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Killing Mister Watson Paperback – July 30, 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Matthiessen has clearly immersed himself in the lives of Florida pioneers, and conveys the harshness of their lives, and that sticky, fetid overripeness so characteristic of Florida, brilliantly. He clearly loves his players, and adeptly creates "whole" people in even distasteful characters.
I've bought this book for friends who haven't been able to finish it...I have no idea why. Too much MTV, I guess, has rotted their attention spans! It may take 20 or so pages to get used to the shifting voices, but it is far from a difficult read, and you will find yourself compelled by the narrative.
This book has two sequels: Lost Man's River (told from the perspective of Watson's grown son), and Bone by Bone (told from the p.o.v. of Watson himself). Both are worth a look.
The one voice we do not hear in the course of this novel is that of Watson himself; he is always referred to in the third person, never in the first. As a result of Mr Matthiessen's multiple-narrator technique, the truth about Watson's character and the events surrounding him, even those following his move to Florida, remains ambiguous. (We hear rumours, but no direct testimony, about his previous life in several other states). Was Watson good or evil, or a mixture of the two? Was his death the work of a vindictive lynch mob or justifiable killing in self-defence? Was he really guilty of the murders attributed to him, or the victim of unjustified suspicion? Mr Matthiessen never gives a final answer to these questions, but allows the reader to decide for himself or herself. Certainly, the various narrators disagree among themselves; while some clearly hate Watson, others point to his good qualities- his love for his family, his capacity for hard work, his honesty in his business dealings.Read more ›
One of Matthiessen's great skills is to reproduce the local speech of simple people in a way that combines seeming authenticity with striking literary effect. Matthiessen tells the story of Mr. Watson by means of chapter-length monologues delivered by different characters in the local vernacular -- or at least Matthiessen's literary rendition of that vernacular. His ability to make those monologues seem completely authentic, while at the same time investing them with literary significance, reminded me of Twain (particularly "Huckleberry Finn") and Faulkner.
My only possible misgiving about the novel is that the author seems unwilling to pass judgment of any kind on the reputed killer, Mr. Watson. Is this because fact is so difficult to separate from fantasy that we cannot know if Mr. Watson was truly an evil man? Or is it because good and evil were relative concepts in the harsh wilderness of the Gulf coast islands in the 19th Century? Perhaps Matthiessen decided to withhold that judgment until the two later books of the trilogy, which I have not yet read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Five star, I live in key west and loved reading about the early history of the every glades.Published 3 days ago by Amazon Customer
Killing Mr. Watson is 99.5 per cent history, not fiction as stated by the author. W. W. Cox's property, 160 acres, is adjacent to my property. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Carol B. Bryant
This is a must read for those who live in or have visited southwest Florida.Published 4 months ago by flashBgordon
This is one of my favorite books of all time. I'm reading it for the third time in anticipation of visiting 10,000 Islands next month. Read morePublished 7 months ago by H. Roach
An interesting way to write a history of an area. I had trouble putting it down because it was about an area and an era that I knew very little about. Read morePublished 8 months ago by papoujimgrouse
A little difficult to remember all the characters, but a great read. I am a Florida native so I enjoyed the historical part of the book.Published 10 months ago by Sherry Smith
A well researched impeccably told saga from multiple points of view.Published 13 months ago by Katherine Schlesinger
I started it then quickly stopped reading as it was not what I had expected. My fault not the author. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Frank Iodice