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The Banished Children of Eve A Novel of Civil War New York: A Novel of Civil War New York [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   612
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 5.5" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 24, 2008
Publisher   Overlook TP
Age  18
ISBN  1590200578  
EAN  9781590200575  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
On the eve of the Union army's military draft, an opportunistic Irish-American hustler, a scheming Yankee stockbroker, an immigrant serving girl, a beautiful mulatto musical comedy star, and her minstrel lover come together during New York's Civil War Draft Riots. Reprint.

Buy The Banished Children of Eve A Novel of Civil War New York: A Novel of Civil War New York by Peter Quinn from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781590200575 & 1590200578

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More About Peter Quinn

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Peter Quinn is the author of the novel Banished Children of Eve (winner of an American Book Award) and previously served as speechwriter for New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. A third-generation New Yorker whose granparents were born in Ireland, he is currently Editorial Director for Time Warner and lives in Hastings, New York.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Historical Fiction as It Should Be  Sep 5, 2006
Peter Quinn's "Banished Children of Eve, A Novel of Civil War New York" is everything that historical fiction should be. It is an engaging story laced with characters drawn from history, intertwined with the author's own characters. The result is a novel on an epic scale which captures the gritty flavor of Civil War era Manhattan.

Readers of Doctorow's "Ragtime" or Baker's "Paradise Alley" or Delillo's "Underworld" will find themselves in familiar terrain here. Those not familiar with this type of prose may be put off by the insertion of history into the narrative or may wonder at how exact this history is. There is no doubting the precision of any of Quinn's research. Reading this book hot on the heels of Barnet Schecter's "The Devil's Own Work", I can make that assertion with utmost confidence.

But this, in no way, is meant to take away from the other element of the novel, and that is the sympathy we have for most of the characters. The financier, the archibishop and his assistant, the minstrel player, the maid, the barkeep, and the man who frames the book, James Dunne, breaking/entering and yegg specialist. In no other novel, in my opinion, is the plight of the famine Irish and the generation that followed more poignantly and dramatically portrayed. This book has been in print for over ten years. These are just some of the reasons for that.

Rocco Dormarunno
author of The Five Points, a Novel
(3.5)Fear and Loathing in 1863 New York...  Jan 16, 2003
Peopled with carefully constructed and multi-layered individuals, the history of each life is inserted with the introduction of every new character, although diverse in background, social pretensions and aspirations. The subtle nuance of class-consciousness ripples near the surface of even the most polite dialog. There is a constant jockeying of rationalization, from the hypocritical "do-goodism" of the wealthy to the racial obsessions of those who discover themselves straddling the lowest rung of the societal ladder. The skillful presentation of pervasive class distinctions is one of the major accomplishments of Quinn's ambitious novel.

The possibility of great wealth ignites an already raging blaze of fundamental competition for financial independence in an era of manifest destiny. Classism is clearly rooted in ancestral experience and identity, alongside a Darwinian struggle for survival. The old guard financiers are surrounded by a ragtag mob of enthusiastic young men seeking entrance to the halls of privilege, men willing to speculate their way to success. The imperative of that success is inevitable, a rising tide that washes ashore on a wave of progress and opportunity. This relentless pursuit of success, coupled with a looming fear of ruin, drives Quinn's characters, allowing them more humanity, albeit with questionable morals. Indeed, their failings are tempered by the exigent circumstances of birth.

The streets are teeming with bustling crowds, either headed uptown to the financial and business district or downtown toward the docks, where shabby streets are lined with garbage and taverns, gambling halls and brothels. From this morass of opportunity, deals are struck. Wall Street investors, flushed with success, are perfect targets for hustlers, one scam or another created to relieve the mark of his money. Add to this the uncertainties of war with a mandated draft, and emotions run rampant through crowds of immigrants disappointed by the actual brutality of life in America in 1863 New York, the great melting pot of hope and ambition. Agitated by the summer heat, new conscription laws and the tension of the politics of war, Quinn's numerous characters finally swirl in the confusion of their particular agendas.

Halfway through the novel I lost interest, burdened with too much information about the history of every character, an oddity that seriously confused the direction of the novel. But I picked the book up again, curious to see Quinn's treatment of the Draft Riots portrayed so vividly in Kevin Baker's Paradise Alley. Quinn simply pours too much into these pages, often drowning the thread of the story and I frequently skipped pages. After all this effort, the Draft Riots are all but lost amid Quinn's superfluous detail. Ultimately, this lack of focus exhausted me and rendered The Banished Children of Eve less than rewarding.

A difficult tragedy of forgetting in New York's palimpsest  Aug 7, 2002
I grew up in New York and walked many of the same streets Peter Quinn writes about in Banished Children of Eve. They're still there. If you look down at the pavement in some of the older neighborhoods, the same slate and stone sidewalks might still be in place that were there in 1863. Even if the remnants of that old city were plowed under by the wrecking ball, even before the terrorist came with his commandeered passenger jets, other remnants remained. And Gettysburg is not the only place where one feels the presence of ghosts.

Quinn's novel is imperfect. It's overly long and one could almost say the writing is florid, the style at points too meandering. But we are modernists or postmodernists, we are in a damned hurry and we want our plots laid out before us rapid-fire. Quinn slows us down. He draws us into the nexus of an old city beneath the city we know, a place of ugliness that makes even the ugliness of today's New York seem bucolic: today's racism and poverty are as nothing compared to what we find in Civil War New York.

