BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE by Peter Quinn

BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 In a sprawling debut, Quinn, chief speechwriter for Time Warner, pays long, lusty tribute to his Irish-American heritage and his hometown, New York City, while exploring one of the darker moments in the city's history--the bloody Draft Riots of 1863. Jimmy Dunne is a young thief with a taste for whiskey and a knack for finding himself in the thick of things; Jack Mulcahey is a prominent black-face player in the minstrel shows, in love with the light-skinned black actress Eliza; Charles Bedford is a rags- to-riches Wall Street trader whose firm is about to collapse from bad investments and his gambling debts; Margaret O'Driscoll is his comely maid; the composer Stephen Foster is bereft of his muse and perpetually drunk. Along with a host of others, all of these people are swept up in a tide of racial strife as Irish battle blacks for jobs and living space, while the grim specter of conscription grips New York. Dunne, put on Bedford's trail by a would-be blackmailer, instead is smitten when he meets fair Margaret. In a parallel development, Jack considers marrying Eliza, but as tensions reach a flashpoint in the first days of the draft, the city erupts in fire and death. Bedford escapes after killing his blackmailer, and Dunne saves Margaret from a howling mob, but Jack loses Eliza when he fails to keep their young charge, the mixed-blood Squirt, from being castrated and lynched. Meanwhile, Foster, alternately despondent and exhilarated in the chaos, finally does himself in. Full of melodramatic turns and insistently benevolent views of Irish excess, but a spirited tale of city demographics in painful transition, with its vitality generally compensating for an otherwise loosely threaded patchwork of adventures. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-670-85076-4
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993




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