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Extended Audio Sample Shadow Country Audiobook, by Peter Matthiessen Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,590 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Matthiessen Narrator: Anthony Heald Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2009 ISBN: 9781455194506
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Shadow Country is Peter Matthiessen’s reimagining of the legend of E. J. Watson, the Everglades sugarcane planter and notorious outlaw of the wild Florida frontier. Vividly capturing the American hinterlands at the turn of the twentieth century, it traces the story of Watson through eyewitness perspectives as he drives himself relentlessly toward his own violent end at the hands of neighbors who mostly admired him.

Shadow Country traverses strange landscapes and frontier hinterlands inhabited by Americans of every provenance and color, including the black and Indian inheritors of the archaic racism that, as Watson’s wife observed, “still casts its shadow over the nation.” Originally written as three separate, acclaimed novels, this is Matthiessen’s bold new distillation of his monumental work. Tightened and brilliantly rewritten throughout, he has collapsed the time frame while deepening the insights and motivations of his characters, achieving his original vision of the Watson trilogy.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Magnificent and capacious…I’ll just say right here that the book took my sleeve and like the ancient mariner would not let go…Finally now we have these books welded like a bell, and with Watson’s song the last sound, all the elements fuse and resonate…a breathtaking saga.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • Shadow Country is a magnum opus. Matthiessen is meticulous in creating characters, lyrical in describing landscapes, and resolute in dissecting the values and costs that accompanied the development of this nation.”

    Seattle Times

  • “Peter Mattiessen consolidates his epic masterpiece of Florida—and crafts something even better…[He] deserves credit for decades of meticulous research and obsessive details and soaring prose that converted the Watson legend into critically acclaimed literature…Anyone wanting an explanation for what happened to Florida can now find it in a single novel, a great American novel.” 

    Miami Herald

  • “Matthiessen is writing about one man’s life in Shadow Country, but he is also writing about the life of the nation over the course of half a century. Watson’s story is essentially the story of the American frontier, of the conquering of wild lands and people, and of what such empires cost…Even among a body of work as magnificent as Matthiessen’s, this is his great book.” 

    St. Petersburg Times

  • Shadow Country is an ambitious, lasting, and meaningful work of literature that will not soon fade away. It is a testament to Mr. Matthiessen’s integrity as an artist that he felt compelled to return to the Watson material to produce this work and satisfy his original vision…a multifaceted work that can be read variously or simultaneously as a psychological novel, a historical novel, a morality tale, a political allegory, or a mystery.”

    East Hampton Star

  • “Matthiessen’s Watson trilogy is a touchstone of modern American literature…after six or seven years of re-creation…the three books are in one volume for the first time, and the result is remarkable…Where Watson was a magnificent character before, he comes across as nothing short of iconic here; it’s difficult to find another figure in American literature so thoroughly and convincingly portrayed.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred book review)  

  • “[A] masterpiece…The story is brought to life by the gifted Heald, who creates a cosmos of compelling characters, each as believable as the last, and imbues the environment with an atmosphere of chilling menace. Despite the book’s sprawling length, readers will be hooked by this magnificent listening experience.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred audio review)

  • “The life and times of Florida frontiersman E.J. Watson are meticulously chronicled in Matthiessen’s National Book Award-winning masterpiece. Combining three novels in one, the book follows Watson from his early years to his bloody demise, as recounted by his family and friends. The story is brought to life by the gifted Heald, who creates a cosmos of compelling characters, each as believable as the last, and imbues the environment with an atmosphere of chilling menace. Despite the book’s sprawling length, readers will be hooked by this magnificent listening experience.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred audio review)

  • Shadow Country is altogether gripping, shocking, and brilliantly told, not just a tour de force in its stylistic range, but a great American novel, as powerful a reading experience as nearly any in our literature. This magnificent, sad masterpiece about race, history, and defeated dreams can easily stand comparison with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Little wonder, too, that parts of the story of E.J. Watson call up comparisons with Dostoevsky, Conrad, and, inevitably, Faulkner. In every way, Shadow Country is a bravura performance, at once history, fiction, and myth—as well as the capstone to the career of one of the most admired and admirable writers of our time.”

    New York Review of Books

  • “Gorgeously written and unfailingly compelling, Shadow Country is the exhilarating masterwork of [Matthiessen’s] career, every bit as ambitious as Moby Dick.” 

