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Shadow Country: A New Rendering of the Watson Legend (Unabridged)
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Shadow Country: A New Rendering of the Watson Legend (Unabridged) [Audio Download]

by Peter Matthiessen (Author), Anthony Heald (Narrator)
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Audio Download
  • Listening Length: 40 hours and 25 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Audible.co.uk Release Date: 13 Feb 2009
  • Language: English
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Product Description

National Book Award, Fiction, 2008

Inspired by a near-mythic event on the wild Florida frontier at the turn of the 20th century, Shadow Country re-imagines the legend of the inspired Everglades sugar planter and notorious outlaw E. J. Watson, who drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him, in a killing that obsessed his favorite son.

Shadow Country transverses strange landscapes inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of archaic racism that "still casts its shadow over the nation."

©2008 Peter Matthiessen; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quite a novel... 2 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is based on the true story of a Florida planter and outlaw, E.J. Watson, who was murdered by his neighbours; it was originally a trilogy and Matthiessen reworked and condensed it to produce this version. It was entirely an accident that I ended up reading this whilst in Florida, given that it's set in the Florida back-country at the turn of the century. It really seemed to add to the atmosphere, being in and around the same places mentioned in the book, smelling the mangrove swamps and seeing the Spanish moss hanging from the branches. You can even visit Ted Smallwood's store - kinda wish I had now.

It's a wonderful read, given that the entire plot hinges around an event that takes place in the first ten pages of the novel. It's still broken down in structure into three books, one that covers the murder itself and the reactions and viewpoints of those taking part in it, the other following Watson's son Lucius as he tries to discover the truth about that night, and the final book from Watson's perspective covering his entire life up to the murder.

Watson is a compelling character - given that he's really not a nice man at all, it's strangely hard to hate him. And when you come to the end of the book and the story's over (although it's over from the start for Watson) you're sad to leave him, in a way. But that's part of the strength of this book - there are no villains as much as there are no heroes, and Matthiessen manages to make you feel sympathy and understanding for almost every character, regardless of where they stand and what they've done. It's quite an achievement, but then this is quite a book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! 30 July 2010
I've only had this book a few days and have read less than 200 pages, but I am completely hooked. I knew nothing about the subject before reading a review in a local newspaper, and was intrigued so had to buy it. I can understand why Peter Matthiessen felt like he had to keep working on the story long after the original books were published in order to finish it off the way he wanted. The separate voice he creates for each character is so realistic and authentic that the author must have spent an awfully long time inside the head of each one. It must have been totally addictive.
Even though each chapter is written from the point of view of a different person, there is a common style all the way through that not only gets the author's voice across, but kind of shows how similar all the characters are deep down, that where they come from and how they've lived has influenced what they say and how they behave. It's an era and an area that I know hardly anything about, but the description is so good that I can see these places in my mind and I feel like I understand something about them.
I'm also really surprised at how I've been manipulated (not in a bad way) into feeling sympathy for the right character at the right time, so that each event brings out a proper emotional reaction in me. This is a real skill that not every writer has - I know I've been really disappointed in some books when they've failed to draw me in.
With the weekend coming up, I'm probably going to turn my phone off, curl up, get the coffee machine on, and finish this book. Can't wait!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great American Fiction 6 Dec 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Richard Ford mentioned that Peter Matthiessen was the reason a lot of his generation of writers wanted to write. I can see why he would say that. In the remote 19th and early 20th Century southern Florida coast of Shadow Country, with its claustrophobically winding waterways, cloying humidity, ragged skiffs, tangled mangroves and, especially, in the rich vernacular voices of his characters, Mathiessen creates a tactile and emotional/psychological fictional space that will not let you leave once you enter it.

This is classic American Fiction in the tradition of great writers like Faulkner and Hemingway, with a particularly late 20th Century and early 21st Century sensibility about America, what it is, was, and could have been. Simply a stunning and major work.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Violence in the Everglades 25 Dec 2010
By H. Ashford VINE VOICE
This book is a fictionalised account of events leading up to the lynching of E.J. Watson, by a group of his neighbours. The action takes place on the southwest coast of Florida round about the turn of the 20thC. At that time, this was pioneer country, with no real roads and the nearest law officer a day or more away.

Watson was a larger than life character, both liked and feared by those around him. He was a successful farmer and businessman, running a sugar cane plantation and trading in cane syrup. He could be generous to his neighbours, and was widely admired; but he also had a reputation as a hell-raiser and people were wary of his temper - and of the gun he always carried.

Shadow Country is written in three parts (called "books" by the author). The first book is told in the first person by as many as 12 different narrators, all giving their view of events. This narrative hangs together quite well, giving a more or less sequential account, whilst offering the reader different angles and points of view.

The second book is told in the third person and follows the quest by Watson's son, now a historian, to find out the truth of what happened. Book III provides a first person account by Watson himself - thus providing the reader with a full resolution.

I read only the first book of the three. There is much that is positive about this book; the narrative flows well from one person to the next, and doesn't feel disjointed, despite the numerous short chapters. Matthiessen also excels at descriptive writing, and I felt I learned a great deal about the ecology of the region and what it would have been like to live there between 1890 and 1910.
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