A Moment in the Sun

A Moment in the Sun

A Novel

eBook - 2011
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It's 1897. Gold has been discovered in the Yukon. New York is under the sway of Hearst and Pulitzer. And in a few months, an American battleship will explode in a Cuban harbor, plunging the U.S. into war. Spanning five years and half a dozen countries, this is the unforgettable story of that extraordinary moment: the turn of the twentieth century, as seen by one of the greatest storytellers of our time. Shot through with a lyrical intensity and stunning detail that recall Doctorow and Deadwood both, A Moment in the Sun takes the whole era in its sights--from the white-racist coup in Wilmington.
Publisher: New York : McSweeney's, 2011
ISBN: 9781936365708
1936365707
Characteristics: 1 online resource (955 p.)

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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

A Moment in the Sun brings to fiction one of the more interesting time periods of American history. It begins in 1897, shortly before the sinking of the USS Maine off the coast of Cuba, and concludes sometime after Czolgosz's execution in 1901. In the 955 pages of the novel, the reader is taken around the world—most notable were the Yukon, North Carolina, Cuba, the Philippines, and New York. Using many factual events and people, A Moment in the Sun touches on some lesser known moments from world history (e.g. the successful and bloody coup in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1898).

Sayles does a splendid job in refraining from making his novel a platform for social commentary. The opportunity is definitely there, but Sayles allows the characters and events to speak for themselves. It could be said that many parallels exist between the United States of 1898 and the United States of 2001—questions of people's judgments and their sense of right and wrong—but these are fully up to the reader to deduce and interpret as they see appropriate.

The characters of A Moment in the Sun are equally compelling but do lack some balance. Some characters (especially Hod), introduced in the introductory chapters, dominate the book for several hundred pages and are largely forgotten by the end. Others are shaped as primary characters but do not show up until the last chapters (i.e. Shoe and, to a lesser extent, Mei). Equally off balance were Sayles female characters, which was very unfortunate given the author's ability to work so well with a female narrative. Of the novel's many characters, only three females took any kind of significant role; their place was always secondary to their male counterparts. Many of my favorite scenes involved the character of Jessie and I would have loved for Sayles to develop her further.

Aside from the lack of symmetry, A Moment in the Sun was very well orchestrated. The distinct voices were believable and gripping; the scenes were filled with action and heart; the settings and events were stunning and well-researched.

c
canary35
Oct 15, 2011

On a recent episode of Bravo’s “The Next Great Artist”, the participants were challenged to take a piece of thrift store kitsch and turn it into something remarkable. One artist began with a picture of a southern belle with real hair. He remade it into a commentary on the bondage of beauty, race, and money. In the end, he was voted off. The judges said it was an important topic, but that his work brought no new insights to the table. This cannot be said for John Sayles book, “A Moment in the Sun”, which addresses very much the same topics. Weighing in at a substantial 995 pages, not a single one of which is wasted, the book begins the year my grandfather was born: 1897. Here is the American experience seen through the eyes of fortune hunters, soldiers both black and white, actors, people of color, scullery maids, cons artists and convicts, a black physician and his family, a horse whisperer, an idealistic Filipino patriot, a budding cinematographer, and in the end, an elephant. Shocking and relevant, as all good story telling is, the book is highly memorable, and defiantly insightful. It helped me understand, and it may even have changed me. With this book, Mr. Sayles goes on my list as a Great Artist. He made me remember why I am glad I can read.

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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

What is the point of knowledge if you can't use it to prevail over others?

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