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Finn by Jon Clinch

 

 

 

In this masterful debut by a major new voice in fiction, Jon Clinch takes us on a journey into the history and heart of one of American literature’s most brutal and mysterious figures: Huckleberry Finn’s father. The result is a deeply original tour de force that springs from Twain’s classic novel but takes on a fully realized life of its own.

Finn sets a tragic figure loose in a landscape at once familiar and mythic. It begins and ends with a lifeless body–flayed and stripped of all identifying marks–drifting down the Mississippi. The circumstances of the murder, and the secret of the victim’s identity, shape Finn’s story as they will shape his life and his death.

Along the way Clinch introduces a cast of unforgettable characters: Finn’ s terrifying father, known only as the Judge; his sickly, sycophantic brother, Will; blind Bliss, a secretive moonshiner; the strong and quick-witted Mary, a stolen slave who becomes Finn’s mistress; and of course young Huck himself. In daring to re-create Huck for a new generation, Clinch gives us a living boy in all his human complexity–not an icon, not a myth, but a real child facing vast possibilities in a world alternately dangerous and bright.

Finn is a novel about race; about paternity in its many guises; about the shame of a nation recapitulated by the shame of one absolutely unforgettable family. Above all, Finn reaches back into the darkest waters of America’s past to fashion something compelling, fearless, and new.

 

My Review

This novel brings you back to Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
The main protagonist is Finn the father of Huck, a bad man in every sense. He’s racist, shellfish and violent. He does take to loving a black woman while at the same time looks down on and has a hatred towards black people. There will be sides of him that you will read of where he expresses he wants to repent and do good he does have some humble ways by way of his fishing he is regularly out on the mudflats with a cane pole and a blackened corncob pipe.
The language used fits in with the Mark Twain era as well as the quite frequented use of the ‘N’ word instead of black purposely in keeping with the characters true behavior. I felt uncomfortable and uneasy when in repeated occasions i read of the racism that a few characters displayed in here, in the end the author has used this in keeping with the racial tension of that time and the fictional character Finn was which will have you disliking Finn.
There is some light and hope and that is with the young brave Huck and his mother.
A time of attentive reading this will be and not a fast paced read as the story is a character study of Finn, Huck’s pa, and the history behind the Huck character taken from that classic novel of bygone years.
A great tale that will stir up all kinds of feelings and a sense of place and time.

“Some on the other hand have heard the official story of the boy’s unknowable origins, and some even believe it. This footloose and misbegotten child, with his fortunate pale skin and his experimental corncob pipe, with his intimacy with slave lore and his confounded gift for looking ragged even in clothing freshly pressed by none other than a white woman or so they say, this child can surely be no positive influence on their young, no positive influence at all. By denying him they make him irresistible, and like a sturdy weed he thrives upon their neglect.”

“As the days go by he watches her in the manner of a naturalist making observations, as if fearing that at any moment she could molt and reveal some alternate self beneath the skin, some raw beast damp and ready for transformation into a different sort of creature altogether. Everything she touches she touches in a manner different from the ways of his mother and the ways of dead Petersen’s dead wife. There is about her a grace and an ineffable sadness that conspire to retard her movements and make them thereby into something almost musical, transforming every act into a kind of prayer or languorous meditation. She seems always to be preparing-not merely his supper or a bucket of washwater or some other common thing, but herself, for that part of her life which is yet to come.”

“Perhaps his kinfolk would uphold him in his efforts. He would readily pledge to reform and swear upon a goddamn bible if they required it. And yet to be truthful with himself he recognises these ideas for the pipedreams that they are, since regardless of such other faults as he may have he is not entirely lacking in self-awareness.”

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 25 October 2012

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