Customer Reviews


331 Reviews
5 star:
 (160)
4 star:
 (80)
3 star:
 (55)
2 star:
 (22)
1 star:
 (14)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enticing, Graphic, Americana, and Utterly Brilliant
I am a sucker for good historic fiction and this is an excellent slice of Americana from the red clay dirt of Virginia: Franklin County, to be exact. The story starts in 1918 with the introduction of the Bondurant family and the trials of the day - the great influenza epidemic. From there the story jumps to 1934 (current timeframe) and then to and from 1928 as it...
Published on October 30, 2008 by Burgmicester

versus
55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Material, Not So Great Presentation
During Prohibition and beyond, Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant (the author's great-uncles and grandfather) decided that one way to keep their families going through the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and a crippling drought was to found a moonshine dynasty. The infamous Bondurant brothers were major bootleggers in Franklin...
Published on November 20, 2008 by Aderyn


‹ Previous | 1 234 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enticing, Graphic, Americana, and Utterly Brilliant, October 30, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am a sucker for good historic fiction and this is an excellent slice of Americana from the red clay dirt of Virginia: Franklin County, to be exact. The story starts in 1918 with the introduction of the Bondurant family and the trials of the day - the great influenza epidemic. From there the story jumps to 1934 (current timeframe) and then to and from 1928 as it brings the background into the story. This is done very nicely and the story is brought together from several angles using the real life reporter/writer - Sherwood Anderson (author of Winesburg, Ohio - now available from the Guttenberg Project public domain), as way to tell the story from the present tense. Anderson mentions that he has had run-ins with Hemmingway and Billy Faulkner - and as I read this story, I couldn't help but to see Bondurant's attempt at a similar style to Faulkner, but with an updated and more modern flair. The characterizations are rich and peeled back like an onion to reveal layer after layer of the main characters' history and development. The author also uses a technique that I haven't seen - there are no quotations to delineate the verbalizations between characters. Not unlike some of the masters of the past, Bondurant has established a writing persona - i.e. Faulkner's use of not identifying the character and making the reader use their own identification through the conversation.

Matt Bondurant calls this a work of fiction based on fact from his family's legend - thereby giving the reader a glimpse into the Bondurant family tree. The time frame are the years just before prohibition has been extinguished, and the moonshine business is in full swing in Franklin County with the Bondurant brothers thick in it. There is a little of everything in this book and the author concisely tells the tale in about 300 pages. But the story is not just told to the reader, it is described in terrific detail with sometimes graphic and sometimes beautiful prose. As you are grabbed by the story, it is nearly impossible to put down this book.

The author has researched his subject material very well indeed. His depiction of this era is superb and the wording paints the mural so well the reader is visualizing the entire surroundings. You are in Franklin County and watching the events, not reading them. This is a brilliant work and well worth the time to read it - and it won't take you long, as I just couldn't stop until it was finished.

This is a slice of time in America that we can only read about and Matt Bondurant is able to give us this period of time and allows us to leave our current life and live within this one. Often people will ask why I read so many books, and I'll say that with a good book, I can be transported into the story, into a time that I never saw, or into a place that I'll never visit; this is one of those books. This not just a good book; I rarely give out 5 stars, but Matt Bondurant has earned all five of them with this potential classic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Material, Not So Great Presentation, November 20, 2008
By 
Aderyn (Small-Town Michigan, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
During Prohibition and beyond, Forrest, Howard, and Jack Bondurant (the author's great-uncles and grandfather) decided that one way to keep their families going through the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic, Prohibition, the Great Depression, and a crippling drought was to found a moonshine dynasty. The infamous Bondurant brothers were major bootleggers in Franklin County, Virginia, which Sherwood Anderson, covering a story there, called "the wettest county in the world."

Although the material that Bondurant has to work with reflects a fascinating period in America's history, I found his presentation of it somewhat dry (no pun intended!) and often confusing. He chooses to use a straightforward prose style that minimizes punctuation; for example, quotation marks are eliminated altogether and commas nearly so. This style can be intrusive even in the best writers' hands (Cormac McCarthy comes to mind). There is, after all, good reason why punctuation was standardized to begin with: Remember your primary teachers telling you that it is meant to help the reader? It's true, for this reader at least.

Also, the novel jumps around in time, from 1918 to 1934 to 1928 to 1929 and again to 1934, back to 1919 then to 1930, and so on. To a limited extent, this approach helps pique the reader's interest, as when, for instance, we meet two of the Bondurants' competitors in the hospital, appallingly mutilated, while in the reader's mind the Bondurants are still just simple farming folk. Because the timeframe moves so frequently and randomly, though, the reader finds himself often disoriented and struggling to piece together the story. I repeatedly had to flip back to check what year it was and work out whether some earlier event was part of the foundation for what was happening now or whether it hadn't occurred yet.

Sherwood Anderson serves as a sort-of narrator, staying in Franklin County to do research to write about what was happening there. For the most part, this helps the novel, bringing to it an unenlightened point of view that parallels the reader's own. However, the frequent references to Anderson's testy relationship with other authors of his time, the building of his new house, and other details of his life outside of Franklin County add needless minutiae for the reader to sort through and allocate to their places in the story; ultimately, they have none, and seem to be mostly just an English major showing off.

