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Remember Ben Clayton: A novel [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Harrigan
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.95
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.96 (35%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

From the author of the acclaimed best seller The Gates of the Alamo, a new novel that confirms and enlarges Stephen Harrigan’s reputation as a major voice in American fiction.

Francis “Gil” Gilheaney is a sculptor of boundless ambition. But bad fortune and his own prideful spirit have driven him from New York into artistic exile in Texas just after World War I. His adult daughter, Maureen, serves as his assistant, although she has artistic ambitions of her own and is beginning to understand how her own career—perhaps even her life—has become hostage to her driven father’s “wild pursuit of glory.” When Lamar Clayton, an aging, heartbroken rancher, offers Gil a commission to create a memorial statue of his son Ben, who was killed in the war, Gil seizes the opportunity to create what he believes will be his greatest achievement.

As work proceeds on the statue, Gil and Maureen come to realize that their new client is a far more complicated man than he appeared to be on first acquaintance, and that Lamar is guarding a secret that haunts his relationship with his son even in death. But Gil is haunted as well: by the fear that his work will be forgotten and by an unconscionable lie whose discovery could cost him his daughter’s love. The creation of the statue leads to a chain of dramatic encounters, through which Maureen will test the boundaries of her independence and Gil and Lamar, each in his own painful way, will confront their worth as fathers.

Remember Ben Clayton vividly depicts a rich swath of American history, from the days when the Comanches ruled the Southern plains to the final brutal months of World War I. It ranges from outlaw settlements on the Texas frontier to the cafés of Paris, from Indian encampments to artists’ ateliers to the forgotten battlefield in France where Ben Clayton died. It shows us the all-consuming labor that a monumental work of sculpture demands and the price it exacts from both artist and patron. And with unforgettable power and compassion it presents a deeply moving story about the bonds between fathers and children, and about the power and purpose of art.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Guest Reviewer: William Broyles
William Broyles is the founding editor of Texas Monthly magazine, the screenwriter of Cast Away and eight other films, and the author of the Viet Nam memoir, Brothers in Arms.

A sculptor determined to find truth in art, a young man seeking redemption from the terrible wounds of war, a young woman searching for freedom and love, and a father struggling for forgiveness--these memorably-drawn characters leap off the page in Stephen Harrigan’s masterful novel Remember Ben Clayton.

Lamar Clayton is determined to build a memorial to his son, killed in a reckless charge in World War I. At first the commission seems straightforward, a way for ambitious sculptor Gil Gilheaney to leapfrog his New York peers and secure his artistic reputation. His daughter Maureen is his dutiful assistant, willing to sacrifice love and her own art to her father’s single-minded search for greatness. Lamar Clayton is a broken-hearted old man who wants only to honor his son Ben, a golden boy and gifted horseman.

But in Harrigan’s skillful hands nothing is so simple. Ben’s death turns out to be a compelling mystery that transforms the lives of each character, and brings to the surface lies told and lies lived. The truth hides behind the disfigured face of Ben’s wounded comrade, behind the tangled loyalties and brutal conflicts of the blood-soaked Texas frontier, behind the secrets Lamar and Gil both hide from their children.

I loved this book. I was mesmerized to discover whether the sins of the fathers would indeed be visited onto their children. Harrigan understands artists, cowboys, warriors and women; he brings them to life with unflinching but compassionate honesty. He writes about art and war with equal power and authority, but his portrayals of the small quiet decisions that form a life are just as powerful, and sometimes just as shocking, as the wrenching scenes of combat.

The riddle of Ben Clayton is a hypnotic mystery story, drawing the characters out of the their hiding places, forcing them to confront who they really are and what they really want. In Remember Ben Clayton, Harrigan unforgettably captures it all: loyalty and betrayal, the corrosive power of secrets held too tight, the mystery of art, the confusion of the battlefield, and above all the deeply human need to be valued and remembered.

Review

“Like the statue at its center, Harrigan’s novel is a stunning work of art resting on a solid base of heartbreak.  The action ranges from the Texas plains to the devastated northern French landscape, with the presence of the violent Wild West strongly lingering. . . . The story builds with determined momentum, providing a grimly vivid sense of place and deep insight into the creative process and family relationships.   Harrigan’s The Gates of the Alamo has become a modern classic, and his latest deserves similar acclaim.”—Sarah Johnson, Booklist (starred)
 
“If it were possible to give Stephen Harrigan’s novel six stars, I would.   I have not been able to stop thinking about Remember Ben Clayton since putting it down a final time.   It is so moving, with a kind of West Texas majesty that reminds us of what the west was like not that long ago.   And it is readable—compulsively so.  I was a huge fan of Harrigan’s earlier Gates of the Alamo so I was aware of his writer’s skill. Ben Clayton is even more nuanced and complex. . . . My favorite book this year.”—Candace Siegle, Goodreads
 
“I read the first chapter and I was hooked . . . The prose is sparse and reminds me of Hemingway, but it fit the characters perfectly.  The musings of the characters on art and its role in society—and what it means to the individual artist—were exceptionally absorbing. . . . This novel should appeal to a wide audience—fans of cowboy lit, fans of historical fiction, and artists of all stripes.”—Chiron, Rabbit Reader
 
 


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1424 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307265811
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 24, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004DEPH2K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,789 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Harrigan's REMEMBER BEN CLAYTON May 26, 2011
Format:Hardcover
REMEMBER BEN CLAYTON
By Stephen Harrigan
352 pages. Knopf. $26.95.

