- Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (June 27 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 034549038X
- ISBN-13: 978-0345490384
- Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 2.6 x 17.5 cm
- Shipping Weight: 227 g
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,936,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Dante Club: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – Jun 27 2006
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"Matthew Pearl is the new shining star of literary fiction -- a heady, inventive, and immensely gifted author. With intricate plots, classical themes, and erudite characters…what’s not to love?"
"Working on a vast canvas, Mr. Pearl keeps this mystery sparkling with erudition... with this captivating brain teaser as his debut novel, seems also to have put his life's work on the line in melding scholarship with mystery. He does justice to both." -Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Audacious and captivating."
-Adrienne Miller, Esquire
"Mr. Pearl's triumph is mixing these two cultures: wealthy, cultivated men of letters faced with the mysterious and seedy streets of a 19th-century Boston... creating not just a page-turner but a beguiling look at the U.S. in an era when elites shaped the course of learning and publishing. With this story of the Dante Club's own descent into hell, Mr. Pearl's book will delight the Dante novice and expert alike." -Kimberley Strassel, The Wall Street Journal
"Pearl, a graduate of Harvard and Yale Law School and a Dante scholar, ably meshes the literary analysis with a suspenseful plot and in the process humanizes the historical figures... A divine mystery."
-Julie K. L. Dam, People Magazine (Page Turner of the Week)
"Just about anyone who admires smart historical fiction will get a literary jolt out of Matthew Pearl’s gory first novel... His Civil War memory fragments alone add up to one of the most unforgettable accounts of that chapter of American history yet written." -Celia McGee, The New York Daily News
"How the club and the police compete and then converge is the mystery and the thrill in a preternaturally accomplished book as wise as it is entertaining. 'The Dante Club' is a carefully plotted, imaginatively shaped, and stylistically credible whodunit of unusual class and intellect... The writing is passionate, the narrative driven."
-Carlo Wolff, The Boston Globe
"Pearl has achieved that intoxicating blend of reality and imagination that Doctorow gave us 25 years ago with Ragtime. Here's hoping Pearl decides to spend his career writing novels and letting that Yale law degree go to waste. The world has enough lawyers. Great novelists are in short supply."
-William Mckeen, The Orlando Sentinel
"Pearl masterfully synthesizes countless aspects of mid-19th-century life into a riveting mystery that creeps through all corners of crippled postwar Boston. To steal a revelation from the book: Lucifer did not create hell; it was Dante. In The Dante Club, Pearl adds one more diabolical ring."
-Christopher Bollen, Time Out (New York)
"This novel is as erudite as it is bloody. It swings from an account of exotic maggots eating a man alive to a discussion of the finer points of Dante's artistic and political vision. The Dante Club is a unique, ambitious, entertaining read, a historical thriller with a poetic streak."
-Chris Kidler, The Baltimore Sun
"'The Dante Club' is a richly detailed microcosm set generously before us. Within it, wit, erudition and a healthy respect for good old fashioned hugger-mugger conspire to produce one of this year's most agreeable entertainments."
-Bruce Allen, Raleigh News & Observer
"Pearl does what a good historical novelist has to do: Look at the past by the light of the imagination, creating a fictional situation -- there was of course no actual Dante killer in 1865 Boston -- to animate the ideas, issues and personalities of the time... There aren't many writers around who can remind you of both James Patterson and Umberto Eco."
-Charles Matthews, San Jose Mercury News
"Young author finds a 'Pearl' in mystery. Boston winters are cruel, and Matthew Pearl captures every icy finger of wind, every sinister shadow and more than a few human-induced chills in 'The Dante Club'... Pearl is a young author worth following. He's created a work that should appeal to history buffs, literary buffs and crime fiction fans alike."
-Robin Vidimos, The Denver Post
"A hell of a first novel... The Dante Club delivers in spades."
-David Lazarus, The San Francisco Chronicle
“The Dante Club is a thoroughly accomplished first novel. Matthew Pearl does a marvelous job of evoking the period and making it come alive with finely drawn characters and an ingenious story.”
-David Liss, Edgar Award–winning author of A Conspiracy of Paper
“A fascinating, erudite, and highly entertaining account of a remarkable moment in American literary history.”
-Iain Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost
“In The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl expertly combines rollicking entertainment with serious insights about Civil War–era America. The book is fun, smart, and enviably audacious.”
