Friday, April 22, 2016

The Last Bookaneer

by Matthew Pearl
389 pgs

Matthew Pearl’s fifth novel is set in 1890, the year before the International Copyright Act will be incorporated into American law. Although most publishers have operated under gentlemen’s trade agreements and synchronized the publishing of an author’s work in both America and Britain, Pearl proposes the idea of literary pirates, or “Bookaneers,” who steal and publish famous authors’ manuscripts and books without permission.

Pen Davenport is the last of the Bookaneers. Knowing that with the passage of the new Act, his source of income will be eliminated, he decides to go after one last major manuscript: The Shovels of Newton French, Robert Louis Stevenson's final, and rumored to be, greatest novel. Davenport, and his bookseller sidekick Edgar Fergins travel to the island nation of Samoa, where Stevenson has retired to, in an attempt to steal the manuscript and secure himself financially. 

Pearl tells an interesting story with this one, and he manages to pull off some minor surprises at the end, but ultimately I felt like the book suffered from too many flaws. Flaws that Pearl's four previous books didn't have. The story, and the way that he used two narrators to tell it, got convoluted at times. And Pearl had some pacing issues throughout the book. Too many times, the story dragged, and I found myself getting frustrated with it. This is definitely not Pearl's strongest book. If you've never read anything by him, I'd recommend trying The Dante Club or The Poe Shadow before this one. They're much better examples of what Pearl is capable of.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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