All Other Nights

by Dara Horn

Book, 2009



Call number




New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2009.


How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army, it is a question his commanders have answered for him: on Passover in 1862, he is ordered to murder his own uncle, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After that night, will Jacob ever speak for himself? The answer comes when his commanders send him on another mission--this time not to murder a spy but to marry one. A compelling novel rich with romance and the history of America (North and South), this is a book only Dara Horn could have written. Full of insight and surprise, layered with meaning, it is a brilliant parable of the moral divide that still haunts us: between those who value family first and those who are dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member woolenough
One might think three stars indicate a book that is merely average. Not so. "All Other Nights" is both extremely good and horrifically bad. Definitely readable (with a little perseverance) and very interesting indeed. But we readers want our books to be perfect in every way, and this one falls
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Set during the U.S. Civil War, the story follows the adventures of Jacob Rappaport, a New York Jew who joins the Union Army and is ordered to murder his
uncle, a Confederate supporter with plans to assassinate Lincoln, and then to marry a business associate's daughter in order to obtain information on her spying for the Confederacy.

The good points are these --
1) Top-notch writing. Every scene is vivid and real; you smell the smoke, see the flames, hear the explosions.
2) The minor characters are fully realized, no mere walk-ons in this book. Each has a story, often as interesting -- if not more so -- than that of the main
3) Intriguing historical detail.
4) An interesting look at what is was like to be Jewish at that place and time.

And the bad stuff --
1) Excessive use of coincidence to move the plot forward. The most offensive: when our hero just happens to encounter a relative of John Wilkes Booth as the driver of his cab.
2) A weak initial premise. There is a great deal of authorial intrusion to explain what the protagonist is thinking (or not thinking) in order to justify his decision to accept the assignment and murder his uncle.
3)The protaganist himself is unsympathetic. When not murdering or otherwise injuring others, he seems to spend most of his time wringing his hands over his
own weakness.
4) The theme, or moral lesson, appears to be "it's okay to say no." The author belabors this simplistic point to the detriment of plot, characters, and much else.
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LibraryThing member mdexter
Dara Horn sets her outstanding new novel, All Other Nights, during the Civil War. The story opens when Jacob Rappoport, escaping complications in his own family by joining the Union army, is ordered to murder his own uncle who is suspected of a plot to assassinate Lincoln. Despite his misgivings,
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Jacob carries out the order during the Passover seder at his uncle’s house in New Orleans in 1861. In so doing, he sets in motion his tragic quest for atonement. More than the traditional seder question, “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” the novel asks the question: Does the person you are one night shape who you are for all other nights?

Jacob’s next assignment is more complicated. He is to marry a young woman suspected of being a Confederate spy and who is the daughter of a business associate of Jacob’s father. Not surprisingly, Jacob and Eugenia fall in love. But the outcome isn’t at all as expected and through the course of the rest of the novel Jacob faces what he believes to be the retribution he deserves.

Horn explores many themes in this complex novel. The little known story of Jewish Americans and their role in the Civil War is central, the irony of a people that were themselves enslaved coming to the defense of slavery and even owning slaves. And yet, as with other American families, their families too were torn by war, as witnessed in Jacob’s own family. One of the key characters in the novel is Judah Benjamin, the real-life Secretary of State under Jefferson Davis and one of the most loyal defenders of the Confederacy. Jacob is pitted against Benjamin during the final denouement in the ultimate test of loyalty to a cause.

Throughout the book, the characters struggle with their deceptions and the decisions they make. Spying and subterfuge bring out the best and the worst, and time and again the characters realize that they could have simply said no to what was asked of them. Horn gives her characters depth and dimension in their anguish and remorse over how to do what is right in a time of war. What begins as a seemingly straightforward story takes many twists and turns before coming to its satisfying conclusion.

