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Lost Man's River
 
 

Lost Man's River [Kindle Edition]

Peter Matthiessen
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Review

"The greatest living writer in America is Peter Matthiessen... A writer of awesome range and profundity, a philosopher and stylist, he is a literary prophet who has changed the way Americans- and others- view the world" (Rosemary Goring Scotland on Sunday)

"With this second volume of the Watson trilogy, it's apparent that Matthiessen is engaged in one of the grand projects of contemporary literature" (Thomas Christensen San Francisco Examiner)

"A great writer, one of America's best" (Paul Watkins Literary Review)

"The novel has great strengths, the impossible quest for the truth about Ed Watson is a deeper quest for continuity between man and landscape- a truly unattainable goad; and this gives the novel poignancy" (Daily Telegraph)

Book Description

'A big, energetic book, rich in historical information, memorable characters and haunting descriptions of a forlorn but lovely region' - Lucy Hughes-Hallet, Sunday Times

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1191 KB
  • Print Length: 539 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0080K3I06
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #816,725 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
If you have ever driven yourself to near distraction trying to trace a family genealogy, with duplicate names, multiple marriages, and family migrations, you might have prepared adequately for Lost Man's River, which is, essentially, a detailed family genealogy. And though you may be fascinated by some of the characters, be prepared to do a great deal of page-flipping to try to keep them all straight.
There is not much direct action. Except for the ending, the most exciting events take place in the past and surround the death of E. J. Watson when the now fifty-year-old narrator, his son Lucius, was a child. The action that takes place in the present occurs primarily through interviews forty years after E.J. Watson's death as Lucius tries to separate truth from myth.
The book is not fatally dull because of the historical, sociological, cultural, and geographical insights the author also provides. Illustrating the conflicting cultures and motivations of very poor whites, blacks, Indians,and "mixed breeds" as they hunt, fish, drink, and interact, often disastrously, in the Florida Everglades, Lost Man's River also traces the life, death, and possible salvation of a wild and much threatened natural environment.
With its large cast of characters, complex familial relationships, and carefully researched depictions of the forty year time span of the "action," this is a book of enormous reach. It is not surprising that it took the author twenty years to bring it to fruition. Mary Whipple
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read "Killing Mr. Watson" first 19 Dec 2006
By Timothy Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is the second book of a trilogy that begins with "Killing Mr. Watson," and ends with "Bone by Bone." If you read Killing Mr. Watson, and were fascinated by it, as many readers and critics have been, you'll be tempted to read the rest of the trilogy. Dead Man's River begins many years after E.J. Watson's death. Watson's son, Lucius, is struggling to reconstruct his father's life and death. You might have noticed in Killing Mr. Watson that the story, told by those who knew Watson, contains gaps, ambiguities, contradictions and mysteries. There's plenty of room for sequels.

Lucius finds some answers, and also uncovers new mysteries and contradictions. Along the way, you'll learn more about the many fascinating characters you first encountered as narrators in "Killing Mr. Watson." The final book in the trilogy, "Bone by Bone," tells the tale again, from the point of view of Mr. Watson.

The Mr. Watson trilogy is reminiscent of the well-known film, Rashomon, by Akira Kurosawa. It re-tells the same tale several times, from different perspectives. This is a gutsy kind of trilogy to write. A lesser author would burden the reader with repetition and excessive detail. Mathiessen, one of few authors ever to win one National Book Awards for fiction, and another for nonfiction, is up to the task, if anyone is.

Dead Man's River suffers from the usual problems found in the second book in a trilogy. It doesn't begin the story, nor end it, and it's nearly incomprehensible if you haven't read the first book. Consider, who would enjoy "The Two Towers," the second book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, if he or she had not first read "The Fellowship of the Ring," and did not intend to read "Return of the King"?

If, after reading Killing Mr. Watson, you're eager to know about Mr. Watson and the other pioneer families of that time and place, read the rest of the trilogy, in sequence. I think you'll be glad you did. I certainly am glad that I did. Matthiessen is a master of so many things -- pioneer history of Florida, diverse cultures, nature writing, environmentalism, character development, historical accuracy and detail, dead-on vernacular dialog, inventive style, and, in this trilogy, compelling mystery.

Also, in this trilogy, Mathiessen explores the nature of truth itself, as the same story is retold several times by people who all think they know the truth, though their understanding is filtered by their own perspectives, limited knowledge and vested interests.

