Soul Catcher by Michael White
|Soul Catcher by Michael White|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Kerry King|
|Summary: Set within the turbulent epoch just prior to the American civil war, Augustus Cain is a successful slave hunter fallen on hard times on the trail of a runaway named Rosetta. Likened to Cold Mountain, Soul Catcher is a pacy, dramatic, thought-provoking and intelligent read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 480||Date: October 2008|
|Publisher: Quercus Publishing plc|
When it is suggested that I read the work of an author that I know nothing about, I like to do a spot of homework. Unlike the previous novels of Michael White (or Michael C. White as he is also known), Soul Catcher has received very mixed reviews. According to the majority it's a 'love-it-or-hate-it' kind of book.
Hired by the wealthy Mr Eberly in order to pay off a large gambling debt, Augustus Cain, our hero – a broken, war-scarred, penniless, gambling drunk – embarks upon a journey to find and return two runaway slaves; a buck, whom Eberly explains is merely of passing interest to him and a girl called Rosetta. It is immediately apparent that Eberly's interest in Rosetta runs to more than just the fact she is his property and Cain is swift to exploit this weakness, to his fiscal benefit.
To be assured of his dedication to the task, Eberly insists that Cain is accompanied on his journey by three of his men; two unlikeable brothers by the name of Strofe, and Preacher, a man known for his ability to take control of a situation, by force if necessary. The last known location for the slaves is reported to be New York and the four men set off northwards, ultimately tracking Rosetta to Boston, where Cain begins to make sense of the huge bounty on her head.
Written from Cain's perspective, Soul Catcher has an intimacy that is sometimes hard to achieve quite so quickly. Like Cold Mountain in its setting and also in the telling of seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome, Soul Catcher reveals a story of hope in dark times. Having read both, I have to say that, of the two, Cold Mountain is more of an epic - a sort of Iliad (if I may be so bold as to put them side by side) for the modern era, if you like. Considering Cold Mountain was also a debut novel, there is significantly more warmth to be found within the folds of the tale and Soul Catcher lacks slightly (though not dreadfully) in that area and seems comparatively somewhat cluttered in the telling.
On the whole, I found White's latest offering to be a wonderful story – if at times the tiniest bit padded - and have afforded it four Bookbag stars, rather than five, for two reasons: the first is, fairly or unfairly, the comparisons to Cold Mountain will run and run and it is simply not as good. The second is because Michael White has written five previous novels: The Garden of Martyrs, A Dream of Wolves, Marked Men, The Blind Side of the Heart and A Brother's Blood, all of which, according to the reviews, are reputed to be far better than Soul Catcher.
I'm not sure about you, but I think that says something, and I am keen to discover the truth or otherwise in this for myself - particularly as all of the reviews I have read for this novel are so divided in their verdicts.
That said, you should definitely read it and let us know what you think because, fundamentally, it's a fine book.
Further reading would of course be Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier and perhaps Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (although the setting for Faulks novel is the First World War, the theme is analogous). Otherwise, though not fictional, you may enjoy The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race and War in the Nineteenth Century by Martha Hodes which in terms of subject matter, is bang on the money.
We at Bookbag are, as ever, grateful to the ladies and gentlemen at Quercus for sending this copy to us for review.
You can read more book reviews or buy Soul Catcher by Michael White at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Soul Catcher by Michael White at Amazon.com.
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