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ISBN13: 9781401323318
ISBN10: 1401323316
Condition: Standard
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megan s, June 14, 2009 (view all comments by megan s)
In Sweetsmoke, Fuller spares no detail in his depiction of the Civil War era south. Though obviously carefully constructed with extreme care shown even down to the punctuation of the dialogue (quotation marks for the free, none for the slaves), the writing never feels forced or contrived. Instead, Fuller's Civil War south leaps off the page exposing a world populated with fragile southern gentility perched precariously on their clever, if oppressed, chattel. Through Cassius's eyes and Fuller's evocative writing, we can feel the heat of mid-summer in Virginia, smell the sweet scent of tobacco on the air, and even hear the sounds of a raging Civil War battle as if we were experiencing them first-hand.
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Wendy Robards, August 22, 2008 (view all comments by Wendy Robards)
David Fuller’s debut novel Sweetsmoke is set on a Virginia plantation in 1862. We hear the story through the point of view of Cassius, a slave to the Howard family, whose distinctive voice is unforgettable. Cassius has worked hard as a carpenter for Hoke Howard and his loyalty has earned him favors on the plantation as well as resentment from the slaves who toil in the fields. Then Cassius gets word that his friend Emoline - a freed slave who is part fortune teller and part herbalist - has been murdered. When he realizes her death will go unpunished, Cassius’ anger at his people’s enslavement and ill treatment bubbles over and he decides to seek revenge against Emoline’s murderer. His investigation not only uncovers secrets, political intrigue and betrayal…but opens a door to his heart which he had thought forever closed.

Sweetsmoke is a rich atmospheric novel of the South during the Civil War. Entwined in the story are the frequent injustices and crimes against enslaved blacks including beatings, hobblings and the theft of children who are torn from their mothers’ breasts to be sold into slavery. Fuller writes gripping dialogue and offers the reader characters who are complex and memorable. The reader’s heart will ache for Marriah, grow cold toward Ellen, and pound with fear for Cassius as the pages to this novel seem to turn themselves.

Perhaps most moving of all is the glimpse into the mind of a man who has only known slavery but who is still able to dream of freedom. Fueled by his love for Emmoline, Cassius is willing to risk everything to right the wrong of her death and in doing so he awakens a part of himself he thought had died.

Sweetsmoke is subtle, beautifully written and compelling. It is a story which reminds the reader of a shameful time in history when the color of one’s skin meant humiliation and sometimes death. But it is also a story of courage and honor in the quest for freedom, and a portrayal of what it means to have one’s own identity.

Highly recommended.
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Product Details

Fuller, David
Hyperion Books
Historical - General
Historical fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.25 x 6.25 in 19.28 oz
Age Level:
from 18

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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Sweetsmoke Used Hardcover
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Product details 320 pages Hyperion Books - English 9781401323318 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Mystery novels, ever in need of fresh points of view, are given to strange genre hybrids like Fuller's debut novel: part investigative procedural, part narrative of American slave life. Cassius, a secretly literate slave on a Civil War — era Virginia tobacco plantation, is determined to track down whoever killed his mentor and surrogate mother, Emoline Justice, a free black woman. Making liberal use of his limited freedoms, Cassius takes to the road, playing the obvious disadvantages of life under the yoke to his favor. Along the way, he encounters slave traders, Underground Railroad conspirators, Confederate soldiers, Northern spies and a wide assortment of African-Americans, slave and free. Fuller, a screenwriter, has palpable sympathy for his African-American characters, and Cassius's encounters with other characters — like the haunted slave owner Hoke Howard — are the book's strongest parts. Unfortunately, Fuller's solid plot doesn't carry the novel through to its end, and, despite sourcing the work of historians Eugene Genovese and John Hope Franklin, the novel gives off a distinct whiff of unreality. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "David Fuller vividly and movingly describes the life of Cassius, a slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, Sweetsmoke resonates with unforgettable characters and is a gripping story of loss and survival."
"Review" by , "The beauty in this book lies in the writing. Fuller['s] people, places and plot turns shine as vividly here as they would on the big screen. He creates characters complex enough for readers to pity, detest and, in some cases, even admire all at the same time."
"Review" by , "[A] suspenseful novel rich in period detail....The plot unfolds at a brisk pace, and Fuller does an especially good job with the battle scenes....Sweetsmoke is a well-imagined and researched novel of survival and courage."
"Review" by , "Sweetsmoke is a fascinating and gripping novel about the Civil War. The slave, Cassius Howard, is a great fictional character, and his story is part mystery, part love story, and a harrowing portrait of slavery that reads with the immense power of the slave narratives. A tour de force for David Fuller."
"Review" by , "With Sweetsmoke, David Fuller gives an extraordinarily nuanced, privileged, and convincing view of the world of slavery during the American Civil War, and of the hearts and minds of the men and women who had to live in that world."
"Review" by , "[T]his novel from veteran screenwriter Fuller is well worth reading because of Cassius's sinuous and guileful complexity."
"Synopsis" by , Set on a Virginia tobacco plantation in 1862, this novel follows a skilled carpenter and slave who risks everything to learn the truth concerning the murder of a freed black woman.
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