Banished Children of Eve, A Novel of Civil War New York

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9780140230031: Banished Children of Eve, A Novel of Civil War New York

Banished Children of Eve, a novel of America struggling to become a melting pot, marks the debut of a gifted storyteller. It is New York City, the time of the Civil War. The war has just entered its third bloody year, and the North is about to impose its first military draft, a decision that will spark the most devastating and destructive riot in American history. Quinn gives us these events through the eyes of people drawn from every part of the city's life - minstrels, street gangs, servants, soldiers, and clergymen, Yankee, African American, and Irish. It is the New York of Jimmy Dunne, a streetwise Irish-American hustler in search of the big score. Of Eliza, an African-American actress seeking her place in a city where her family has lived since colonial times. Of Jack Mulcahey, Eliza's lover, who escaped death in the Irish famine of the 1840s, and is struggling to hold on to his position as one of New York's leading minstrels. At the heart of Banished Children of Eve is the American search for the Promised Land. Along with Jimmy, Eliza, and Jack, it is a search shared by Charles Bedford, a scheming and ambitious stockbroker, and by Margaret O'Driscoll, an immigrant servant girl in Bedford's home. There are two other shadowy presences. One is a drunken and broken drifter, Stephen Foster, who has given away all his songs, but who can still remember the music, which becomes the music of the novel. The other is the Civil War itself. Through the stories of these disparate lives, all brought together in the cataclysm of the Draft Riots, Quinn spins out the fates of his rich and vital characters as he brings magically to life a pivotal period in this country's history.

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About the Author:

Peter Quinn is the author of Hour of the Cat, The Man Who Never Returned, Looking for Jimmy, and The Banished Children of Eve, all available from Overlook.

From Kirkus Reviews:

In a sprawling debut, Quinn, chief speechwriter for Time Warner, pays long, lusty tribute to his Irish-American heritage and his hometown, New York City, while exploring one of the darker moments in the city's history--the bloody Draft Riots of 1863. Jimmy Dunne is a young thief with a taste for whiskey and a knack for finding himself in the thick of things; Jack Mulcahey is a prominent black-face player in the minstrel shows, in love with the light-skinned black actress Eliza; Charles Bedford is a rags- to-riches Wall Street trader whose firm is about to collapse from bad investments and his gambling debts; Margaret O'Driscoll is his comely maid; the composer Stephen Foster is bereft of his muse and perpetually drunk. Along with a host of others, all of these people are swept up in a tide of racial strife as Irish battle blacks for jobs and living space, while the grim specter of conscription grips New York. Dunne, put on Bedford's trail by a would-be blackmailer, instead is smitten when he meets fair Margaret. In a parallel development, Jack considers marrying Eliza, but as tensions reach a flashpoint in the first days of the draft, the city erupts in fire and death. Bedford escapes after killing his blackmailer, and Dunne saves Margaret from a howling mob, but Jack loses Eliza when he fails to keep their young charge, the mixed-blood Squirt, from being castrated and lynched. Meanwhile, Foster, alternately despondent and exhilarated in the chaos, finally does himself in. Full of melodramatic turns and insistently benevolent views of Irish excess, but a spirited tale of city demographics in painful transition, with its vitality generally compensating for an otherwise loosely threaded patchwork of adventures. (First printing of 50,000) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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