Sunday, June 21, 2009

TSS - Review - All Other Nights by Dara Horn

All Other Nights by Dara Horn
published 4/09
384 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army, it is a question his commanders have answered for him: on Passover in 1862 he is ordered to murder his own uncle, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln.

After that night, will Jacob ever speak for himself? The answer comes when his commanders send him on another mission - this time not to murder a spy but to marry one.

A page-turner rich with romance and the history of America (North and South), this is a book only Dara Horn could have written. Full of insight and surprise, layered with meaning, it is a brilliant parable of the moral divide that still haunts us: between those who value family first and those dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.

My thoughts:

Dara Horn is a great storyteller. From the very first sentence I was hooked on the tale of Jacob Rappaport, and what he would be willing to do.

"Inside a barrel in the bottom of a boat, with a canteen of water wedged between his legs and a packet of poison concealed in his pocket, Jacob Rappaport felt a knot tightening in his stomach - not because he was about to do something dangerous, but because he was about to do something wrong."

From that moment on, Jacob's story was fascinating. This is a not a novel that will dazzle with it's beautiful language, though it is well written - it is much more concerned with telling a great story, which I found to be refreshing. Additionally, I enjoyed Horn's unique perspective on the Civil War.
This is the first time I've read about the experiences of American Jews during this time, and I found myself interested in this period of history in a new way.

I found Jacob to be an incredibly sympathetic character - he almost seems doomed, with first his father, and then the army forcing him to accept horrible situations because he has no other choice. She deftly explores the issue of a person's actions defining their character through the decisions Jacob is forced to make - can you still be a good person if you do bad things? If you do bad things for good reasons, does that justify your actions? I also loved Eugenia, and would love to read an entire novel about her.

My one complaint about the novel is the extraordinary number of happy coincidences that occurred just in the nick of time, and the rather abrupt ending - but really, those are small problems in an otherwise wonderful novel.

I highly recommend this one - I didn't want to put it down, and definitely plan to read more by this author!

Finished: 6/7/09
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers program
Rating: 8/10

This books counts toward:


Carolina Gal's Literary Cafe said...

Thank you for the review this one has been on my book shelf for a couple of months. I just have not found the time. I can't wait to read it.

Literary Feline said...

This sounds like an intriguing book. I haven't read too much set during that time period, but it's something I keep meaning to do. Thank you for the great review!

Zibilee said...

I had been curious about this book and am glad to hear that you liked it. Based on your review, I will be putting this one my wish list.