Book Review- A Shout in the Ruins

Thursday, 21 June 2018
Title: A Shout in the Ruins
Author: Kevin Powers
Published: 15th May 2018
Pages: 272
Genre: Fiction, Historical

Rating: 4/5 stars

"A masterpiece. Powers has written a novel that includes all the ferocity, complexity, and racial violence of the American South" --- Philipp Meyer, author of American Rust Set in Virginia during the Civil War and a century beyond, this novel by the award-winning author of The Yellow Birds explores the brutal legacy of violence and exploitation in American society.
Spanning over one hundred years, from the antebellum era to the 1980's, A Shout in the Ruins examines the fates of the inhabitants of Beauvais Plantation outside of Richmond, Virginia. When war arrives, the master of Beauvais, Anthony Levallios, foresees that dominion in a new America will be measured not in acres of tobacco under cultivation by his slaves, but in industry and capital. A grievously wounded Confederate veteran loses his grip on a world he no longer understands, and his daughter finds herself married to Levallois, an arrangement that feels little better than imprisonment. And two people enslaved at Beauvais plantation, Nurse and Rawls, overcome impossible odds to be together, only to find that the promise of coming freedom may not be something they will live to see.
Seamlessly interwoven is the story of George Seldom, a man orphaned by the storm of the Civil War, looking back from the 1950s on the void where his childhood ought to have been. Watching the government destroy his neighborhood to build a stretch of interstate highway through Richmond, he travels south in an attempt to recover his true origins. With the help of a young woman named Lottie, he goes in search of the place he once called home, all the while reckoning with the more than 90 years he lived as witness to so much that changed during the 20th century, and so much that didn't. As we then watch Lottie grapple with life's disappointments and joys in the 1980's, now in her own middle-age, the questions remain: How do we live in a world built on the suffering of others? And can love exist in a place where for 400 years violence has been the strongest form of intimacy?
Written with the same emotional intensity, harrowing realism, and poetic precision that made THE YELLOW BIRDS one of the most celebrated novels of the past decade, A SHOUT IN THE RUINS cements Powers' place in the forefront of American letters and demands that we reckon with the moral weight of our troubling history. -Goodreads

My thanks to Net Galley and Hodder & Stoughton for a review copy.
This is an incredible novel which spans over 100 years of American history during and after the Civil War. Encompassing civil war and slavery the author manages to touch upon so many important and historically powerful themes.
The author has entwined a number of characters’ narratives together throughout this novel, creating a beautifully interwoven thread of a plot and novel.
Thus, this novel features a wide range of characters, whose relationships to each other only become fully clear towards the end of the novel. In this way, the full picture of the novel isn’t clear until the end which makes the eventual moment of complete clarity all the more satisfying.
Powers has a very neat writing style, his precise language and imagery conveys all the emotion and gritty realism you would expect from a novel about themes such as slavery.
The timeline of this novel is ever-shifting, this at first takes some getting used to, but once the reader is accustomed to it, it adds to the sense of intrigue that permeates this novel, and the eventual understanding that comes.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel, I gave it 4/5 stars, and I am intrigued to see what else Powers has written!

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