On the other hand, if Killing Mr. Watson filled your cup, you might want to stop there. It works very well as a stand-alone novel.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The great mass of familial documentation was overwhelming. 22 Feb 1998
By Edward W. Jawer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I am an avid fan of Peter Matthiessen, and eagerly anticipated "Lost Man's River". After reading 150 to 200 pages, I began to wonder what he was getting at with the monumental absorbtion in the trivia of names, relationships, and memories. As I progressed further, waiting fruitlessly for either some fuller character development or an essential story line to take shape, my disappoinment began to mount. By the time I finished, I am saddened to report that I felt cheated. The encyplopedic attention to detail required to give full attention to the book, does not fulfill it's end, nor is the final surprise a justifiable finale to the mind boggling littany of detail to which we are exposed. Hopefully, the final volume of the trilogy will restore the interest so greatly initiated by "Killing Mr. Watson".
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bogged Down in an Impenetrable Swamp 30 May 2004
By J C E Hitchcock - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I sat down to read this book with a sense of eager anticipation, having greatly enjoyed Peter Matthiessen's first book in the Watson trilogy, "Killing Mr Watson". I put it down, nearly a month later, with a sense of profound disappointment. "Lost Man's River" is not a book in the same class as its predecessor.
"Killing Mr Watson" told the story of Edgar Watson's life in Southern Florida and his eventual death at the hands of a posse of his neighbours. "Lost Man's River" tells the story of Watson's son Lucius, a historian with both an academic and an emotional interest in finding out the truth about his father's life. (Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that, while Lucius's academic interest lies in finding out the truth about his father's life, his emotional interest lies in confirming his own preconceived ideas about his father's life). By the time of the events narrated in the book (around 1960) Lucius is an elderly man. The book follows his journeys around Florida and his meetings with the surviving few people who remember Edgar Watson, including his reunion with his long-lost brother Rob.
The sentimental journeyings of a septuagenarian historian do not make for an enthralling plot; indeed, the book has a loose, episodic structure and very little in the way of coherent plot at all. In "Killing Mister Watson" the characters were vividly drawn, especially the dominating figure of Watson himself. In "Lost Man's River" there is much less in the way of characterisation. Although Watson is an ever-present thought in Lucius's mind, he obviously cannot be introduced as a character in his own right as he has been dead for fifty years. Lucius is merely a bore, and the other characters are stiff and lifeless. The old people's reminiscences of the past are tedious and confusing, and tend to get bogged down in an excess of genealogical detail. In an attempt to add to the interest of the plot, Matthiessen provides a brief love-interest for Lucius in the form of a much younger woman, but this episode struck me as very unconvincing.
Not everything about the book is bad. There are some vivid descriptions of the natural beauty of the Everglades. There is also some sharp commentary about the way in which that natural beauty has been despoiled by the modern world, and about Southern racism. Unlike most of what has preceded it, the ending is genuinely gripping, as old feuds end in violence and Lucius makes an unwelcome discovery which forces him to reassess his view of the past. Unfortunately, to get to the ending one has to wade through some very tedious passages; like some of the characters, I often felt that I was bogged down in an impenetrable swamp.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not nearly as good as the first book, but... 10 May 2000
By Michael Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I loved "Killing Mr. Watson," the first book, and thought the genealogy in it was great, though I finally did find myself making a (complex) chart of who was related to who. But even with this knowledge already in hand, "Lost Man's River" seemed to bog down. The modern parts, especially, were very forced. Sally, among others, was just not a believable character, and the sex scene made her even less believable. Moreover, when is all this set? The author hints that it was 50 years after Mr. Watson's death, which would necessarily make it 1960, and so makes Lucius age 70 and Rob--admitttedly--an octogenarian. But the tone and language, plus the attitudes towards drugs, race, sex, etc. are much closer to 1975 (at least) than 1960. Several characters are depicted as veterans of a war in Asia that "no one ever gave a damn about." Sounds more like Vietnam to me than Guadalcanal or Okinawa. Ironically (and it's a big irony) the most interesting thing about the book is the critical name change for the family that was the "Richard Hamilton" clan in the first book. In this book, the author calls them the Hardens, but it's clearly the same family--even their initials are the same. The names of all the other families are the same in both books. Why the change for this one? It can only be because this is the family that all the others believe to have some African-American ancestry. This was a big issue in the South in 1910, and it is obviously nearly as big an issue now. All the other surnames are of actual pioneer families of the Everglades: Daniels, Jenkins, Brown, Storter, Smallwood, etc. The clear inference is that today's Hamilton descendants objected to the author using their real names and thus labelling them as "passing for white" (whatever that means). It would be interesting to have Mr. Matthiessen confirm this, because it brings one of the book's significant themes into real-time focus.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The "action" is genealogical; the main character, dead. 11 July 2000
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you have ever driven yourself to near distraction trying to trace a family genealogy, with duplicate names, multiple marriages, and family migrations, you might have prepared adequately for Lost Man's River, which is, essentially, a detailed family genealogy. And though you may be fascinated by some of the characters, be prepared to do a great deal of page-flipping to try to keep all the characters all straight.
There is not much direct action. Except for the ending, the most exciting events take place in the past and surround the death of E. J. Watson when the now fifty-year-old narrator, his son Lucius, was a child. The action that takes place in the present occurs primarily through interviews forty years after E.J. Watson's death as Lucius tries to separate truth from myth.
The book is not fatally dull because of the historical, sociological, cultural, and geographical insights the author also provides. Illustrating the conflicting cultures and motivations of very poor whites, blacks, Indians,and "mixed breeds" as they hunt, fish, drink, and interact, often disastrously, in the Florida Everglades, Lost Man's River also traces the life, death, and possible salvation of a wild and much threatened natural environment.
With its large cast of characters, complex familial relationships, and carefully researched depictions of the forty year time span of the "action," this is a book of enormous reach. It is not surprising that it took the author twenty years to bring it to fruition.
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