-Darin Strauss, author of Chang & Eng and The Real McCoy
“This first-rate thriller breathes such life into the genre that the term ‘thrilling’ genuinely applies. Matthew Pearl not only succeeds with a deft and elegant plot, but delivers an eloquent and quirky message for our times about the value of literary heroes. In The Dante Club we are privileged to meet the most unlikely quartet of sleuths.”
-Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Lost
“The Dante Club is pure pleasure for the reader, magnificently informed without being stuffy, gripping without being merely sensational. I particularly enjoyed the nice, easy swing of its pacing. This book can be savored.”
-Peter Straub, co-author of Black House
“An ambitious and entertaining thriller that may remind readers of Caleb Carr.”
"Expertly weaving period detail, historical fact, complex character studies, and nail-biting suspense, Pearl has written a unique and utterly absorbing tale."
-Booklist Magazine (starred)
"Matthew Pearl's dazzler of a debut novel, The Dante Club, is just what an historical thriller should be--a creative combo of edge-of-your-seat suspense, fully imagined characters, fictional and real, and an evocative, well-researched, well-realized setting"
"A devil of a time... Ingenious use of details and motifs from the Divine Comedy, and a lively picture of the literary culture of post-bellum New England, distinguish this juicy debut historical mystery."
-Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"Absorbing and dramatic... Pearl has proven himself a master."
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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. He can be reached via his website, www.thedanteclub.com.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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The story takes place in 1865 Boston, where a group of friends that include poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, writer and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes and poet James Russell Lowell, among others, decide to form a Dante Club in order to produce an English translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy". Many people are against this endeavour, as they believe Dante's "Divine Comedy" to be dangerous reading material, but our academics are steadfast in their devotion to Dante. However, they begin to get nervous when a madman that seems to be delivering the punishments Dante Alighieri talks about in his "Inferno" (= "Hell", one of the three books in which the "Divine Comedy" is divided) starts killing people in Boston. Trying to avoid a death blow to Dante's reputation even before the American public can read his translated works, the members of the Dante Club decide to catch the killer by themselves. That is easier said than done, but makes for a very entertaining book.
From my point of view, "The Dante Club" is a perfect choice for Dante's fans, but also for those that just want to buy something interesting to read in their spare time. If you already love Dante, you will enjoy the way in which Matthew Pearl makes the "Divine Comedy" an integral part of this book; if you are new to Dante's works, you will learn about him and his books at the same time you read an original whodunit. In any case, you are highly likely to love "The Dante Club". Of course, recommended!
Incredibly, Matthew Pearl has crafted a novel that brings Dante to life along with three men who today are portraits hung on Harvard's walls and names on its buildings. In 1865 Holmes, Longfellow and Lowell were prominent members of the Harvard community at odds with Augustus Manning, the omnipotent head of the Harvard Corporation. As Pearl launches the three scholars on a mission to solve the bizarre chain of murders, their conversations portray a formality appropriate to the times and their stature, yet their manner and actions are more believable than what you'll read in a lot of modern crime fiction.
Pearl also uses his fiction to provide a quick primer on Dante's life and works. You might want to read his introduction to Longfellow's translation of "Inferno" (it's in the excerpt that appears on Amazon.com) to discover how Longfellow became preoccupied with Dante in the early 1860s. There really was a Dante Club, a group of friends who gathered at Longfellow's house most Wednesdays to read and critique a canto or two.
On top of this historical and literary backdrop, Pearl builds an intriguing plot that takes the scholars and his readers through all strata of post Civil War Boston and Cambridge. The end result is an exceptionally well-crafted mystery accompanied by an interesting peek into the lives of Dante, Longfellow and the academic elite of the late 19th century - an ambitious first novel that lives up to its promise.
I'll admit that at first I was somewhat leery of the concept: the Fireside Poets - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell cast as investigators of a string of horrific murders? An ambitious premise for a novel, for sure, but more aptly, bizarre and ripe with risk. Pearl, however, pulls this off with a curious combination of the poet's love of the language and the storyteller's knack for pace and action.
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 trama is especially gripping. Not since "Silence of the Lambs" or "Se7en" have murders been so 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. Yet 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. In summary, a stunning first novel from a writer destined to become a household name. Don't miss it!
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