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Extended Audio Sample The Darling, by Russell Banks Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,268 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Russell Banks Narrator: Mary Beth Hurt Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Darling is Hannah Musgrave's story, told emotionally and convincingly years later by Hannah herself. A political radical and member of the Weather Underground, Hannah has fled America to West Africa, where she and her Liberian husband become friends and colleagues of Charles Taylor, the notorious warlord and now ex-president of Liberia. When Taylor leaves for the United States in an effort to escape embezzlement charges, he's immediately placed in prison. Hannah's encounter with Taylor in America ultimately triggers a series of events whose momentum catches Hannah's family in its grip and forces her to make a heartrending choice.

Set in Liberia and the United States from 1975 through 1991, The Darling is a political/historical thriller -- reminiscent of Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad -- that explodes the genre, raising serious philosophical questions about terrorism, political violence, and the clash of races and cultures.

Performed by Mary Beth Hurt

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Russell Banks brings to life in The Darling another political-historical narrative of great scope and range. As in Continental Drift and Rule of the Bone, racial issues are explored; as in Cloudsplitter, idealism runs off the rails. Banks always makes it work because he keeps it real…weaving the real story of the horrors of West Africa with the fictional narrative of Hannah and Woodrow. He can take history off the page, bringing to life the times, people and events he recounts…Russell Banks has, once again in The Darling, shown himself to be one of the finest novelists writing today. He has written very convincingly, in a woman’s voice, a story of youthful idealism destroyed by the real world.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “Banks brilliantly captures West Africa—the sights, smells and politics…[A] spellbinding book.”


  • “Powerful and evocative.”


  • “Banks’ novel is a vivid account of a time of terror, exposing the secrets of the soul.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • The Darling is not a perfect book—its very expansiveness of vision and range make that almost impossible—but it is admirable, compelling, always surprising, and never clichéd….[a] symphony of history, politics, and impossible, failed dreams.”

    New York Times

  • “Hannah narrates the story of her underground life, first in hiding in Massachusetts, then working as a lab technician in Liberia…The story is exciting, and the evocation of Liberia lush and menacing.”

    New Yorker

  • The Darling…is about a disillusioned and seemingly doomed woman, Hannah Musgrave, and her travails in Liberia…This reviewer covered the Liberian civil war in the 1990s and can attest that Banks gets the sweaty trickery of the land, the deceptions that must be played out by almost everyone, just right…Banks [is] wonderful at melding fact and fiction…For years now, Russell Banks has explored race, political dramas, migrations. As our best novelists must do, he creates multidimensional characters, stories that make you think how life really must be, or once happened to be. It is not for Banks—whose last novel, Cloudsplitter, told of John Brown’s messianic odyssey during America’s era of slavery—to offer the thin novella that so often passes these days for literature. His are big novels, with daring, sweep and depth. In The Darling, he is working at full strength, and readers are in his debt. In the end, you might well not love Hannah Musgrave, might even revile her, but you won’t forget her honesty and the bravery in it.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Hannah’s story shows why Banks ranks among our boldest artists.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Reverberating with ideas and startling prose.”

    Village Voice

  • “Banks has written a novel that is utterly accessible, forcefully wrought, and undeniably passionate.”

    Associated Press

  • “Banks has created a heroine every bit as complex and flawed as something out of Jane Austen.”

    St. Petersburg Times

  • “Extraordinary...Banks is the rare epic novelist.”

    Virginian Pilot

  • “A portrayal of personal and political turmoil in West Africa and the US. The darling of the title is narrator Hannah Musgrave, a privileged child of the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, who now, at fifty-nine, reflects on her life...She emerges as a fascinating figure, striking universal chords in her search for identity and home, though her life may ultimately be a study in futility. A rich and complex look at the searing connections between the personal and the political, this is one of Banks’ most powerful novels yet.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Clearly smitten with his thorny narrator, Banks brings the full weight of his storytelling genius and psychological perceptiveness to a novel as compulsively readable as it is eviscerating in its dramatization of cultural divides, political mayhem, psychotic violence, and profound alienation. Banks’ dramatic interpretation of Liberia’s real-life tragedies brilliantly extends the vital inquiry into the consequences of slavery found in Cloudsplitter, and his meditation on our close ties to other species poses urgent questions about how our greed and cruelty result in the endangerment of not only animals but also human kindness, empathy, and peace.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “The Pulitzer-nominated author of Cloudsplitter, among others, looks unsparingly at the bitter life of a 1960s revolutionary. Banks’s portrait of John Brown showed readers an uncompromised understanding of salvation-mindedness that he applies with surgical skill here, in the story of Hannah…Banks never makes it easy, but this is worth reading as a warning to anyone not chary of the children of privilege.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Like many of Banks’ works, this novel unfolds like a memory for the reader, taking a natural route into the imagination and leading from there. As the novel opens, Hannah's dreams are invaded by memories of Africa, leading her to revisit her past there in an attempt to reconcile old ghosts. This audiobook is performed with gentle, reserved skill by Mary Beth Hurt, whose style and delivery are as appealing as that of a dear friend recounting her own anecdote. Quiet and yet dramatic, familiar but so very foreign, The Darling is a memorable listen for its contemporary echoes of the hope, fear, and tragedy that can erupt when cultures collide. A 2005 Audie Award finalist.”


  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction, 2004
  • Winner of the 2005 Audie Award for Best Unabridged Fiction
  • A 2004 Booklist Editors’ Choice for Fiction
  • A 2004 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Roger | 2/16/2014

    " I was surprised that I did not like this book. I have read 140 pages and do not believe I will continue. The protagonist is not likable, which is fine, but her rehashing of her life is tedious. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Daniel Burton-Rose | 2/13/2014

    " The sour tone of this novel is partially due to Banks' long correspondence with incarcerated Weatherwoman Kathy Boudin (now out). The protagonist's turn from civil rights and anti-imperialism to animal rights is an uncomfortably accurate depiction of this trajectory in the U.S. (as opposed to the UK, where animal rights has had more of a class warfare element). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Dysmonia Kuiper | 2/10/2014

    " Really pretty brilliantly put together. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Frances Sawaya | 2/9/2014

    " Strong writing about a part of the world where I have never traveled and, after reading this, where I never will. The treatment of women was a tough read but the fate of Hannah's children made for even more difficult imagining. We had friends who lived in Liberia in an effort to be "safe" from the McCarthy witch-hunts and many of their recollections of the culture, politics and art (in the '50s) were a huge contrast to the present. Colonialism is wrong but there seems to be little hope now for the majority of the people, given the horrible torture and policies of Taylor et al. Why does it never seem to change for Africa! This was my first book by Banks; enjoyed it but not in a hurry to read another. "

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