Feature

Novel of the week: A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles

The independent filmmaker's 1,000-page first novel focuses on four characters at the end of the 19th century who find themselves fighting in the Spanish-American War.

(McSweeney’s, $29)

Over three decades, John Sayles “has built an impressive résumé as one of this country’s leading independent filmmakers,” said Marc Mohan in the Portland Oregonian. A Moment in the Sun suggests that Sayles is now an even better novelist. His 1,000-page behemoth of a book focuses on four characters who, at the end of the 19th century, find themselves fighting in the Spanish-American War, a conflict Sayles sees as marking the birth of American imperialism. Yet his “obsessively researched” tale seems to reach into every corner of the era’s history. Through “fast-paced and lyrical character sketches,” he introduces an array of engrossing figures, including such historical heavyweights as Mark Twain and Leon Czolgosz, President William McKinley’s anarchist assassin, said Jeff Charis-Carlson in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. The ensuing drama suggests that movies have been too limiting for this author. A Moment in the Sun “gives Sayles the space he needs” to tell a good story while making his political points.

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