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Theory of War [Hardcover]

Joan Brady
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 2 1994
"[A] vivid historical novel--part poignant biographical fiction, part raw frontier epic."
Taking flight from an extraordinary real-life family history, here is a riveting novel of how the past lives on, generation after generation. THEORY OF WAR is the richly imagined story of one woman's journey into what a distant relation might have experienced--and how echoes of his suffering haunt his descendents to this day.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Mallory Carrick, the narrator of this provocative, ambitious novel by the author of The Imposter , is the granddaughter of a white slave. Jonathan Carrick was "bound out" to a farmer as a boy in 1865; though he ran away at age 16, his enslavement instilled a fury that, Mallory states, "pollutes my life, even though the man was dead before I was born." Desperate to understand her fierce, emotionally crippled ancestor, she flies from her home in England to Washington state, where her great-uncle recounts the story of Jonathan's life: his horrific boyhood, his years as a railroad brakeman, his conflict as a fundamentalist minister who doubted the Word he preached, his war against the imperious son of his erstwhile owner. Confined to a wheelchair by a spinal tumor, Mallory seeks "the truth" about her grandfather but must rely on such fallible sources as her alcoholic great-uncle's failing memory and Jonathan's coded journals. Drawing on the actual experiences of her own grandfather, Brady brings a riveting tale shockingly to life with her flair for colorful characterization and vivid language. However, her tendency to indulge in philosophical musings overwhelms a story that would have been far more powerful and unsettling if it had been more simply told. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In 1865, a Civil War veteran indentures his four-year-old son to a vicious Kansas tobacco farmer. The boy, who is white and Brady's grandfather, is fictionalized in a remarkably compelling tale that essentially draws its power from depicting unembellished brutality. Brady's narrative cuts between protagonist Jonathan Carrick's doomed attempts at love and normalcy and those of a son and granddaughter, reminiscing survivors who can only be termed "adult children of slaves." In the 60 years the protagonist's story spans, Johnny, intense and generally enraged, circuits the country, murdering, praying, drinking, and blaspheming, often simultaneously. The characters in this dark tale, cynics every one, alternately ponder the biggest of questions and submit, inarticulately, to unbearable pain. This graphic, ugly-beautiful novel, as eloquent for its articulation of obsessive rage as for its avoidance of melodrama and cliche, is recommended for libraries collecting serious contemporary fiction. BOMC alternate; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.
- Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars "Theory of War" By:Joan Brady Oct. 10 2001
By Renata
The narrator of this novel, Malory Carrick, an American woman residing in Britain who returns home to visit her uncle Atlas and to learn the true story of her grandfather from his diaries who had been a "boughten boy" just after the American Civil War. Her grandfather Jonathan Carrick, a white boy is sold into slavery at age 4 for fifteen dollars to a struggling brutal Kansas Tobacco farmer Alvah Stoke. Jonathan lived his adolescence working endlessly at planting, harvesting, picking off tabacco worms, wrapping tobacco plugs, and his ultimate humiliation, getting beat and bullied by his vicious tormentor Stroke's son, George. To the Stoke family Jonathan was " an animal that you need just need to break", but the hatred towards George grew till Jonathan couldn't take anymore and beat him till he was surely dead, then he escaped at the age of 16 taking the Trans. Continental to Denver to finally be free. Twenty years later Jonathan gets an education he has always wanted and soon after he marries, has 4 kids, and becomes a successful farmer. However, he neither forgot nor forgave the past. Soon after he finds out that George Stoke is alive and well as the US Senator now a "fat, cobra of a politician" he becomes Jonathan's target once again.
Joan Brady writes the story with such feeling and heart about her grandfather that it touched me as well. Jonathan Carrick's story is unusual because he was a white slave, which made it more interesting for me to read because you don't hear of cases such as these. The story about Jonathan's life made a serious impact on her family through out the generations and it made me realize how important your families history is. I think Joan Brady did a good job making Jonathan's history one everyone will remember.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The parts are better than the whole July 20 2000
This is a tale of white slavery in 19th century America with a part-claim to authenticity, featuring many nice observations, descriptions and anecdotes. Some reviewer compared this book to Jack London, which has its merits - and whenever Brady tells her story like London would she is at her best. There are many memorable incidents, and the main protagonist's fate is drawing the reader in. When Jonathan makes his appearance as a small and babbling boy with a natural talent for invention, the novel is taking off. The descriptions of 19th century farmlife, of pioneers' Denver or the first visit to a brothel are really well done. Still I was not completely happy with this book. The fictitious narrator, a grand-daughter of Jonathan, jumps back and forth in time, rather obtrusively showing that slavery not only managed to destroy Jonathan's life but that of his children and childrens' children as well. Brady gives these characters room enough to disrupt the main story but not enough to make them really interesting. The novel seems to be a mixture of fiction and authentic biography which does not really work out in the end. "Theory of War" is a rewarding read, no doubt, but rather for its many well-executed scenes than as a whole.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed April 13 1999
By A Customer
I found Brady's "pseudo memoir" of her grandfather's life boring. I think she had a good idea in terms of interweaving Clausewitz into a narrative of slavery, but it didn't work for me; Brady throws in a quote from time to time and that's about it in terms of the analogy she's trying (I think) to draw. I didn't like the irascible narrator, the writing was not that good, the description lacked convincing details (and at times even sufficient details to understand what was happening), motivations of characters were never addressed. All in all, disappointing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Generational Stain of Experience Feb. 10 2000
I was fascinated by the way Brady traced the stain of Jonathan's experience through the lives of his children and grandchildren. Without knowing why, they replicated his dysfunctional understanding of human interaction, over and over again: failed relationships, crippling depression, emotional escapism, and stunted personal growth. We are each of us the sum of our predecessors' experiences, whether we like it or not.
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