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Editorial Reviews

Twain's 1894 novel of two nearly identical brothers raised on opposite sides of the race line (one as white, one as black) isn't nearly as strong as his more famous works. The author's political ambitions - critiquing American attitudes on race and class - are too nakedly displayed, and the plot creaks like an old melodrama. But it's still Mark Twain, and that means more wit than half a dozen other authors, delivered in shrewd, folksy language. And it's possible that Michael Prichard's delivery works better than reading it on the printed page. Prichard shifts dialect to match Twain's acute ear for regional differences, and he brings a widely diverse cast of characters vividly to life.
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Publisher's Summary

Two half brothers look so similar as infants that no one can tell them apart. One, the legitimate son of a rich man, is destined for a life of comfort; the other is condemned to be a slave, as he is part black. The mother of the would-be slave is also the nurse of the other boy, and to give her son the best life possible, she switches the two. Soon, the boy who is given every advantage becomes spoiled and cruel. He takes sadistic pleasure in tormenting his half brother. As they grow older, the townspeople no longer notice that the boys look similar, and they readily accept that each is born to his station. A local lawyer, David Wilson, has had a similar experience. On his first day in the village, he made an odd remark about a dog, and the townspeople gave him the condescending name of "Pudd'nhead". Although he was a young, intelligent lawyer, he is unable to live down this name and toils in obscurity for over 20 years. Finally, he is presented with a complex murder trial and is given the chance to prove himself to the townspeople and shake his unjust label.
This complex murder mystery is a psychological study that explores how perceptions shape character. Twain combines biting satire with his trademark scenes of farce and levity.
©2002 Tantor Media, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Raleigh on 05-18-12

twin brothers x 3

twain originally wanted to write a story about twins
he started with european twins visiting america
he then contemplated using siamese twins as characters

he eventually used racial twins switched at birth to tell his story
persistent echoes of the european and siamese elements are audible
and to be fair they do weigh the tale down a bit

this is a punchy, short, plot driven jewel of a book
insightful observations win out over character development
humor is used to bring us the dark truth of post civil war america

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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