Book Review: The Dante Club

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Only Dante buffs need apply

This book is the definition of a chore. Once I was done with it I was proud I made it through, but man was it hard to pull myself up to actually do the job.

The Dante Club was a legitimate group of poets and intellectuals who gathered together for the purpose of translating the works of Dante into English. The group was comprised of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and JT Fields. As they are busy translating Dante’s works and fighting with the heads of Harvard University over whether or not Dante is blasphemous, there is a secret figure in the shadows of Boston committing grotesque murders. After a few murders claim the lives of men they knew personality, the club begins to realize the murderer is basing his murders on the circles of hell in the writings of Dante. It is now up to the club to figure out who is committing these murders while also trying to keep the name of Dante out of the press; otherwise their life’s work at translating his writing will never come to fruition.

The first 100 pages of this book are painfully hard to get through. Trying to keep the characters in order and build drama took way too long, and i found myself increasingly frustrated. Of course, as it’s written in the time period of 1865, there are some language barriers with the dialog as Pearl uses a lot of phrases I’ve never heard before. That being said, once the book passes that (roughly) 100 page mark, the plot begins to speed up and the mystery really unfolds. The mystery and murder part of this book is really fun and interesting and it’s clear that Pearl is a talented writer with a crazy amount of knowledge regarding Dane’s works an the time period. I respected the amount of research that went into the book, but trying to get through those first few chapters was incredibly difficult for me. Honestly if it hadn’t been a book club choice, I likely would have DNF’d the book around page 50. I’m glad I finished because the final chapters were quite compelling, but even a vivacious ending can’t make up for the slow start in my opinion.

Title: The Dante Club
Author: Matthew Pearl
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 373
ISBN:9780375505294

Three Descriptors: Suspenseful, Compelling, Intricately plotted,

Read Alikes:
The Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan
The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Darwin Affair by Timothy Mason
The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte

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