Well researched and well told, All Other Nights is a literary page turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat while you’re reading it and that will keep you thinking long after it is finished. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member spartacula2
ALL OTHER NIGHTS is a well plotted and highly detailed account of a Jewish Union spy in the Confederate states, just prior to the assassination of President Lincoln. Dara Horn has a storyteller's gift that brings to life family traditions and values through the use of historical events and
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characters at a time that laid the foundation for life as we know it today in America. I prefer to think of the main cast as performers, because that is what it took to maneuver ones self both politically and romantically into an advantageous position, driven by a dedication for justice and a desire of the heart. I highly recommend reading this story.
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LibraryThing member Cariola
The premise of this novel sounded intriguing: a young Jewish man, running away from the life his domineering father had planned for him, joins the Union army and is recruited as a spy. His first assignment: to kill his own uncle, who is believed to be plotting to kidnap and murder Lincoln. Jacob
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performs admirably, despite personal qualms, not because of any devotion to the Union but in hopes of a promotion. But he does his job so well that he is sent on a second mission: to marry into a Southern Jewish family involved in another plot.

The main difficulty I had with this novel is its series of unbelievable coincidences and a number of gaps in the plot. The writing is fine enough but doesn't quite overcome these flaws. Horn apparently intended the novel to question Jacob's conflicts between his faith and his loyalty to the Union; but I never got a sense that he was particularly devoted to either. He seemed more of an ungrounded man being carried along by the flow of events.
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LibraryThing member KathyWoodall
Jacob Rapport feels his father has sold him to the highest bidder when his father agrees to marry his son off to a simple minded young woman in exchange for buying a company cheaply.
The night before Jacob wedding he runs off and joins the army. The military life suits him. Soon though he will be
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asked to do things he knows he shouldn't. One of the first things he is asked to do is murder his uncle. Jacob fails to realize all he has to do is tell them no but he does it anyway. If this wasn't bad enough soon he will destroy another life. One he loves very much.
For the most part the novel held my attention but moves very slow through a good portion of the book.
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LibraryThing member mzonderm
Horn is not subtle about making a point about the irony of Jews in the Confederacy during the Civil War. One of the opening scenes is of a Passover seder celebrating the liberation of Jews from bondage in Egypt being served by black slaves. And although I certainly know more now than I did before
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about Jews in the Civil War, what I really took from this book was just a good, well-told story.
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LibraryThing member NeedMoreShelves
Dara Horn is a great storyteller. From the very first sentence I was hooked on the tale of Jacob Rappaport, and what he would be willing to do.

"Inside a barrel in the bottom of a boat, with a canteen of water wedged between his legs and a packet of poison concealed in his pocket, Jacob Rappaport
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felt a knot tightening in his stomach - not because he was about to do something dangerous, but because he was about to do something wrong."

From that moment on, Jacob's story was fascinating. This is a not a novel that will dazzle with it's beautiful language, though it is well written - it is much more concerned with telling a great story, which I found to be refreshing. Additionally, I enjoyed Horn's unique perspective on the Civil War.
This is the first time I've read about the experiences of American Jews during this time, and I found myself interested in this period of history in a new way.

I found Jacob to be an incredibly sympathetic character - he almost seems doomed, with first his father, and then the army forcing him to accept horrible situations because he has no other choice. She deftly explores the issue of a person's actions defining their character through the decisions Jacob is forced to make - can you still be a good person if you do bad things? If you do bad things for good reasons, does that justify your actions? I also loved Eugenia, and would love to read an entire novel about her.

My one complaint about the novel is the extraordinary number of happy coincidences that occurred just in the nick of time, and the rather abrupt ending - but really, those are small problems in an otherwise wonderful novel.

