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Bone by Bone [Paperback]

Peter Matthiessen

Price: 12.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

20 May 1999

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 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press; First printing of this edition edition (20 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860466680
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860466687
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 246,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A profound and convincing account of our battle with both inner and outer external nature, and of the violence we have done to the world and to ourselves" (The Times)

"One of our best writers" (Don Delillo)

"A masterpiece about human degradation... The Watson Trilogy... is a work of flawed and uncommon genius" (The Globe and Mail)

Book Description

The third and final novel of the Watson trilogy, 'one of the grand literary projects of contemporary literature' (San Francisco Chronicle).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best and clearest of a great trilogy 24 Jun 1999
By Beverly Ballow - Published on
My Mother's family and many of her friends lived in the South Florida frontier in the early part of the century. I've heard many stories of their adventures, and the "characters" they knew, which included the famous Mr. Watson. I've read and enjoyed the three Matthiessen books,(Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man's River, Bone by Bone) each more than once. the writing, the insights, the research all are impressive and exciting. I wish there were more coming. Bone by Bone is clearly a culmination of a life's work. The author speaks with an authentic voice and soul in this particular novel, and these strange and unfamiliar histories come alive.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read "Killing Mr. Watson" First! 28 Jun 2000
By John Noodles - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This final installment in the "Mr. Watson" trilogy is, alas, in some ways the most disappointing. This isn't to say it isn't enjoyable, but having made it through both "Killing Mr. Watson" and "Lost Man's River," it's difficult, and perhaps unreasonable, to expect us not to judge this book in the light of its predecessors.
This book is a much easier read than the detective-like "Lost Man's River," which followed Lucius Watson's seemingly interminable journey all over Florida as he hunted for evidence of his father's innocence. In "Bone by Bone," told in the first person from the perspective of E.J. Watson himself, the mystery and doubt so perfectly balanced with drama and violence in "Killing Mr. Watson" is removed. Watson tells his own story, shows us how he became the violent man he is, and reveals to the reader his whole person.
The names in this book are confusing...I can't recall reading a book in which so many names are thrown at you. There is a gloss of family relationships at the beginning of the book, which helps somewhat, but I still found myself losing track of people, especially since we were dealing with members of the same family.
In both "Lost Man's River" and "Bone by Bone," Matthiessen editorializes--through his characters--quite a bit about race issues. Given that these stories are situated in the post-Civil War South, it is not inappropriate that there should be some race issues, but the manner in which the characters editorialize (rather than letting the action of the narrative speak for itself) makes that commentary stick out like a broken wing. The problem of race, and the situation of blacks, becomes less an organic part of the story (as it is in Faulkner) than asides the writer makes to remind us of the racial horrors of the Reconstruction South.
Watson's voice is clear throughout, although there are certain inconsistencies. He speaks for the most part in elevated, literary English (using complex metaphor, at times). We are told that as a child he read the Greek classics. Nevertheless, he cannot spell, and sometimes, for no apparent reason, he lapses into backwoods diction.
In "Killing Mr. Watson," Watson came off as a brooding, violent, secretive man. Here, we see the guts of the man, the joker, the father, the husband. This side is effectively blended with the violence and the brooding we saw earlier. It will be hard to appreciate this, though, if you haven't first read "Killing Mr. Watson." (You don't really need to read "Lost Man's River" to get the full effect of this noverl, although you will be more sensitive to the drama involving Lucius and Rob.)
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It has staying power 27 April 2000
By JC Roberts - Published on
I didn't whiz through this as I did "Killing Mister Watson", but Ed Watson tells his own story well enough to hold the reader.
What amazed me as the end approaches and upon reflection, is that the story of Ed Watson, fictionalized as it is, offers food for thought about the thin line that can separate classic American rags to riches stories and those who, for various reasons, can't seem to make it over the hump. Watson had the strength, drive and natural intelligence, but couldn't overcome his weaknesses and his past. That makes this story, and the whole trilogy, a true American tragedy (much like Theodore Driser's novel, but with darker, dirtier characters).
And the funny thing is, the second I finished this book, I grabbed Killing Mister Watson and spent hours going back and forth between books. It's an interesting sensation.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A "Bone" to Pick 28 Feb 2000
By Dale W. Boyer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
By all rights, this third part of Matthiesson's trilogy should have been the juiciest entry, since Watson tells the details of his bloody story himself. However, the book proves to be disappointingly pedestrian, with Matthiesson going back and sketching out Watson's early life, "explaining" how he got to be as hard-hearted as he did, etc. The linear approach is a mistake, I think, and a bad one; indeed, in his obsession with local color and period detail, Matthiessen seems to have forgotten the basic components of a novel -- seems to have forgotten, indeed, how to reward readers who have made their way patiently through almost 1400 pages of material. A book where Watson told his story from the time he came to the Everglades to the end, with the occasional flashback, would have been riveting. Instead, we get transcripts of trials, and again, mountains of information to sift through. Actually, that's been the problem with the series as a whole: as much as I find it intermittently interesting, and as well as Matthiessen can write at times, he's let the details and the chronology overwhelm him here, swamping the narrative drive and making it all seem very plodding. His other mistake, I think, is trying to explain Watson's character, more or less giving reasons for his evil nature. But evil is most interesting when it's an enigma. I don't buy the bland childhood scenes, the awful father who "makes" Watson into what he is. Matthiessen should have just let evil be evil and got on with the story. I also don't buy Watson's voice throughout: I keep hearing Matthiessen behind it, blandly filling out episodes most readers will care very little about. The most riveting section of the whole series comes in the second book when we get the 3 or 4 page version of the killing of the Tuckers written out by R.B. Watson. What a shame that Matthiessen couldn't have matched that kind of intensity for the conclusion of his monumental saga. Sadly, much as I love Matthiessen, I'd advise readers to call it quits after Killing Mr. Watson (as Matthiessen should have). It's the best of the lot.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Matthiessen deserves a Nobel Prize, though not for this book 24 Sep 1999
By W. Christeson - Published on
"Bone by Bone" is not Matthiessen's best work, or even the best of the Watson trilogy. But no matter: sometimes even Homer nodded, and anything by Matthiessen is better than almost anything else.
Matthiessen deserves a Nobel Prize. Who else could write nonfiction as beautiful as "Wildlife in America" or fiction like the incomparable "Far Tortuga"? "Far Tortuga", in fact, may turn out to be one of the 6 or 8 very best novels of the passing century: it is unique, unprecedented, out-of-nowhere, and yet it is one of the most true and moving and beautiful novels I've ever read.
So read "Bone by Bone", but let it provoke you to read all of Matthessien's other work as well.
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