8 Oct 2014

THE DANTE CLUB.

THE DANTE CLUB by MATTHEW PEARL.

SOURCE: A charity shop buy.

THE BOOK (According to the back cover}: Boston. 1865. A small group of elite scholars prepares to introduce Dante's vision of hell to America. But so does a murderer.

The literary geniuses of the Dante club - poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and publisher J.T. Fields - are finishing America's first translation of The Divine Comedy. The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante in obscurity and the members of the Dante Club must fight to keep their sacred literary cause alive. But their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realises that the gruesome killings are modelled on the descriptions of Hell's punishments from Dante's Inferno. With the police baffled, lives endangered and Dante's literary future at stake, the Dante Club must shed its sheltered literary existence and find a way to stop the killer.

FIRST SENTENCE {Canticle One: Chapter 1}: John Kurtz, the chief of the Boston police, breathed in some of his heft for a better fit between the two chambermaids.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 40}: Holmes admired the Widow Healey's restrained expression. Easy-crying widows always took new husbands soonest.

MY THOUGHTS: Not nearly as clever as it thinks it is. It took a while before it struck me what it was that really bothered me about this debut novel. 

No, it wasn't so much the stomach churning (not to mention overly lengthy) descriptions of maggots munching on the recently deceased Judge Healey (though I'm glad I hadn't just eaten). Nor was it the sleep inducing pace at which the plot crept along, or even the confusing way in which the narrative jumped about. It was that the prose, written to read like that of nineteenth literature, felt contrived and extremely forced.

Alas, not a novel that worked well for me on any level. Not as a novel about a group of mid-eighteenth Boston academics about to finish America's first translation of The Divine Comedy and certainly not as a murder mystery inspired by the punishments in The Inferno. The only things that vaguely held my attention (its just a shame they were such perfunctory additions) were the mention of the Fugitive Slave Act and its consequences and the characterisation of Nicholas Rey, a mulatto police officer unable to wear the uniform or arrest a white man.


11 comments:

Kelly said...

Ah, more Dante. While I can see this had potential from its blurb, your "no-holds-barred" review clinched it for me. I'll pass on this one.

I hope your next book is better.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

Bummer...this has such a great premise. Too bad it wasn't done well.

Sherry Ellis said...

Based on your review, I'd say this is a book I'll pass on.

Literary Feline said...

It's too bad this wasn't better. I read a Matthew Pearl book a few years ago and really liked it. The Last Dickens.

Stephanie Faris said...

Maggots...EWWWW! I can't read books that are graphic or violent in nature. I just don't have the stomach for it.

carol said...

I remember enjoying this when I read it, but it's been a while. Maybe I was less picky then?

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

No, doesn't sound like something I would enjoy. Brilly review though!

Suko said...

Tracy, thanks for sharing your honest thoughts. This doesn't sound like my cup of maggots, oops, I mean tea, either.

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

So sorry to hear you didn't like this one more!

Brian Joseph said...

This sounds like it might have been a better book had the murder part been left out. Of course i am somewhat of a literature geek :)

Claudine G. said...

Ah too bad, I was quite tempted to add this to my list based on its back cover blurb. Sounded promising but if the narrative doesn't come off as authentic, or at least crisp and honest, then ... too bad.