I had a difficult time getting to know and care about the book's characters, at least partly because of the effort it took just to follow their stories. It wasn't until nearly the end of the book that it began to matter to me how any of it turned out. One of the parts I liked best was the brief author's note at the end, because by then I finally knew everyone and was interested in what had become of them. I wish the author had made this happen much earlier.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Death in the Afternoon, October 20, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
To dismiss the infamous Bondurant brothers as simply country bootleggers would be selling them short....and risking your life.

They had carved a nice living as moonshiners in Franklin County, Virginia, but that is not even half of the story. Each played a role in the criminal success story due to very unique personalities; Jack was always angling to strike it rich through a big score, Howard was a haunted veteran of World War I who enjoyed drinking the hard stuff as much as marketing it and Forrest was a tough as they came - he had a deep neck scar to prove it - once walking nearly 12 miles in the snow to receive medical assistance for a slit throat.

But when the trio refuses to pay "security" money to police, it leads to an even more wild ride in the turf wars where only the strongest could survive to fight another day, where the battles during the waning years of the Great Depression included shootings, knifings, beatings, shakedowns and brutal types of revenge that were fates worse than death for men.

Author Matt Bondurant chronicles these turbulent times of his grandfather and two granduncles in this novel that is based on the true story of their lives and the ripping apart of the veil that covered the lawlessness through a 1935 conspiracy trial which took down many players, but found journalist Sherwood Anderson chasing the shadows of the brothers to get to the heart of the story while attempting to break the county code of silence found within this vicious game.

Through dialogue and gripping scenes that are not for the faint of heart, Matt Bondurant brings to life an era where big city gangsters may have captured the national headlines, but these rural areas packed a gangland cruelty that was especially brutal. And that Matt Bondurant is talking about family makes this story even more compelling.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book! Better than the movie!, October 6, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book delivers big time. It brings great details where the movie didn't and I really enjoyed reading it. If you have seen the movie... read this book! It gives you a whole new perspective on the story behind this fasciniating family!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wettest County in the World, April 11, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have lived in Franklin County Virginia for over 20 years and have always heard stories about the moonshine and stills from some of the old timers and how their families and friends were involved many years ago. Most of these old timers are gone now but I enjoyed their stories while they were around. This book really put it in perspective in chilling, no nonsense details. Great book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story, Wonderful Prose, January 15, 2009
By 
James R. Spitznas (Purcellville, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is without a doubt one of the best books that I have read in a long time; I frequently found myself looking forward to having a few moments of spare time so I could read a few more pages. The story was quite engaging and on a regular basis I could not help but wonder exactly how much was based upon the author's own family history. At times the character's experiences involved significant violence which sustained a level of suspense throughout the chronicle -- as new situations were presented, I frequently was thinking "Oh, this cannot end well...". Sometimes my premonition was correct and others it was not, but it kept the pages turning at a good clip.

Overall, the book was very well written. I found the author to be exceptionally well gifted in the art of constructing colorful and concise prose; I was able to vividly construct the scenes and surroundings in my mind without having to wade through lots of overly descriptive details. At first I was slightly annoyed by the author's failure to use quotation marks for dialogue but quickly got over their absence. The one thing that I could not get over, though, was that there was a lot of jumping around chronologically which I found confusing giving the frequency with which it occurred. Though the author labeled the year of each chapter when a time change occurred, I was never quite sure where in the year we were and what had happened when earlier in the book. While beginning "in medias res" can be a useful literary device, the frequent time changes employed wihin this story was not at all beneficial in my opinion. If it were not for this fact, I would have awarded this book 5 stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Live Here In Franklin County, October 24, 2008
I love the history of this area in VA. My husband and I moved from L.A.,CA to Boones Mill,VA two years ago to retire and I found the book so interesting abt our new home town. Everytime a new character appeared, I would look up the name in the local phone directory and 99% of the time their relatives' names would be listed there.This book is fun to read and factual.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story indifferent presentation, November 11, 2008
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very good story with a historical background and a solid feel for rural American in the depression. Each of the brothers is different but all have the same set of demons coupled with a willingness to break the law. Jack, the author's grandfather, is the best done of the group. The other two enlist a varying degree of interest and sympathy. The reported is useless and harmful. While "telling the story", I found the character to be an unnecessary diversion. My second major problem is the author's decision to skip around instead of telling the story as it happens.
This is not a bad book nor is it unreadable. I was interested in the characters, enjoyed the vivid descriptions of life but never felt touched by the story. I felt that this is a good story but much better telling is needed!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A hard read..., October 20, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I love to read, but this book was hard to get into. I've yet to finish it because it's confusing at times as it flips back and forth through two plot lines at two different times. I watched the movie and loved it, but the book is surprisingly not nearly as good as the movie. Not a fan, and I'd suggest seeing the movie and calling it good.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disjointed story, October 7, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This was a difficult read! I saw the movie "Lawless" and loved it....and wanted to know more about the story so I purchased the book. The book is disjointed and difficult to keep track of what year it was and what the characters were up to. I'm not sorry I bought the book, but I was very disappointed at how it flows.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 234 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Lawless: A Novel Based on a True Story
Lawless: A Novel Based on a True Story by Matt Bondurant (Paperback - September 11, 2012)
$15.00 $12.34
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.