WATER OF LIFE by Henry Morton Robinson


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Ten years have passed since The Cardinal and again Robinson has written a big book with- this time- wider scope than its predecessors. Its chief value- if there is one- lies in the amazing panorama of the Middle West, viewed largely through the development of the whiskey trade in its wide ramifications, socially, economically, industrially. The span of the story- from post Civil War to the coming of Prohibition-encompasses the changing scene, typified by the rise of the Woodhulls from owners of an illicit still to defenders of the purity of unadulterated high class whiskey. It would seem to be a limiting subject. Actually, Robinson has managed to get just about everything into his story. His characters, in the main, are three dimensional:- Anson Woodhull representing the best of everything; there are the villains of the piece, - a river gambler, a blackmailer, a racketeer; the women, from his blue blood Boston wife to his tragic and lovely daughter who met her death in -- was it accident or suicide? -- the Mississippi in flood. All of the numerous sub plots thread into the main plot- and, for the perceptive reader, there is much that is valuable in the main thread of story - and the multi-caparisoned background. But for those seeking sensational melodrama, Robinson has thought it necessary to sully his tale with a wide range of material edging close to pornography, - perversities of sex, abortion, rape, asault on a corpse, sex for sale, etc., etc. And the details are not lacking. Set off these aspects against some small gems of folk writing, and you have a queerly balanced book, which is certain to swell the coffers, but which should be fairly assessed before acquisition. Not for the thin skinned or the discriminating reader.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1960
Publisher: Simon & Schuster