In his previous two novels, Stephen Harrigan has staged the fall of The Alamo, and gone aboard the space shuttle via The Johnson Space Center. And yet THE GATES OF THE ALAMO and CHALLENGER PARK are both Texas stories. In REMEMBER BEN CLAYTON, his fifth novel, the action of Harrigan's newest Texas characters opens amid a battlefield of the first world war. Machine gun fire and artillery and intense fear has seized and immobilized the squad of young Americans. Not so long ago, they were farm boys, students, store clerks. Now, they are pinned down in the hellish French countryside, almost frozen like statues.

"The concussive turbulence sucked away the air. The men gasped for breath in the vacuum. Shrapnel pierced the tree trunks and ploughed into the earth with a hissing force as the ground heaved like a malevolent carnival ride."

Fittingly, the novel's publication date nearly coincides with Memorial Day. This is hardly the stuff of a patriotic song and march. Something else compels Ben Clayton, the young man of the book's title, to rise to his feet and make a charge. Young Ben is filled with the anger and rage that forges heroes. More often, such disregard for his own safety leads to a flag-draped coffin.

Shortly after the war, Ben's father Lamar Clayton doesn't want to know the details of his son's death. His focus is a memorial to the boy's life, in the form of a statue of Ben. He will place the sculpture on a small plateau overlooking the hardscrabble countryside of the family ranch outside of Abilene, Texas. Francis "Gil" Gilheaney takes on the job.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wondrous book June 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Every now and then you come across a book that reaffirms your faith in literature, and rewards your deepest longings as a reader. This is a wondrous novel. Remember Ben Clayton flows beautifully and clearly and yet is full of depth and texture. Stephen Harrigan brings together so many fascinating aspects of Texas history (such as the children who were captured by Comanches back in the frontier days) and yet his characters are boldly original and compelling. The novel begins well and just keeps gaining momentum as the expertly woven plot threads begin to tie together. This is the sort of novel that helps us understand, and feel, more deeply about what it means to be human. Stephen Harrigan has always been a talented and interesting writer (see Gates of the Alamo, for example) but if this book is any indication, he just keeps getting better and better. At some point we need to stop thinking of Harrigan as a regional writer and think of him as a major American talent. Remember Ben Clayton is a treasure.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars dark historical thriller May 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Ben Clayton died in France during WW I. His grieving father, Texas rancher Lamar wants to honor his beloved late child so he decides to hire a sculptor to create a statue paying homage to Ben. Lamar hires New York renowned artist Gil Gilheaney.

Gil arrives at the Clayton ranch near San Antonio accompanied by his assistant his daughter Maureen. He researches the lives of father and son as he believes his masterpiece will come from understanding the Clayton family. To his surprise and joy, Gil learns the Comanche kidnapped and raised Lamar and his sister while Indians also massacred the housekeeper. At the same time Maureen feels stifled by her father as she wants to do her own projects.

This dark historical thriller focuses on death and violence more so than the making of a bronze statue; though both sides add up to a great tale. The war to end wars may be over, but the mental and physical aftermath haunt the survivors like the father whose son died and the disfigured soldier who would have preferred to have died along side of his late comrade in arms Ben. Gruesome (warning not to eat just prior to the calf scene), Stephen Harrigan argues that by our despairing need to remember our Ben Clayton, we honor our hopelessness that everyone faces a final act.

Harrier Klausner
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relentless March 21, 2012
Format:Hardcover
I started out loving this book. The writing is tremendous and the opening battle scene from WWI was gripping. The book continued to be excellent as it followed, primarily, two men past their primes - a sculptor and his client. The client's son died in the battle described in the first pages and the sculptor is enraptured by the idea of sculpting him. His daughter serves as an apprentice.

The two older men were terrific characters. Both have hurtful secrets that are slowly peeled back like the layers of an onion. Most revealed betrayals of the ones they loved. When these stories were revealed, they were captivating.

Mr. Harrigan also captured the period of the years after WWI well. He portrayed the taste and feelings of the times. An America just feeling its oats as a new power while still having a toe in the old west.

So there is a lot good about the book. however, there are weaknesses.

The daughter, who also is a major character did not resonate. For all the emotion and feeling the older men evoke, her character never really rang true, her emotions were pretty standard stuff and her actions pretty darn predictable.

