The Dante Club

The Dante Club

by Matthew Pearl
3.7 141

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Overview

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

A New York Times Bestseller
Words can bleed.
In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club—poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields—are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante’s remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor.
The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante’s literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer to home than they ever could have imagined.
The Dante Club is a magnificent blend of fact and fiction, a brilliantly realized paean to Dante’s continued grip on our imagination, and a captivating thriller that will surprise readers from beginning to end.

Author Biography:

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780099465980
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/2005
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)

About the Author

Matthew Pearl graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude in English and American Literature in 1997, and in 2000 from Yale Law School, where he wrote the first draft of The Dante Club. In 1998, he won the prestigious Dante Prize from the Dante Society of America for his scholarly work. He is also the editor of the new Modern Library edition of Dante's Inferno, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He grew up in Fort Lauderdale and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Dante Club is his first novel.

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Dante Club 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 141 reviews.
bolgai More than 1 year ago
"John Kurtz, the chief of the Boston police, breathed in some of his heft for a better fit between the two chambermaids." This is the first sentence of this book and it gives us a glimpse into the style of Matthew Pearl's writing. It's clever and witty but not simplistic and at a time when majority of books are written in such a conversational language it's a pleasant change of pace. It also fits the period and serves to create the atmosphere of the formality common in the higher levels of the 19th century society even in familiar company. And what a company it is! Longfellow, Holmes and Lowell were the rock stars of their time and yet Pearl paints such intimate and vivid portraits of them that by the time I turned the last page I felt like I knew them and their doting families. Of course this wasn't accidental - the author perused the poets' personal archives as part of his research for the novel. It still is delightful to see historical figures come to life the way they do here. With amateurs acting as investigators it would be easy to categorize the book as a cozy mystery but I would say it falls somewhere between that and a hold-on-to-your-seat thriller, thanks to the fast pace and the gruesomeness of the murders, which are described in rather graphic detail. Of course this is 19th century poets being detectives so they were more horrified than majority of us readers would be, what with TV being what it is nowadays. I appreciated that Mr. Pearl included some information on the plot and characters of Inferno as part of the story - I haven't read Dante yet and this saved me from having to put down the book to look things up online or wonder whether I've possibly missed something. It may seem a bit odd that Longfellow would need to explain what happened in the poem and why to his colleagues, all Dante efficionados, but it kept me reading so I'm not complaining. What also kept me reading is the elusiveness of the killer's identity. I like to guess who the culprit is as more clues are revealed and here there were plenty of candidates yet the real murder managed to hide in plain sight until the very end. Bonus points to Mr. Pearl for keeping up the suspense. This books is not just about Dante and murder though, it is also about the effects of war. The events take place after the Civil War and the effect it has on the American people as a whole and the separate individuals is very similar to what is happening in our country now with the veterans of the war in the Middle East coming home scarred for life, them and their families dealing with the consequences of their experiences every day. The gravity of this subject creates a stark contrast with the rest of the story. Granted, there are the horrors of the murders but the fact that it goes much deeper than the effects of literature on an unstable mind I think is as much a startling revelation for Holmes and the rest as it was for me, the reader. It helps demonstrate just how little their daily lives as litterateurs prepared them for the realities life outside of their gloved circle, the realities of hunting a killer. I would recommend this book to fans of historical fiction who appreciate a suspenseful mystery, intelligent storytelling, compelling characters and a villain you can't believe you missed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the beginning is a little slow and difficult to get into, but continuing on is a thrill. the story picks up quite nicely and takes some exciting, unexpected turns. I for one could not put the book down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted the book to better detail the Dante parts of the crime, but after a slow start, it got much better. The ending was great and it was at the Third Canticle where I just couldn't put the book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing edge of your seat thriller. The beginning is a bit slow and confusing, but it picks up with great speed! Pearl is brilliant. If you loved The DaVinci Code, you will most definitely fall in love with The Dante Club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I originialy bought this book I thought it was going to be a standard mystery book that takes place in the 1800s. It wasn't what I was expecting, but I was greatly satisfied with it. As someone who had a vague idea of Dante and his Inferno, I was still able to follow and enjoy this book. If fact, I now want to read Longfellow's translation of Dante. I can definitely see this as a great book for Book Clubs, although, it is a great book to read individually as well. I even enjoyed the introduction, it makes for a great mystery starter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the book and found its plot engaging and characters believable. It starts a bit slowly but eventually moves along to a thrilling conclusion. This book is an entertaining and intelligent narrative that is a must read.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Mattew Pearl's recent novel, the Dante Club, combines history, suspense, and mystery in a truly unique reading experience. Famous, well known characters such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Windell-Holmes and James Russell Lowe are intricately woven into a plot which develops around their translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Their work is disrupted however, when a series of murders in Boston are modeled after mankind's punishment in hell as described in Dante's Inferno. The murder of prominent citizens modeled after their translation make them suspect.

