In this magnificent novel, which is the conclusion to the celebrated Watson trilogy, E.J. Watson tells his own story, through his turbulent life, to his death at the hands of vigilantes. From his destitute childhood in South Carolina, and the terrible events which haunt him for the rest of his days, the narrative shifts to the wilds of the Florida ...Read MoreIn this magnificent novel, which is the conclusion to the celebrated Watson trilogy, E.J. Watson tells his own story, through his turbulent life, to his death at the hands of vigilantes. From his destitute childhood in South Carolina, and the terrible events which haunt him for the rest of his days, the narrative shifts to the wilds of the Florida Everglades. Here, Watson establishes himself as a successful sugar-cane farmer, trying in vain to escape his past, and the uncontrollable, vicious side of his nature which is ultimately his downfall. Intelligent, a devoted husband and a lover, a stern father and a man capable of cruelty and cold-blooded murder, Watson is a character staggeringly real in his complexity. Bone by Bone confronts not only the racism, brutality and entrepeneurial greed of the American South at the turn of the century but also the paradox at the heart of human nature: our capacity for fierce love, compassion and unspeakable violence.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 1999-03-15 This is the conclusion and capstone to Matthiessen's remarkable trilogy about the mysterious E.J. Watson, which began with Killing Mr. Watson (1991) and continued with Lost Man's River (1997). In those novels, the sons of the legendary southwest Florida entrepreneur and outlaw were engaged, at a time closer to our own, in digging out the man's story, trying to separate certifiable fact from the miasma of gossip and legend. This time, Matthiessen has given us Watson's own story in Watson's own words, and it is a book of heroic, even tragic, proportions. That story goes right back to Civil War days in South Carolina, and the terrible childhood E.J. endured at the hands of his drunken, brutal and rascally father and his remote and vindictive mother. Thus were laid the seeds of the later outbursts of violence and rage that so frequently punctuated what should have been a promising life. For Watson, as he portrays himself, is ambitious, hardworking and ever ingenious at figuring ways to make the remote Florida Everglades shores yield riches?a true pioneer spirit. He also makes clear, however, the fearful price paid for the development of wild America, not only the despoilation of the hauntingly evoked natural beauty but also the brutal disregard of any kind of human rights among the poor blacks and chain gang prisoners who bore the brunt of the exploiters' drive for wealth and power. Seldom has the profound and unthinking racism of the time (the narrative spans roughly 1860-1910) been so unsparingly presented. The narrative, though long and crowded with often bewilderingly interrelated characters, is also packed with dramatic action: many murders (including that of the legendary Belle Starr, when E.J. is temporarily resident in Indian Territory), ambushes, lynchings, drownings, jailings, a trial and a spectacular hurricane. Always Watson is striving for the respectability of wealth, always he is brought down by the conniving of his kinfolk, his tempers, his love of strong drink and his tormented inability to tolerate the lying and hypocrisy he finds everywhere around him. He is a monumental creation, and in bringing him and his amazing period to life with such vigor Matthiessen has created an unforgettable slice of deeply true and resonant American history. Author tour. (Apr.)
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