ left off in 1891, and ending in the first year of the twentieth century, 1901, Jakes begins a new cycle of novels with a new family, the Crowns of Chicago. Jakes casts his protagonist, Pauli Kroner, as a young urchin, wandering the streets of Berlin. Orphaned, Pauli lives with his consumptive aunt, Charlotte, who, in a last act of selflessness sends Pauli to live with his uncle, Joseph Crown, who has amassed his fortune in the brewing trade of Chicago. But all is not happy in the Crown household. The forces of change at work in America are straining the family. Uncle Joe barely tolerates the progressive attitude of his wife Ilsa and has constant verbal clashes with his oldest son, Joe Jr., who has taken up sides with the socialist labor union movement, an issue which precipitates one final clash between father and son, after which Joe Jr. runs away and Pauli finds himself expelled from the household for aiding his cousin in his escape. Now known as Paul Crown he must eke out an existence in the streets of Chicago, and soon finds himself standing at the doorstep of the fledgling moving picture business as a camera operator and an eyewitness to history. From the Pullman strike and the fairgrounds of Chicago¿s Colombian Exposition to the Cuban battlefields of the Spanish-American War John Jakes intricately weaves the historical events of the last decade of the nineteenth century throughout his novel and peppers it with historical Characters such as Theodore Roosevelt, Jane Addams, Clara Barton, Eugene Debs and Thomas Edison to name but a few. John Jakes has earned the title ¿Godfather of the Historical Novel,¿ and with ¿Homeland¿ the Crowns of Chicago can rightfully take their place beside the Kents of ¿The Kent Family Chronicles,¿ the Hazard and Main families of the ¿North and South¿ trilogy, and the Chances of ¿California Gold.¿