    National Geographic Adventure magazine

  • “Oh, how lucky we are to live in an age in which three acclaimed novels can be had in one publication. These literary touchstones…[were] all celebrated as original and important. Now the author has reworked them extensively to combine them and make them even better. Anthony Heald so inhabits this work that it’s difficult to imagine anyone else narrating it. He produces vivid characters with an elastic voice that elicits a multitude of emotions in the listener. Employing superb pacing, he uses the author’s words to create a suspenseful atmosphere that keeps the listener engaged.”

    AudioFile

  • Winner of the 2008 National Book Award for • Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Clark Knowles | 2/20/2014

    " What a book! Lord, it was tough.... but soooooo rewarding. An amazing work of art. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandy | 2/17/2014

    " My brother recommended this to me as a historical fiction from 1800's Florida. Our family began there in the 1700's so this was particularly interesting because of the Florida history; however, the story of the protagonist, Watson is dark and uninspiring. This is a 3-book compilation - quite a long read. If you want to know what it was like for your Florida ancestors, you might enjoy this book. They were tenacious and sometimes ferocious settlers! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Oscarb. | 2/5/2014

    " With this book you get three different ways to read the same story. The tragedy is long and relentless. No one comes out of this epic happy. Still you're pulled along fascinated. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 dave rangel | 2/2/2014

    " I can't believe I read the whole thing. that's what she said "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 spencer | 2/2/2014

    " When you trim down three novels and turn it into one, you end up with an incredibly long book that would probably be better read as three novels. But this gripe aside, this is the kind of writing that you only see in books by Cormac McCarthy, or maybe even William Faulkner. The three parts of this book deal with the lynching of one E. J. Watson, who was an entrepreneur in the vein of an Al Swearengen. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Anne | 1/14/2014

    " It's a commitment to read this, as it really is three separate books, but it's well worth it. Highly recommended. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wgscherban | 1/14/2014

    " the first book is incredible. the second two i didn't like so much. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 1/13/2014

    " The writing is good but you have to pay attention to first book - lots of characters to keep track of. The last book is really engrossing "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Al Swanson | 12/26/2013

    " My first pure fiction novel in quite a while. Three books in one as the author condensed, yet expanded on his trilogy. Decent book, good writing, interesting story. Worth the time, which often is the best thing you can say about a book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Robert Cloutier | 8/3/2013

    " A very arduous but, in the end, rewarding read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Will Albers | 6/16/2013

    " wow....remarkably good! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Betty | 5/15/2013

    " 892 pages -- and I read every one of them. I thought I understood it until I read the L.A. Times review that explained that it is political allegory. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lisle Soukup | 1/13/2013

    " Peter Matthiessen takes an intriguing, contentious history and weaves in his masterful use of voice and poetry-like prose. Though the book is nearly 1,000 pages long, I was sad that it was over. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cheryl | 8/29/2012

    " Dense and sprawling; well worth the effort. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Louisa | 4/17/2011

    " amazing story. One of the best books I've ever read. I recommend particularly to anyone with ties to Florida, as it tells the story of the destruction of the everglades, as well as the people who lived on this frontier at the turn of the 19/20th centuries. Loved it! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karen | 3/14/2011

    " This book was soooo long I could not make it through. I had a hard time keeping everything straight as I read the details over and over. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alison | 2/8/2011

    " A long book that still haunts me months later. A powerful look at the lawless frontier of early America with a "hero" you will never forget. Definitely worth the time--you'll never feel like you're slogging through. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 James | 1/17/2011

    " Matthiessen reworked, condensed and recreated his Watson trilogy for shadow country and lost nothing, rather he greated something better with the same intense sense of place and feel of authentic time and historic characters "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rocky | 1/5/2011

    " I wish I could give this 6 stars. "

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About the Author
Author Peter Matthiessen

Peter Matthiessen (1927–2014) was the author of more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestseller The Snow Leopard. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1974. He was cofounder of the Paris Review and won two National Book Awards, the 2000 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, and the 2010 Spiros Vergos Prize for Freedom of Expression.

About the Narrator

Anthony Heald, an Audie Award–winning narrator, has earned Tony nominations and an Obie Award for his theater work; appeared in television’s Law & Order, The X-Files, Miami Vice, and Boston Public; and starred as Dr. Frederick Chilton in the 1991 Oscar-winning film The Silence of the Lambs. He lives in Ashland, Oregon, with his family.