I highly recommend this one - I didn't want to put it down, and definitely plan to read more by this author!
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LibraryThing member patricia_poland
Great insight to the Civil War from Jewish perspective. Would like to read other Dara Horn books. A little melodramatic but one of those books I couldn't wait to get back too! Highly recommended for those who enjoy Civil War historical fiction.
LibraryThing member Soniamarie
Very good novel. I had a hard time putting it down. The choices and moral dilemmas Jacob is constantly facing makes for an intriguing story. Jacob, is a Jewish living in America during the Civil War. To avoid an arranged marriage to a mentally incompetent woman, Jacob runs away from home and joins
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the Union army. From there, it is one difficult choice after another. Can he kill his own uncle? Can he infilterate a family and marry one of the daughters? Can he turn in his own wife? I found myself pondering his choices as tho I myself had to make them. What would I do?? For a war novel, however, it really lacks much in the way of fighting. There was little or no detail about the fighting techniques or gruesome details of war. What this book shows it mostly "behind the scenes" of the war, the spying, the decisions, the money changing hands. Jacob does not even become wounded in combat, but an explosion. He simply is in the wrong place at the wrong time. I loved the character Jeanne, but found her "magic tricks" a bit preposterous and unexplained. I really enjoyed this book, but due to way too many coincidences within the story and an ending that left me hanging, I give it four stars instead of 5. I do, however, recommend it.
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LibraryThing member vernefan
Sergeant Jacob Rappaport is a young and innocent Jewish soldier knee-deep in espionage working for the North as one of the Union's most talented spies. Reporting for a new assignment, he is informed that there is a plot to assassinate President Lincoln, and that the man behind it must be
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eliminated. Unfortunately for Jacob, that man is his uncle. In the line of duty, for his country, he is to ingratiate himself into the family home and in cold blood murder his mother's brother! If his assignment is successful, he is to then continue on swiftly to his next mission that will take him into Southern enemy territory across Confederate lines.

Running for his life with the image of a noose around his neck if caught, Jacob's next appointed task is to stop a group of female spies, ascertain which of the devious ladies is the ring leader, and marry her in order to stop her secret subterfuge. He finds himself in a home of odd inhabitants with a father lost on how to manage four daughters alone after the hideous recent murder of his wife. Amongst four delightfully alluring women who are creatively combining their individual talents to create a most ingenious method of getting coded messages to their Confederates spy network, Jacob soon falls in love with Jeannie whose talent is magic and slight of hand. Her sister Phoebe is a skilled carver of unusual objects that hide the secret notes that travel from North to South. Rose, the youngest daughter is gifted with words and is in charge of ciphering and decoding the messages, while Lottie, the oldest, collects fiancé's using her charms to uncover much needed information.

Knowing that this assignment is imminent, and that he must marry into the Levy family like it or not, he selects Jeannie as his bride to be. As the two unlikely spies turn lovers, a plot of intrigue, espionage, family feuds, shocking betrayals, and a romance that will glue readers to the pages, offers up an exceptional literary novel of the trials of war. As the newlyweds begin their turbulent new marriage, each fully knowing they are both spies for the other side, the author begins their story of a sultry and seductive life of passion and fear as they endure life, death, and a daughter born in the midst of conflict. They watch their life around them unfold into crisis as the issues of racial bigotry have black slaves and Hebrew Jews fighting for their freedom, and see their world turned upside down as flames of glory and the fires of hell put darkness and light in their paths many times over before their story ends.

Friends, foes, enemy's and lovers, all cross paths in All Other Nights and will have readers totally riveted to this book that is undoubtedly superbly written, and brings characters so alive on the page you can hear them breathing as they hide from enemies in pursuit. Readers will listen to their whispered promises as they arrange their secret liaisons, and will feel their teardrops falling when their passions can not be denied. Turning the pages slowly you will hear their gut wrenching sobs when loved ones are thrown into rat infested prisons, and will stop breathing along with them when clandestine messages are passed on in hope that they will be delivered safely.

Murder, action, romance, espionage. This is a tale of war not to be forgotten. Dara Horn's evocative civil war story will leave a stamp on the readers' memory for a long time to come after closing the finale page. I loved this book. I felt so much compassion for each and every character involved, and I enjoyed the fact that I never knew what path the story would take and wondered right up until the end, how it would all turn out. Bravo to Dara Horn, All Other Nights is an astonishing polished achievement. Hollywood should find this, Book Club discussion groups should choose this. This incredible book totally left me breathless!
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LibraryThing member coolmama
Like all of her books, this one is fabulous!