Here people are still able to reinvent themselves and shapeshift. The daughter of a former stockbroker ruined in the 1857 Panic reinvents herself as the Trumpeter Swan, ultra-whore of a concert saloon and chief attraction of a peepshow for masturbating Union officers. A financier comes from nowhere, builds his fortune on a lie born of pre-computer identity-theft, brutally kills (of course in New Jersey!) to preserve his money, disappears, resurfaces as someone else and proves you can get away with murder. A safecracker becomes a hero in spite of himself and becomes the grandfather of a Jesuit Rector of Fordham University. A half-black woman masquerades as a Cuban actress.

Through it all runs the sense of tragedy, of a city burying its own past. Midian Wells disappears from Staten Island to Troy, graveyards are overturned for new building sites, the grave of a department store magnate is robbed for his grave desecrations, and ultimately the characters with whom we identify by novel's end are forgotten two generations later, plowed under by the present as Potter's Field is covered over by layers of new dead. What survives? Ironically, the monument of a decrepit Archbishop--St. Patrick's Cathedral--and the songs of a hopeless alcoholic, Stephen Foster, whose periodic appearances in the novel are perhaps its most gratuitous as well as ghastly element, a sense of living death hauled into view when real death, the slaughter of innocent and guilty alike, looms through the Draft Riots of July 1863, hanging over the novel like the diseases that swept through New York with the irregularity of sawteeth, and just as viciously.

The book is a hard read for people who want it easy. It's not linear, it's not always fun, and it's calculated at moments to make you turn your head away. I dread the idea that someone might wish to make a movie of Banished Children of Eve and "straighten it out." Its disconnectedness is its flaw and virtue together: you need to work at it, and the rewards outweigh the demands.

For generations historians studied the lives of elite white men in order to compile a record of the past. Starting in the 1950's, historians began using the "bottoms up" approach to history wherein they looked at the lives of individual persons at the lower end of the tradional social order. Traditionally historians considered the center of the society - kings, leaders, rulers - as the controlling force. More recent historians argue that the periphery, that is the persons of what was usually called the fringes of the society, controls the center.

Peter Quinn ably uses this approach in his novel BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE. In considering life in mid 19th century New York City, he explains the prejudice that existed between the Irish and the Black community on an economic level which makes it understandable. While not justifying the acts of violence, the reader comes to see the blight of the underclass. The reader comes to identify with the overworked housemaid, petty criminal, homeless orphan and free black. One sees the corruption in the society. The upper clas is not romanticized but shown as the oppressors.

The Civil War affected major changes in the lives of most Americans. Quinn shows the changes in the lives of the major characters in the book. Through the eyes of these characters the reader sees the emergence of the middle class, which was one of the major impacts of the War. There are Horatio Alger stories in the book but not in the tradtional sense. The reader also sees the brutality of life in 19th Century society. Death and separation from parents and realtives were a common experience. The use of alcohol was common and one can see why the Temperance Movement became so important by the end of the century. And prostitution is shown as the only way out for many women. But some women do get out of it.

Students read about the brutality of slavery and as a African American and a student of African American history I am in no way trying to diminish the horrors of America's "peculiar institution." Slaves lacked all rights and had no freecom to lave their masters. Family members were sold and never seen again. But when you look at the lives of the working poor in New York during much of the 19th Century, there are many parallels. The horros of the middle passage are unspeakable but the horrors of many immigrant ships were terrible also.

Historian Nell Painter argues a theory of "Soul Murder." She aruges that the effects of slavery were so damaging to all of American Society, both black and white, that we are still feeling it today. She argues that the dysfunctional families of today are the result of the violence experiences of both black and while children during the 19th century. Her argument is interesting, but in it she fails to consider the effects on white society of such events as orphan children shipped West, the abandoned family as a result of immigration, alcoholism and death. Surely these events have long range consequences in contemporary society. Quinn includes all of these in his marvelous book.

By way of criticism I thought the book was a tad long. The story of the priest did not seem to add anything to the story and in my humble opinion could have been left out. Some of the sub plots got a little wordy. The point was made and the author could have moved on. I assume that Stephen Foster is used as an example of someone that falls from the upper class to the lower class whereas Bedford is a person that moves up. I'm not sure that Quinn does such a good job of wrapping up the story. In a sense the novel is kind of a look at a period of time in the lives of the characters. The reader is left to speculate as to the rest of their lives.

I first heard about this book when Quinn was interviewed on Public Radio. I bought it and started it and then left it on the shelf for a year or so until I saw in a recommended section in my local book store. That caused me to start it again. Once you get about 50 pages into the book it really kicks in and is a fascinating read. I high recommend BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE to the student of American History and those interested in the study of Irish immigration.

Bahished Children of Eve  Dec 2, 2001
This is a lovely lyrical book which accurately captures life in New York at that time. Quinn writes the way Irish tenors sing with rolling musical cadences that tumble and flow to heart breaking crescendos. The famine, migration and life in New York have never been written of with such compassion and artistry. It opened my eyes in a completely new way. Obviously, I loved this book.

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