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Valiant Gentlemen
by Sabina Murray


Overview - Following her New York Times Editor's Choice collection of short stories Tales of the New World , historical fiction master Sabina Murray returns with an epic and bold novel of friendship and betrayal set across four continents and a 40-year time span

In prose that is darkly humorous and alive with detail, Valiant Gentlemen reimagines the lives and intimate friendships of humanitarian and Irish patriot Roger Casement; his closest friend, Herbert Ward; and Ward's extraordinary wife, the Argentinian-American heiress Sarita Sanford.  Read more...


 
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More About Valiant Gentlemen by Sabina Murray
 
 
 
Overview
Following her New York Times Editor's Choice collection of short stories Tales of the New World, historical fiction master Sabina Murray returns with an epic and bold novel of friendship and betrayal set across four continents and a 40-year time span

In prose that is darkly humorous and alive with detail, Valiant Gentlemen reimagines the lives and intimate friendships of humanitarian and Irish patriot Roger Casement; his closest friend, Herbert Ward; and Ward's extraordinary wife, the Argentinian-American heiress Sarita Sanford. Valiant Gentlemen takes the reader on an intimate journey, from Ward and Casement's misadventurous youth in the Congo--where, among other things, they bore witness to an Irish whiskey heir's taste for cannibalism--to Ward's marriage to Sarita and their flourishing family life in France, to Casement's covert homosexuality and enduring nomadic lifestyle floating between his work across the African continent and involvement in Irish politics. When World War I breaks out, Casement and Ward's longstanding political differences finally come to a head and when Ward and his teenage sons leave to fight on the frontlines for England, Casement begins to work alongside the Germans to help free Ireland from British rule. What results is tragic and riveting, as both men are forced to confront notions of love and betrayal in the face of the vastly different tracks their lives have taken.

Reminiscent of the work of Peter Carey and Michael Ondaatje, Valiant Gentlemen is a uniquely human account of some of early 20th century's larger historical figures from a "ravishing" (O Magazine) and "brilliant" (The Boston Globe) voice in fiction today.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780802125453
  • ISBN-10: 080212545X
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • Publish Date: November 2016
  • Page Count: 496
  • Dimensions: 9.31 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.75 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Historical - General
Books > Fiction > Literary

 
BookPage Reviews

A reimagining of a historical friendship

The 1979 new wave hit “Pop Muzik” had an infectious chorus that began: “New York, London, Paris, Munich.” PEN/Faulkner winner Sabina Murray sends her characters to all four of these locales—and many others—in her sprawling, colorful new novel.

Based on real-life events and people, Valiant Gentlemen opens in 1880s Africa and closes in postwar Paris, where Murray’s characters, and the world, have been changed utterly by World War I.

Murray’s tone is light at the outset. Englishman Herbert Ward and Irishman Roger Casement are in Belgian-ruled Congo, just two of many young, careless expeditionaries. They mingle with the local population and brainstorm about how to make money; Ward eventually decides to write for magazines about his time living amid “naked natives and cannibalism.” 

The story picks up steam with the introduction of Sarita Sanford, a sharp-tongued heiress who marries Ward. Casement, meanwhile, must deal with multiple identity crises: He is a revolutionary for Catholic Ireland, but a Protestant, and is often taken for an Englishman. He is also living a closeted gay life. Complex characters in exotic locales combined with Murray’s deft use of language (trees in Niger, for example, are described as having “crabbed fingers”) are the strongest aspects of Valiant Gentlemen.

The approach of World War I creates tension between Ward and Casement, and their differences build to an emotional, even wrenching climax. Valiant Gentlemen offers some sharp satire on culture clashes and colonialism. Casement even makes a flip remark about some “horror,” echoing the conclusion of Joseph Conrad’s African-journey classic, Heart of Darkness. Though a bit too long, Valiant Gentlemen is ultimately an impressive accomplishment, offering an immersive read for historical fiction fans.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews