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8th Day [Paperback]

Thornton Wilder
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 1 1976

This new edition of Thornton Wilder's renowned 1967 National Book Award–winning novel features a new foreword by John Updike and an afterword by Tappan Wilder, who draws on such unique sources as Wilder's unpublished letters, handwritten annotations in the margins of the book, and other illuminating documentary material.

In 1962 and 1963, Thornton Wilder spent twenty months in hibernation, away from family and friends, in the Rio Grande border town of Douglas, Arizona. While there, he launched The Eighth Day, a tale set in a mining town in southern Illinois about two families blasted apart by the apparent murder of one father by the other. The miraculous escape of the accused killer, John Ashley, on the eve of his execution and his flight to freedom triggers a powerful story tracing the fate of his and the victim's wife and children. At once a murder mystery and a philosophical story, The Eighth Day is a "suspenseful and deeply moving" (New York Times) work of classic stature that has been hailed as a great American epic.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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About the Author

Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works, exploring the connection between the commonplace and cosmic dimensions of human experience, continue to be read and produced around the world. His novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of seven, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, as did two of his four full-length dramas: Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). Wilder's The Matchmaker was adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also enjoyed enormous success with many other forms of the written and spoken word, among them teaching, acting, the opera, and cinema. His screenplay for Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day. Wilder's many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee's Medal for Literature.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Midwestern fables Dec 2 2003
Format:Paperback
There is a poor John mine is southern Illinois in Coaltown. The mine mechanic is charged with and convicted of the murder of the general manager. The two leading families in the town had been those of the general manager and the mine mechanic. The better man of the two was the mechanic. He had worked with the manager and had given him credit for things he accomplished.
The mechanic is sentenced to death but escapes through the work of an unknown group of men. One of the daughters decides that in order to carry on she and her family must run a boarding house. At the time people feared being relegated to the poor house.
The hopeful find nourishment in marvels. Eventually John Ashley, the condemned man, makes his way to Chile to work in the copper mines. The root of avarice is the fear of what circumstances might bring. Ashley had tried to live in a manner opposite that of his father who was a miser.
After the crisis and while the boarding house was being started, John Ashley's son Roger, age seventeen, moved to Chicago. In the beginning he was a dishwasher. Quickly he moved through jobs as a hotel clerk and an orderly. Roger met some journalists and resolved to become a newspaper man.
He was starved for food of the spirit. Once he was given a ticket to FIDELIO. After being in Chicago eighteen months he became a reporter. Roger met his sister, the musician of the family, in Chicago. His sister Lily's friend, the Maestro, told Roger that works of art are the only satisfactory productions of civilization.
Roger and his sister hit upon a plan to use their real extravagant middle names and last names in their newspaper work and singing respectively to enable their father to contact them. John Ashley had gone to engineering school in Hoboken.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading June 11 1999
Format:Paperback
I read this book because it won the National Book Award for 1968. For much of the time I was reading I thought it inartfully written, the story line awfully contrived, and often boring. But there is a certain power to the story, and it depicts good people--John Ashley, above all--who should be admired. I guess I am glad I read this book, but I can't say I think it is felicitously written. I concluded the award of the National Book Award to this book was more to honor an old and famous writer than because the book is a great book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars confused April 9 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
For me this book began with great promise. Engrossing and mysterious plot, interesting characters, incredibly well written. Suddenly, the main character in whom the author has invested so much of the story disappears completely and subplots eclipse the main plot. To make matters worse the character development becomes predictable and the characters themselves are not very interesting. What happened to the last half of this book?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  29 reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MOVED Sept. 26 2000
By "kkupferstein" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This novel was given to me by a friend and lover years ago, and remains one of the books that has moved me more than any. As he does in his better known works, Wilder manages to touch his reader deeply with the complexity of the human spirit, move us to tears without ever resorting to sentimentality. A powerful exploration of the "American Individual", the family, love and man's search for self and meaning. A must read, and a generous gift to those you love. One cannot help but reach within one's self and do a bit of soul-examining while/after reading this book. Haunting, inspiring and memorable.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great and sadly neglected book Aug. 10 2001
By tenordan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Thornton Wilder is best known as a playwright- for Our Town, The Skin of Our Teeth and the Matchmaker. He was also an excellent novelist, and his novels should be much more well known. The Eighth Day is one of my all-time favorite books. The plot is exciting, but the beauty of the book is in the great compassion Wilder shows for his fellow humans. In this, it reminds me of Our Town. You will not regret reading this book.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unjustly neglected classic Dec 26 1998
By Son of Houston - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A triumph of technique, The Eighth Day may be the ultimate achievement of Wilder's novelistic career - in microcosm, a story of the hundred years from 1845 to the Second World War, the novel focuses on two families in one town and the aftermath of a murder. While the writing gets bogged down in verbiage from time to time, the characters are exquisitely drawn, and the tale is gripping and powerfully told, without sentimentality, and completely unpredictable. The murder mystery at the story's heart is, alas, a great big red herring and not particularly satisfying - but those who read the book for its evocative portrayal of a bygone America and its uniquely Wilder-esque turns of phrase will be thrilled and moved.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An undiscovered treasure Aug. 8 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is one of my very favorite novels, and it breaks my heart to see just how few people have heard of it. The engrossing storyline, brilliant characterizations, and Wilder's beautiful writing style make this a joy to read. I recommend it to everyone.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Eighth Day April 12 2006
By Bomojaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Set in a dismal Illinois coal town around the turn of the twentieth century, resident John Ashley is accused of killing Breckenridge Lansing, the money-grubbing, incompetent owner of the coal mine; he is found guilty and sentenced to be executed. But on his way to prison, he is suddenly rescued by six unidentified men and set free. He makes his way to Chile, puts his engineering background and love of mathematics to good use, and eventually makes his way back to the US. Ashley becomes a "man of faith," that faith being defined as a belief in a better, more caring, American community. (A new beginning = the Eighth Day.) One character says, "The [human] race is undergoing its education. What is education? It is the bridge man crosses from the self-enclosed, self-favoring life into a consciousness of the entire community of mankind." The "heroes" of the novel are those who defy the conventions that would keep them from crossing that bridge (Lily Ashley pursues a career as a singer, defying Victorian conventions) and those who wash their hands of the filthy pursuit of materialistic well-being (Roger Ashley becomes a muckraking journalist in Chicago eager to help the poor). The truth of John Ashley's innocence of the crime is revealed at the end (though Wilder tells us he's innocent in the Prologue). An annoying feature of the book is Wilder's blunt moralizing, especially near the end; characters are forced to make these little speeches about "false hopes" and "people changing" that make them suddenly appear remote and snobbish. (I'm not criticizing the message here, only Wilder's methods.) Wilder holds out a great deal of hope for the future of America, though he believes the road ahead is perilous with lots of false turns possible. This is his most ambitious novel, and it won the National Book Award in 1968.
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