Books Magazine

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers

By Pamelascott

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers Spanning over one hundred years, from the antebellum era to the 1980's, A Shout in the Ruins examines the fates of a diverse cast of characters connected to Beauvais Plantation in Chesterfield County, Virginia. When war arrives, the master of Beauvais, Anthony Levallois, foresees that mastery in a new America will be measured not in acres of tobacco under cultivation by his slaves, but in industry and capital. A grievously wounded Confederate veteran loses his grip on a world he no longer understands, and his daughter finds herself married to Levallois, an arrangement that feels little better than imprisonment. And two people enslaved at Beauvais plantation, Nurse and Rawls, overcome impossible odds to be together, only to find that the promise of coming freedom may not be something they will live to see.

Seamlessly interwoven is the story of George Seldom, a man orphaned by the storm of the Civil War, looking back from the 1950s on the void where his childhood ought to have been. Watching the government destroy his neighbourhood to build a stretch of the interstate highway system through Richmond, Virginia, and recognizing that his days on earth are coming to an end, he travels south to try to fill in that void. With the help of a young woman, he goes in search of his beginnings, all the while remembering the life that witnessed so much change during the 20th century, and so much that didn't. As the narrative finds that young woman farther in the future, now in her middle age, the questions remain: How do we live in a world built on the suffering of others? And can love exist in a place where for 400 years violence has been the strongest form of intimacy?


[BY 1870, NOT even a full four years after the clerk of Chesterfield County, Virginia, officially recorded Emily Reid Levallois's death, rumours of her survival and true whereabouts abounded]

(Sceptre, 15 May 2018, ebook, 263 pages, copy from publisher via NetGalley voluntarily reviewed)



This is my first time reading the author.

I'm not usually a fan of war novels but I liked the cover, the title and the blurb intrigued me so I thought I'd give it a shot. Unfortunately, this one fell a little flat for me. There are some good moments in the book. The main issue with the book is the language used. The prose is very dense and off-putting at times. I'm a smart woman but struggled to untangle the language at times:

He saw where he had been before his birth. The darkness there, too. A void broken only by spirals of color. A vastness so great as to be meaningless. She was taught a language beyond speech, one that existed when the ground on which all her torments occurred had been submerged below a channel sea, with a vocabulary that remained unchanged even with the unending forces of thrust and rift at work.

WTF? Speak English, dude. I'm sorry but the language is very wordy and pretentious at times. I had to force myself to wade through it at times.

There are also too many characters to keep track off. The language didn't help me to relate or sympathise with any of them.

Sorry, this was not for me.

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers

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