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Rich in characters both heartbreaking and bloodcurdling, comic and horrific, The Amalgamation Polka is shot through with politics and dreams, and it captures great swaths of the American experience, from village to metropolis to plantation, from the Erie Canal to the Bahamas, from Bloody Kansas to the fulfillment of the killing fields. Yet for all the brutality and tragedy, this novel is exuberant in the telling and its wide compassion, brimming with the language, manners, hopes, and fears of its time, all of this so transformed by Stephen Wright's imaginative compass that places and events previously familiar are rendered new and strange, terrifying and stirring. Instantly revelatory, constantly mesmerizing, this is the work of a major writer at the top of his form.
"An unusually captivating modernist novel set during the Civil War." (Booklist)
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Patrice on 10-06-06
Surprising, Shocking, and Thoughtful
I do not understand why this book has a rating of only 3 stars (at this time). It has so much research and historicity behind it, and its character studies are vivid and lifelike.
Not only is there humor at certain points, there is also shock value galore. Not only is hatred portrayed in all its ugliness, but also love is portrayed.
I have not spent a long time thinking about it, but I have a feeling that Liberty, the main character, also forms a metaphor for America during the Civil War. I would be glad to write a term paper on that topic.
It does have some similar themes to Doctorow's recent book on the Civil War, but there is so much more "meat" here that this book stands on its own.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By north on 01-15-14
Hats off to Messrs Emerson & Wright
If you could sum up The Amalgamation Polka in three words, what would they be?
aural time machine
What did you like best about this story?
The way the narrator brought the characters to life. I loved the use of language and the varied dialects. Just delicious! Every detail seemed realistic and true to life, not at all fabricated or anachronistic like so many historical novels tend to be.
Have you listened to any of Michael Emerson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
This was the first audiobook I've ever bought based simply on my love of the narrator's voice. From the first chapter I was drawn in to the story completely by Mr. Emerson's impressive range in portraying the book's numerous characters of various ages and origins, every one of which brought the story to life like no other audiobook ever has for me. The accents and use of old-timey language are an absolute delight to listen to. I am quite simply in awe of his versatility and immense talent. I look forward to hearing every one of his other narrations I can get my little paws on.
If you could take any character from The Amalgamation Polka out to dinner, who would it be and why?
Anyone from Redemption Hall, or Euclid. I just love the way they talk :)
Any additional comments?
This is not the sort of book I would normally go for, but I am so glad I stumbled upon it. I was so captivated by Emerson's portrayals of Wright's characters that I devoured the entire thing in a day. I couldn't tear myself away. It was like being transported back in time, and it was an unforgettable journey!