She is a wonderful writer. This one, in a slightly new genre for her of semi-historical fiction, is a superb tale of the Civil War experience as told from Jacob Rappaport, a young New Yorker about to go into an arranged marriage so his father's business
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can prosper.

This quite well researched tale explores the lives of Southern Jews, the (new to me) expulsion of Jews from the State of Tennessee during the Civil War (due to "war profiteering"), and the turn paging story of Jacob's experience as a Union spy in the South.
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LibraryThing member WisteriaLeigh
Dara Horn writes like a spider capturing an unsuspecting victim. She cleverly sucks the reader into her increasingly complex plot of secrecy and intrigue. Captured from the beginning as her web of deception unfolds you are powerless to put All Other Nights down.
The personalities of her cast are so
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refreshingly unique and a bit quirky at times. Jacob Rappaport is the Union soldier ordered to kill his own uncle on Passover in 1862. His mission is to stop the assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln.
After this incident he is given orders to break up a spy ring composed of the four beautiful Levy sisters. His intention is to marry Eugenia Levy to gain the family trust whereby he can investigate their covert operations for the Confederate cause. Falling in love with Eugenia was just not in the plan.
Horn’s characters are nicely developed with attention to details, each memorably unique. Rose, the youngest sister, has a penchant for palindromes and is just peculiar enough for a future screenplay version. Jacob has a tough time discerning her quirky language that makes no sense to him. After their first meeting he is bewildered by her behavior and quite unsure what to make of her.
Jacob finds much more than he had anticipated at the Levy home as he waits and watches for any spy activities. When he is forced to leave their home he must decide between loyalty to his cause and loyalty to family. Throughout the novel Jacob the Union soldier continues to face difficult choices that produce conflict with his conscience. It is a story of a man with misplaced loyalty, or loyalty to a cause at all cost versus devotion to his family.
Dara Horn produces a quality romantic novel of the Civil War period with page flipping tension. However, more than that, her novel produces questions that prompt rumination and personal reflection with her timeless moral message. All Other Nights is an impressive favorite of 2009. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member judithz
As with Horn's other works, the rich layering of character, story and history is compelling and engrossing. The story of American Jews in the Civil War is fascinating and Horn's careful attention to detail highlights the vivid sorrow of the time and place.
LibraryThing member Somer
Jacob Rappaport, a New York Jew who joins the Union army to escape an unwanted marriage, is charged with the task of killing his uncle, who is thought to be planning to assassinate Lincoln. Thus begins Jacob's life as a Union spy. Horn spins a great story, with intrigue and romance. Will (and have)
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recommend to others interested in historical fiction.
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LibraryThing member framberg
repetition, protagonist too often "later learned", too much telling not showing
fascinating picture of Jewish life and Civil War
LibraryThing member debs4jc
I found this rambling spy story set during the Civil war somewhat bland. I did get interested in the historical aspect of the story--such as how it depicted the treatment of Jewish people during that era--but I never felt a real connection to the characters, nor did I find the plot very exciting.
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Here is the summary from the book cover: For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army, it is a question his commanders have answered for him: on Passover in 1862 he is ordered to murder his own uncle, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After that night, will Jacob ever speak for himself? The answer comes when his commanders send him on another mission - this time not to murder a spy but to marry one.
Someone with an interest in history and who enjoys historical fiction may find it more their cup of tea. Horn did a good job of recreating the time period and bringing to light many historical details that I never knew about before.
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LibraryThing member nbmars
Dara Horn’s books not only pull you in with their compelling plots, but force you to confront, along with the characters, issues of morality, values, and faith.