The "Dante Club" refers to the group assembled by Longfellow - including Holmes and Lowell - to assist him in the first American translation of Dante's "Devine Comedy". As people in high places - a judge, a minister, a wealthy merchant - turn up tortured and murdered in scenes recreating those described in Dante's classic, the poets hit the streets of Boston and Cambridge in search of the killer. The result is an exceptionally well-researched book that is rich in historical detail while capturing the post-Civil War American psyche and culture. Pearl's description of the Civil War horrors and post-war trauma is especially gripping. The murders are brutally and vividly portrayed, as the victims are variously eaten-alive by maggots, buried upside-down and set on fire, and literally cut in half.

Despite the graphic butchery, this is a book that must not be rushed, but savored for the intricacy of the plot and the intensity of the prose. It is the rare book that draws the reader to revisit the poetry of Longfellow, US history in the wake of the Civil War, and the mystery of Dante in 19th century America. A stunning first novel from a writer destined to become a household name
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Dante's Inferno in college with help of a T.A. and found it fascinating! When I tried to read it on my own I was frustrated so when I found The Dante Club, I was thrilled to find a great way to get back into the book with a wonderfully sculpted suspense story included! I will definitely read this book several times over!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've tried 2x now to get into this book and I just can't seem to stick with it. It's just soooo slow in the beginning and hard to get into the plot. I might give it another try later as it sounds like it's pretty good once you get into it but jeez it's tough to get there!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you want to read about an early form of censorship, dive into the wonderfully vivd language which is The Dante Club. Matthew Pearl has woven several plots together which seemingly unveil the political climate of the time. So get ready for a wonderfully descriptive read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not stop reading. Every word, every page transported me back to the time and place. It was one of the most pleasurable reads I've ever had, and I'm nearly sixty! It also got me interested in Longfellow, whose biography I'm now reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was truly an entertaining read! I haven't picked up a work of fiction in over 5 years, so I was very paticular about what I purchased. As a student of American history and a fan of Dante since childhood, this seemed like a good choice. Although the first few pages begin with an graphic description of a murder, the story (as most mysteries tend to do) draws the reader in and one tends to overlook the gory aspects. I finished the novel in less than a week, craving more. Pearl succeeds in keeping you on the edge of your seat and just when you think you have figured it out or you can't wait to read more, he cuts from the seen. His style keeps the pages turning and the reader entertained. I'm definitely looking forward to more from Pearl and to dusting off my copy of The Divine Comedy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our book club agreed that this book was long, boring, disgusting in parts, and a very disappointing read. The author seems more interested in displaying his technical skills than in keeping the reader interested. Several characters and scenes lead you to believe that more development will come later -- only to disappoint later on when they don't. Towards the end the book becomes more fast-paced and easier to finish, but good luck making it past the first 150 pages.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has a flashy concept but the execution is very weak and uninvolving. All the characters sound alike as they engage in pompous speechifying with each other. The narrative voice is stuffy and off-putting. The plotting and the numerous coincidences are amateurish. Much of the 'action' involves the 3 or 4 lead characters meeting and greeting each other again and again in different locales (kind of like a bad movie where you get to see the characters getting in and out of cars again and again and driving off somewhere). The villians are cartoonish book burners and the author takes you through over 300 pages of deadly dull prose and at the end simply tells you who the murderer is and attempts a very unconvincing explanation of his motivation--since none of this is developed organically in the preceding story line. This is a very overhyped book by a young lawyer who should stick to writing legal briefs. The whole thing reeks of being a huge research project that a non-writer has tried to turn into a novel. Skip it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have reached the half way point of this novel and the characters are starting to see a correlation between the murders as to be expect with such a story. Even as I am at a point in the story which much is developing, im putting this one down, maybe ill return. Its very slow and predictable. With many good reviews i decided to give it a shot, needless to say I was pretty dissapointed.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely loved this book and have been hookef on the author ever since. It kept me turning psge after page until the end when I was sad the ride was over.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was strange reading a book where the detectives are all poets and not cops or other action type heroes. As other readers mentioned, it was a bit slow moving and there were lots of red herons thrown in the way of the solution. But it was an enjoyable read.
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