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Bone by Bone

Matthiessen, Peter

296 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0375501029 / ISBN 13: 9780375501029
Published by Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A., 1999
Condition: Near Fine
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About this Item

First printing. Black spine, mustard boards, map endpapers. Signed on second leaf. Unread and near fine in like DJ. 410 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 6042

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Bone by Bone

Publisher: Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 1999

Book Condition:Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Near Fine

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

Edition: First Edition.

Book Type: Book

About this title

Synopsis:

Peter Matthiessen is one of America's most respected writers and one of the very few National Book Award winners nominated for both fiction and nonfiction. Bone by Bone is arguably his finest novel. Although it stands alone, it is also the capstone of the Watson trilogy, which has been described by the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review as "one of the grand projects of contemporary literature."
        
In the critically acclaimed Killing Mister Watson, Peter Matthiessen brilliantly re-created the life of the legendary E. J. Watson, who was gunned down by a posse of fearful neighbors before World War I. In his masterful sequel, Lost Man's River, Matthiessen returned us to the lawless frontier of the Florida Everglades, where Watson's son Lucius sought to untangle the knot of truth and lies surrounding his notorious father and his strange death. And now, in Bone by Bone, the story unfolds in its final form, in the voice of the enigmatic Mister Watson himself.
    
From his early days as an impoverished child of the Reconstruction era, through the unjust loss of his inherited plantation, to his bloody death in front of his loving wife and children, E. J. Watson was capable of vision and ingenuity, mercy and courage, and sudden, astonishing violence. He was an entrepreneurial sugarcane farmer in the uncharted waterways of the Everglades, an exile in the Indian territories, a devoted father, and, allegedly, the killer of numerous men. He was forced to flee home and family time after time.
    
In Bone by Bone, Peter Matthiessen has accomplished the writer's ultimate challenge: He has laid bare the    humanity at the heart of a dangerous and controversial figure and, in doing so, has added to our understanding of the abiding mystery of human nature.

Review:

In Bone by Bone, the final chapter of Peter Matthiessen's Everglades trilogy, the man known variously as "Desperado" and "Emperor" Watson finally tells his own story--and a hard, ruthless, and singularly bloody tale it is. Brought up in the chaotic aftermath of the Civil War, Watson flees South Carolina after he's tagged for a murder he didn't commit. Bone by Bone follows his exile in the Indian Territories, his arrest for the murder of Belle Star, and his years in Florida, where he struggles to carve a sugar-cane empire out of the Everglades before being gunned down by a howling mob. "There's some that would say that Edgar Watson is a bad man by nature," he muses near the end of his life, but later declares, "I don't believe that men are born with a bad nature." So is Watson's fate nature or nurture? Is he a killer born or a killer made? This question lies at the heart of Matthiessen's tale as well as its precursors, Killing Mister Watson and Lost Man's River. Answering it would mean nothing less than answering the problem of evil itself.

In this case, the evil is inextricably twined with the good. Ed Watson loves his wives, a good laugh, and at least some of his children; he also murders and betrays employees and friends, all the while insisting that he "wanted to be an honest and upright citizen all my life." Somehow--and this is only one of Matthiessen's great achievements--the reader believes him. The reader also believes Watson's other defense: his crimes are no different from those of the great robber barons. His uncle, for instance, quotes South Carolina Governor James Hammond: "Sir, what is it that constitutes character, popularity, and power in the United States? Sir, it is property, and that only!" It is for property that Watson destroys himself and all those around him; it is for property that his son's beloved Everglades are hunted, fished, drained, and cleared to the brink of destruction. Bone by Bone is a distinctively American tragedy, as outsized and ambitious as E.J. Watson himself. --Mary Park

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