All Other Nights is a book about slavery and freedom, and how difficult it can sometimes be to distinguish one from the other. It is set
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during the American Civil War, and takes its title from part of the ritual during the Jewish holiday of Passover. On the first night of the holiday, a supper called a Seder is held during which family members gather and collectively retell the Exodus story about the escape of Jews from slavery in Ancient Egypt. The youngest son initiates the process by asking ""Why is this night different from all other nights?"

Jacob Rappaport, a nineteen-year-old Union soldier, answers this question in a way that will affect the entire rest of his life. He is assigned by his commanders to attend his southern uncle’s Passover Seder and poison him during the meal; the commanders believe the uncle is part of a plot to assassinate Lincoln. Jacob would not be in favor of such a plot, and certainly he finds appalling irony in the spectacle of Jews celebrating the end of slavery while being served by slaves. But he also loves his uncle and thinks he is a good man. Still, Jacob believes he has no choice but to obey the instructions, and he may be correct. Nevertheless, he knows what he has been asked to do is wrong. Indeed, throughout the story, the entire trajectory of Jacob’s life is shaped by his inability to disobey others and to listen to his heart. As the author explains in an interview appended to the story, in this book she is exploring the many ways in which freedom can be understood; those who are physically enslaved but true to themselves can be seen as more free than those who have given up their mental liberty (whether for ambition or love or fear).

Jacob receives another assignment, not understanding that his obedience inspires contempt rather than admiration, and is once again commanded to take advantage of love and family to betray those who trust him. But this time, he falls in love with the woman he has been sent to destroy. Jacob is not let off easy by the author; there is no facile epiphany allowing Jacob to answer to his better angels, and no perfect ending in store for him. Equivocation and attempts at atonement fail to prevent his Biblical-like punishment. Only when Jacob truly gains the courage to be true to himself will he realize any sort of redemption.

Discussion: This novel was exceptionally absorbing, reminding me of the biblical stories that weave in and out of the plot. Jacob is tried and tested, tempted and tortured; he cries out for forgiveness, but doesn’t know how to find it. His journey toward redemption takes him through a wilderness of battles and blood and betrayal and passions, and between families split down the middle by a shocking conflict over the ownership and control of human bodies. Through Jacob’s eyes we experience the horror of being attracted toward something repellant; the self-hatred that comes from realizing you are only human; and the inexorable hand of the Old Testament God, never mentioned directly, but always there: asking for righteousness, and meting out justice when righteousness is denied. This is a book that won’t fail to animate a book club, because nothing that happens lacks moral complexity.

Evaluation: This deeply imagined tale uses the setting of the Civil War to pose questions about the morality of obeying the State when you are asked to do something you consider immoral; the role of trust and honesty in creating enduring relationships; and above all, the sometimes slippery distinctions between slavery and freedom. I think this award-winning author is quite deserving of the many accolades accorded to her.
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LibraryThing member GAVAlady
This was the national Sisterhood read last year. Based on a true story, a very good book, with many levels.
LibraryThing member storian
A Civil-War era novel with action almost entirely off the battlefield. Civilians take center stage, especially a memorable quartet of sisters. The Jewish perspective on the war is similar to that of other Americans: They choose sides based mostly on where they live and wait and worry about sons in
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the field. The author includes many actual and invented scenes, however, to show that the war does not erase their difference. Exclusion, condescension, and outright antisemitism are just below the surface. The central character begins by following orders and breaking solidarity with his people. The rest of the book is his journey if not back to wholeness then at least to a proper orientation. There is love found and lost and sought for again, all in the context of conflicting loyalties and political intrigue. The author brings all these threads together in an intense set of closing chapters that burn away the dross and leave the reader and the characters in possession of what really matters.
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LibraryThing member suesbooks
I enjoyed the content of this book more than the writing, which was fine, but not special. Since it was historical fiction, I was interested to learn about both the civil war and the treatment of the Jews.
LibraryThing member threadnsong
A very good look at stories seldom told during the American Civil War: that of Jewish life, and that of assassins. The young protagonist, Jacob Rappaport, flees from his boring life learning his father's business in order to join up with the fascinating, exciting life of war. Instead, he finds
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himself assigned as an assassin to his uncle, wanted by the North, and must choose between family and religious honor vs. his direct orders. The characters Horn develops are richly assigned personalities and histories all their own, and the backdrop of the war is ever-present. Jacob has his happy moments, then tragedy strikes as it often does, and then his real character that he has built over the years comes to the front of the action. The burning of Richmond, VA, at the end of the war is also well-crafted and the desperation of those left in the city is palpable. A great reference for students of American Civil War history, Jewish studies, and the Jewish way of life in the mid-1800's in the United States.
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LibraryThing member jasonlf
A fast paced historical thriller and love story set among Jewish spies in the Civil War. It is also witty, well written and reads more like literary fiction than genre fiction, for some undefinable reason.

