The Dante Club

23 Jul 2010

I was wandering the library a few weeks ago all on my own. That’s a pretty rare thing, but after finding what I was specifically looking for, I took the time to look around aimlessly and the title of this book caught my eye. I had no idea what it might be about, but having read part of Dante’s Inferno, I was intrigued.

I really enjoyed this book! I’m not well-read at all in modern fiction, and of the few I have read, for the most part, I have not enjoyed. But I thought this book was well-written and intelligent. It takes place right after the Civil War and is about the Fireside Poets (Holmes, Lowell, and Longfellow) and their quest to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into English. From what I read on wikipedia, the details about the poets and their work were fairly accurate.

The murder mystery was not based on fact, thankfully. But interesting all the same. I will give a quick warning: There are several scenes in this book that have a high possibility of turning your stomach. I loved the depth of the characters. Several of them I didn’t care for much at first, but as I got to know them better, they really grew on me, and by the end I loved them all. I look forward to reading their works and learning more about the actual persons.

I also liked how the ‘bad guy’ (I’ll leave the term very general so as not to give anything away) was both intelligent and sympathetic, and wasn’t the paper cut-out of the cold-hearted villain or the madman (though there was definitely a bit of both going on). I enjoyed how the book kept me guessing on who the ‘bad guy’ was, and I think I suspected almost everyone at one point or another, and the final revelation was still a shock!

Overall, a fun read if you enjoy mysteries or well-written fiction. I will definitely be checking out Mathew Pearl’s other books.