The book is a relentless march through the depressing parts of the men's lives. I don't think there was a giggle or a grin in the entire book. Not every book needs humor. But this book was the same tone, over and over and over, with little variation in tempo or pace. It made for tiring reading. The main characters constantly went through the same cycle of withdrawing, revealing, withdrawing.

As good as the writing was and as interesting as the characters were initially, by the end I was happy to see the last page. The book is by no means bad at all. Just be ready for some plodding.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel!
Great novel about a unique time in our history - when people who remembered & were impacted by the Comanches were living during a World War. Read more
Published 13 days ago by SomeCallmeTim
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel
Looking at a list of Spur Award winners, I came across this book. Glad that I did. Lives up to its award in spades. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Connie
2.0 out of 5 stars strange history
it had too many strange twists and coincidental encounters , so i had a hard time staying interested in the plot
Published 4 months ago by Marjorie Crocker
5.0 out of 5 stars Remember Ben Clayton created a wonderful sense of place
Ben Clayton created a wonderful sense of place; shivering in the Texas plains, looking at the sculptural spinach on Mission San Jose and walking the WW1 battle fields, The... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Valerie S. Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad, memorable.
Unfulfilled relationships between parents and children do not take away from the readability of this novel. Read more
Published 6 months ago by PBFish
5.0 out of 5 stars Glad I stumbled upon this
First off my name is Ben Clayton, so I had to check this out. Character depth was amazing and well researched. The character perspectives make this a very unique story.
Published 10 months ago by ben clayton
4.0 out of 5 stars I'll remember Ben Clayton
A somewhat overly complicated story, drawing the reader to a satisfying conclusion. The fiction yields an insight into WWI, and Native American affairs. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Meryll L. Wolfman
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book...Interesting view of Texas, Scuptures, WWI and much more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wouldn't have chosen it but for my book club. It was a different view of WWI, Texans, and Sculpturing. Read more
Published 11 months ago by linda
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillian story - worth reading
This was a brilliant book - could be read by any type of reader. Fascinating mix of characters and a great story of love, adventure, hardship, courage and determination, I loved... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Betty O
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
This author does not disappoint. His character development and story line make you sad the book ends. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Sonja
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More About the Author

Stephen Harrigan was born in Oklahoma City in 1948 and has lived in Texas since the age of five, growing up in Abilene and Corpus Christi.
For many years he was a staff writer and senior editor at Texas Monthly, and his articles and essays have appeared in a wide range of other publications as well, including The Atlantic, Outside, The New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, Audubon, Travel Holiday, Life, American History, National Geographic and Slate. Many of his magazine pieces have been collected in the essay collections A Natural State (1988) and Comanche Midnight (1995). Another non-fiction book, Water and Light: A Diver's Journey to a Coral Reef, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1992.
Harrigan is the author of four novels. His first novel, Aransas, published by Alfred A. Knopf, was listed by the New York Times as a notable book of 1980. Jacob's Well was published by Simon and Schuster in 1984 and cited as one of the year's best books by The Washington Post and The Dallas Morning News. In 2000, Knopf published his novel The Gates of the Alamo, which became a New York Times bestseller and notable book, and which received a number of awards, including the TCU Texas Book Award, the Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and the Spur Award for the Best Novel of the West. In April 2006, Knopf published Challenger Park, a novel about a woman astronaut torn between her responsibilities as a mother and her dreams of flying in space. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Thomas Mallon called Challenger Park "a fine, absorbing achievement, probably the best science-factual novel about the space-faring worlds of Houston and Cape Canaveral in the nearly half-century since the first astronauts were chosen." His latest novel, Remember Ben Clayton, was published by Knopf in May 2011. Remember Ben Clayton also won the Spur Award, as well as the Jesse H. Jones from the Texas Institute of Letters for the year's best work of fiction. It was one of five audiobook titles nominated for a 2013 Audie award in the Literary Fiction category. In March, 2013, the University of Texas Press published his career-spanning essay collection The Eye of the Mammoth.
Among the many movies Harrigan has written for television are HBO's award-winning The Last of His Tribe, starring Jon Voight and Graham Greene, and King of Texas, a western retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear for TNT, which starred Patrick Stewart, Marcia Gay Harden, and Roy Scheider. His most recent television production was The Colt, an adaptation of a short story by the Nobel-prize winning author Mikhail Sholokhov, which aired on The Hallmark Channel. For his screenplay of The Colt, Harrigan was nominated for a Writers Guild Award and the Humanitas Prize. Young Caesar, a feature adaptation of Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" novels, which he co-wrote with William Broyles, Jr., is currently in development with Exclusive Media.
A 1971 graduate of the University of Texas, Harrigan lives in Austin, where he is a faculty fellow at UT's James A. Michener Center for Writers. He is also a founding member of the Texas Book Festival, and of Capital Area Statues, Inc., a non-profit organization that commissions and raises money for monumental works of sculpture celebrating the history and culture of Texas. He has received lifetime achievement awards from the Texas Book Festival and the Texas Institute of Letters, and was recently inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

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