It begins on Passover in 1862 New Orleans with a young New York Jew named Jacob Rappaport sent
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to murder his uncle who is suspected of plotting to murder Lincoln. It ends in April 1865 in Richmond with events linked to the assassination of President Lincoln. And the connection between the two is Jacob's second major mission as a Federal spy: marrying a Southern Jewish woman to infiltrate the spy ring she has set up with her three young sisters.

As the endnotes make clear, All Other Nights is meticulously researched. But it wears its historical erudition lightly and does just enough to bring to life a long dead world. The main real historical figure in the book is the Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, but there are some brief walk-on appearances by some other lesser known figures. And it is historical fiction that tries to stay true to the known facts of history while presenting a secret story underlying them.

By picking Jews as her subject, Dara Horn effectively illustrates the strange way in which the Civil War literally tore families as the end up on either side of the line. And by focusing on spies, she finds a way to tell the story that is not only interesting but allows a lot of interaction between the characters from the different sides and questions about what is and is not true.

Horn is at her strongest in creating four unique, quirky sisters that form the putative Virginia spy ring, each of whom has their own vividly drawn quirks. And a scene near the end of a "starvation ball" just before the fall of Richmond where dirty water is served in wine glasses, empty platters are circulated, and an escape artist performs for a charity function in particularly vivid and strong.

Altogether enjoyable and very interesting.
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LibraryThing member lilibrarian
When Jacob Rappaport's father decides Jacob should marry the daughter of one of his business parters, Jacob runs away and joins the Union Army. Caught up in some of the battles of the Civil War, when he is offered the chance to spy for the Union, he takes it, making some questionable decisions that
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he must live with. The war, his Jewishness, and his own decisions all affect the course of his life.
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LibraryThing member Eoin
How is this book different from all other Dara Horn books?
This time it's Civil-War-era US and more linear than before, but it's still a story about parents and children and how people fall in love. The history is how I like it: as it was to the people living it and not too intrusive. This is
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another very good book from Horn.
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LibraryThing member mairzy
Dara Horn's writing style in All Other Nights is a deliberate departure from her two previous, prize-winning novels. It is a historical novel, set during the U.S. Civil War (War Between the States), with the narrator a young man who runs away from his home in NYC, and an impeding arranged marriage,
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to join the Union Army. There, he is recruited to be a spy for one reason and one reason only--he is Jewish. All Other Nights is fascinating for its well-researched material about both the Civil War and the lives of Jewish citizens in both the North and the Confederate States. It compeletly turned my previously-held notions about Jewish-American history, and the relative acceptance/assimilation of Jews in different sectors of our country, "over on its head." Dara Horn's discussion of codes, use of palindromes and other word play, and subtle allusions to the the biblical Jacob through her protagonist, Jacob, effectively contributed to my rethinking about the evolution of Jewish life in America. While I wasn't crazy about the "Perils of Pauline" feel to the plot, I see why Horn had to write it this way to get her ideas across, and I think many will find this book a page-turner. Oh, and did I mention spies?....and a love story? When you're done reading it, ask yourself why she dedicated the book to her children, "the cause."
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